Review: Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI
VW’s 1.4 TSI engine punches above its weight, a bit like the Scirocco coupe. Steve Walker reports.
There will always be those who write the Volkswagen Scirocco off as little more than a Golf in a track suit.
There’s an element of truth behind the sniping but there’s also something wonderfully modern and accessible about VW’s take on the small coupe theme, particularly when the clever 1.4 TSI engine is installed.
In the modern world the car is under pressure. People will always want personal transport but efficiency savings will have to be made and that doesn’t bode well for cars designed expressly for the purpose of having fun. The typical sports coupe is not an efficient vehicle, it sacrifices interior space for sleek, low slung looks and it sacrifices fuel economy for performance. As a coupe version of the Golf, the Scirocco is no exception but with four usable seats, a respectable boot and the 1.4-litre TSI engine, it sets out to make a compromise that’s very much of the times.
Volkswagen’s 1.4-litre TSI ‘Twincharger’ engine is a groundbreaking unit that would appear to suit the Scirocco down to a tee. It swaps sheer capacity for forced induction, using both a supercharger and a turbocharger to boost the power output that’s possible from a 1.4-litre petrol engine. The result is 158bhp and torque of 240Nm all the way from 1,500 to 4,500rpm. This broad torque band is more in keeping with what you’d expect from a good diesel engine and it’s achieved by the supercharger and turbocharger working in tandem. The supercharger enhances performance at low revs, filling the void left while the turbo gets into its stride. This virtually eliminates turbo lag and gives the Scirocco a muscular feel throughout the rev range. The 0-60mph sprint is covered in eight seconds dead and there’s a 135mph top speed but perhaps more importantly, the engine sounds great with a snarling bark that’s far in excess of its 1.4-litre bite.
"Few cars hit the compromise between fun and commonsense as accurately at the Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI"
The handling advances made by the Scirocco centre around its dynamic aids. All models feature advanced Adaptive Chassis Control offering three driver-selected settings – comfort, normal and sport. The system’s influence extends to the steering system: should ‘sport’ be selected, the steering firms up to provide more feel while ‘comfort’ mode makes the steering lighter and easier to operate at low speeds or around town. The 1.4 TSI engine is mated exclusively to a six-speed manual - Volkswagen’s excellent 6-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox with the paddle shifters being off limits, which is a pity for buyers seduced by high technology.
Inside the Scirocco, there’s a lot to grab the interest. A contoured, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel frames dials that glow white at night. The interior is airy and light, and the option of an electrically-operated panoramic sunroof further emphasises the feeling of spaciousness. Many people expected this model to emerge as a classically lean and low sports coupe but the exterior visual effect is closer to what you imagine the three-door Golf might have looked like if Volkswagen had given its designers carte blanche. Despite its somewhat stocky lines, the Scirocco is a great looking car that manages to purvey a futuristic feel. Volkswagen isn’t known for its stylistic innovation but this is one model where the marque has hit the nail on the head
The Scirocco is practical for a sports coupe. There’s a reasonably wide boot aperture which opens up 292 litres of luggage space. Fold the split rear seats down and you’ve got 755 litres. The Scirocco features four, individual sculpted seats finished in a choice of either cloth or leather. The sports seats aren’t just restricted to those up front – the contoured rear seats feature integrated headrests to offer plenty of support. Proportions for this car are classically short, low and wide although the dimensions betray its reliance on Golf mechanicals. The vehicle measures 4,256mm long, 1,404mm high and 1,810mm wide.
The 1.4 TSI engine is offered only in standard Scirocco trim but buyers still get the ACC Adaptive Chassis Control system, air-conditioning, sports seats and 17" alloy wheels. The ESP stability control system that’s also standard incorporates an Electronic Differential Lock and ASR traction control to bring extra security when using the Scirocco’s performance. The specification is notably less generous than the plusher GT trim that comes with the larger engines but the core elements that underpin the driving experience all feature on the 1.4.
The 1.4 TSI looks a very attractive prospect in the Scirocco range. It’s the cheapest way into the car, undercutting the diesel option that’s significantly slower and less charismatic. There’s a trend amongst family hatch manufacturers to produce a family-friendly five-door car and a sporty three-door with more dramatic styling, marketing it as a ‘Coupe’ or SportsCoupe’. Volkswagen, by contrast, is offering relatively straight-laced three and five-door Golf models as well as the Scirocco. This structure has given the Scirocco scope to go further down the sports coupe route and it offers buyers a more focused sporty feel than the crop of dressed-up hatchbacks.
The 1.4-litre TSI engine doesn’t achieve 1.4-litre running costs but for a 160bhp petrol engine, it’s highly efficient. The combined cycle economy figure of 42.8mpg and emissions of 154g/km put the Scirocco on a par with a decent 1.6-litre family hatchback but the Volkswagen is a vastly more enticing prospect.
This Scirocco falls into a reasonable insurance group 14 and residual values are predicted to be very buoyant. There’s no doubt that running some sports cars can be a financially crippling business but the fact is that the Scirocco TSI isn’t one of them.
Few cars hit the compromise between fun and commonsense as accurately at the Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI. The styling is spot on, the reserves of grip and balance make for infectious handling and the advanced ‘Twincharger’ petrol engine renders the car quick and charismatic enough so you question the need for more power. On the flip side, four seats and sensible running costs make it a usable daily drive.
The Scirocco 1.4 TSI is a thoroughly modern sports car that manages to offer a lot of practicality without dumbing down its coupe looks or fun factor. The high tech engine and driver aids combine to produce an involving and safe driving experience with reasonable running costs. A basic recipe of giving a Golf sharper styling isn’t particularly inspiring but the end result exceeds expectations.