Volkswagen's Scirocco 1.4 TSI 125 demonstrates that you don't need to fork out a fortune to have fun. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Volkswagen's cheapest Scirocco is also one of the range's most attractive offerings. Okay, 125PS in a sports coupe doesn't sound much, but with sweet handling and 52mpg economy, the 1.4 TSI 125 models feel like money well spent. Starting at just over £20,000, they stack up well to established rivals.
Admit it. You'd probably like a Volkswagen Scirocco R. It's got 280PS of grunt under the bonnet, it looks stunning and it'll demolish 60mph in a blink over 5 seconds. The thing is, £34,000 is quite a fair slug of cash and you'd need quite some restraint - or, indeed, good fortune - to emerge from ownership with a clean licence. What if you had about £20,000 and change available for your next new coupe purchase?
Volkswagen can deliver something you'll probably quite like in the pert shape of the Scirocco 1.4 TSI 125. No, it hasn't quite got as much testosterone about it as the R model and it's certainly nowhere near as quick, but it's got an appeal all of its own. In fact, we think this one's a serious contender.
As the entry-level engine in the Scirocco line up, this one's not exactly bursting with power, but the 125PS you do get is enough to send it to 62mph in a respectable 9.3 seconds and then onto a top speed of 125mph. The engine revs sweetly, but you'll need to keep on top of the transmission as you start making usable power at around 1,750rpm and it holds out to only around 3,800rpm, so you need to row it along a bit if you want to make progress. Making you work a little is perhaps no bad thing though, as it won't lull you into speed as so many deceptively rapid cars do. The six-speed manual gearbox is sweetly weighted with a decent shift action, but there's no DSG option available with this engine which is a bit of a shame.
Refinement isn't bad, but you do get a bit of tyre noise into the cabin. That's a bit of a Scirocco trait. It handles more sharply than the previous models did, and that lightweight engine guarantees a certain lack of inertia when tipping into corners. The front end is very keen, with the electro-mechanical steering system being one of the better installations of its type. This Scirocco's still not built on the clever MQB chassis that the Golf 7 gets, instead sitting on a version of the Golf 5/6's underpinnings. The upside at this entry-level point is that the base Scirocco gets a multi-link rear axle, unlike the base Golf 7s.
Design and Build
If it ain't broke, don't facelift it has seemed to be the mantra as far as the Scirocco goes and most onlookers wouldn't be able to spot the differences to the latest model, unless they had two cars parked next to each other and a good amount of time. The revised front bumper features aerodynamic 'blades' in the outer section, like those of the Mk 7 Golf GTI. There are also integrated indicator lights, daytime running lights and fog lights. Splash out on the optional bi-xenon headlights and you also get LED daytime running lights incorporated into the headlight pods. There's more lightwork at the back, where the Scirocco is updated to LED tail lights, while the bumper has been reshaped to appear lower and more purposeful. As on the Golf, the Volkswagen logo badge now acts as the tailgate release handle.
Drop inside and you might well spot that the dashboard has been updated, with new-look dials and an auxiliary instrument cluster above the centre console, consisting of chronometer, charge pressure and oil temperature gauges - a tribute to the 1974 original. 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.
Market and Model
You'll need just over £20,000 for the entry-level 1.4 TSI 125 Scirocco and just over £22,000 for the GT model. The base variant gets 17-inch alloys, a rear roof spoiler, a brushed aluminium interior finish, Bluetooth, DAB, air conditioning, twin front, side and curtain airbags, stability control and a fully galvanised body. Go for the GT and you get 18-inch alloy wheels, rear tinted windows, Alcantara upholstery, climate control, front fog lights, front and rear parking sensors and a touch screen navigation and radio system.
The Scirocco works out around £2,500 over the equivalent three-door Golf. Couched in those terms, it's quite an ask but this 1.4 TSI petrol version costs only £500 more than some rivals - say a Hyundai Veloster 1.6 Sport. Get out of the Hyundai and sit in the Volkswagen and it will feel like you're in a car that's twice the price.
Cost of Ownership
Another benefit of the 125PS engine is that it's incredibly fuel-efficient. Volkswagen claims 52.3mpg on the combined cycle, which isn't that far behind the BlueMotion diesel and this feels a far sweeter engine to drive. Emissions are rated at 125g/km, which makes the stats nerds in us wonder if there's another vehicle for sale with the same numbers for emissions, top speed and power output (125)?
This latest Scirocco's lookalike styling may well protect the residuals of existing owners, but will it put a dent in future resale values, given that 2016 model year cars will look so similar to 2008 examples? That remains to be seen, but what's not up for debate is that the Scirocco TSI 125 features some of the lowest running costs of any petrol-powered coupe on the market.
Every once in a while, a car manufacturer really nails an entry-level model. It doesn't happen too often because the cars that prop up the range are usually unattractive and deliberately so. Their sticker prices attract footfall into dealerships and then potential customers are promptly directed to the models with bigger engines, equipment lists and, yes, profit margins. The Volkswagen Scirocco 1.4 TSI is one you'd happily buy without having to look further up the range. Yes, there's better-equipped GT trim should you want it, but we quite like the fact that Volkswagen hasn't seen fit to offer this modest 'Roc in full-on R-Line body armour.
Any car that looks and handles this well and which can back that up with fuel economy of better than 52mpg is worthy of your attention. Factor in superb build quality, great steering and a sweet manual transmission, decent practicality and a reasonable amount of kit for twenty grand and you're looking at a very sweet proposition.