The Volkswagen Scirocco has been brought back from the dead after being buried for many years. It was a popular model for VW seeing two generations and almost 800,000 units sold between 1974 and 1992. The Mark I and II models sold well because in contrast to many competitors at the time it was an affordable coupe with everyday utility, sharp styling and front-wheel powered making it safe and easy to drive.
Cult status became assured in 1978 when a Mark I Scirocco made a cameo appearance in George Romero’s zombie flick Dawn of the Dead. In the film four survivors use the car as a battering ram to evade the undead hordes. Hit the fast forward button to 2009 and VW has recycled its once effective formula with the recently released Mark III model. But does the reincarnated Scirocco have what it takes to win over fans and splatter zombies?
The new Scirocco is available in NZ with a choice of two engines: the 2.0-litre turbo unit shared with the current Golf GTI and a 1.4 TSI. Our tested vehicle sported the 1.4-litre unit that might sound inadequate when compared to its larger capacity sibling but it’s a fascinating power plant and may be the pick of the two. You see, Dawn of the Dead failed to scoop any film awards back in 1978 by comparison the 1.4 TSI motor has recently been lavished with the International Engine of the Year award for 2009 and with good reason.
The 1.4 TSI is a technical wonder and is twin-charged using both a turbocharger and a supercharger to put out 118kW of go. This will take it from standing to 100 kph in 8 seconds flat, less than a second slower than its bigger-engined brother (7.1 sec). What’s more impressive is that the full compliment of 240Nm of torque is available from 1500-4500 rpm. The motor pulls keenly throughout the range and loves to be worked hard with a true turbo peak to the acceleration. What’s even more impressive is that while it can act like a performance motor it will still return a 6.4l/100km fuel economy. Still not impressed? Well by comparison the current Toyota Yaris 1.3-litre motor has just 63kW of power and returns a fuel economy of 6.5L/100km. So next time zombies are looking for top brains to eat they should head straight to Volkswagen HQ because the smart engineers there would certainly make for a tasty dish.
A killer engine needs to be mated with a worthy transmission and this comes courtesy of a 7-spd DSG box. Nearly as cutting-edge as the motor the DSG is in essence an automated manual transmission that uses a dual-clutch system. When a gear is in use the next available gear is already engaged and ready this makes for lightening fast changes and seamless power delivery under throttle. The DSG is a strong tag-team partner for the TSI motor drawing out every drop of power and doing it with little fuss.
In Dawn of the Dead survivors chose the Scirocco not just for its pace but also for its corpse-dodging agility, a virtue not lost on the new model. Hit the twisty roads and the Scirocco handles like a coupe should by sitting flat into corners and offering liberal measures of grip. It stayed focused on turn-in and never got out of shape when changing direction. Some torque-steer is possible when pushed hard but won’t catch the driver by surprise and the traction control functions well without dominating. Overall, the Scirocco is one of the best handling front-wheel-drive new cars available and the ability to take corners at speed helps maintain the impression of a true performance vehicle.
The suspension is definitely firm, more so than an average hot-hatch but not to the point of it being uncomfortable on longer journeys. Ride comfort is generally very good with only minimal road noise kicking up from the 17-inch tyres and the throaty exhaust note is only audible at low speeds. The steering is well weighted and the flat-bottomed steering wheel lifted from the Golf GTI is a pleasure to use.
While the Scirocco’s pace is great for out-running zombies and it’s agility good for dodging them, the eye-catching design will turn the heads of even the most brain-dead within their ranks. While automotive retro styling is currently popular Volkswagen has resisted using retro elements in the Scirocco’s design instead opting for a striking modern look. High-sheen black plastics work in with chrome headlamp surrounds to create a strong face and offer clues to a future Volkswagen design language. Muscular flanks and a long sweeping roofline give the Scirocco sports-car prowess and a distinctive profile. Fully colour coded bumpers and mirrors combine with 17-inch alloys to round off what’s a magnetic aesthetic.
Dive inside and you’re greeted with an interior that might be the Scirocco’s only real weakness. While it’s functional and comfortable it feels conservative and inconsistent with the bold exterior design. Most of the interior has been taken straight from the Golf and while that’s a bit disappointing you still have a well-styled, solidly built cabin. The front seats are comfortable, well bolstered and height-adjustable. The rear seating is more than a token gesture and is usable enough for two adults to squeeze in. The cabin has an equipment list that includes a 6-disc stereo with iPod compatibility, a cooled glove box, multifunction display screen, and remote central locking with immobiliser.
The hatch has a 292-litre capacity but is restricted by a smallish opening and an awkwardly high boot lip. Our tested model came fitted with an optional panoramic roof that really brought light into the cabin and diffused what could be a confining feel from the low roofline. Poor rear visibility is an unfortunate side-effect of the Scirocco’s rakish design; the C-pillar creates a blind spot big enough to hide a zombie conga line.
If your zombie escape doesn’t go to plan and you crash, the Scirocco will make sure you survive long enough for the undead to catch up thanks to a 5-star crash test rating. Six airbags are ready to blow including side airbags and curtain bags for 4 occupants. An Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) with ABS braking, Traction Control and Brake Assist comes as standard.
It’s all too easy to get bitten by the Scirocco; it blends infectious modern styling with technically impressive engineering and a good dose of practicality. The 1.4 TSI is a special engine and makes the entry-level model a very strong proposition. The money saved over the higher-spec vehicle could always be put towards a couple of tasty items from the option list. No doubt the Scirocco will recruit fans and when it comes to splattering zombies the Mark I only bounced a few off the side; the new Mark III is sharp enough to cut straight through them.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.
Price: $49,990 (1.4 TSI), $55,990 (2.0 TSI)
What we like:
- Striking exterior styling
- Excellent handling
- Powerful and economical motor
What we don’t like:
- Conservative interior
- Boot is difficult to load
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
2009 Volkswagen Scirocco – Specifications
Engine type 118kW TSI
Cubic capacity, litres/cm 3 1390cc
Max. output, kW at rpm 118kW @ 5800 rpm
Max. torque, Nm at rpm 240Nm @ 1500 – 4500 rpm
Gearbox standard 7-spd DSG
Top speed kph with automatic gearbox 218
Acceleration in seconds from 0-100 kph 8.0
Fuel consumption litres/100 km combined 6.4
CO 2 emission g/km 148
¢ 3-point automatic seat belts with height adjustment and seat-belt tensioners
¢ Active front head restraints
¢ Daytime running lights
¢ Driver and front passenger airbags, with front side and curtain airbags
¢ Electromechanical steering with safety steering column (steering wheel height & reach adjustable)
¢ ESP (electronic stability program), ABS braking system with Brake Assist, and EDL (electronic diff lock)
¢ Front passenger airbag deactivation
¢ ISOFIX mountings on rear seat
¢ Outer rear view mirrors, electrically adjustable and heated
¢ Two rear headrests
¢ Climatic air-conditioning
¢ Cooling for glove compartment
¢ Cruise Control
¢ Electric front windows
¢ Floor mats, front & rear
¢ Hill hold control
¢ Illuminated vanity mirrors
¢ Leather sports steering wheel
¢ Multifunction display
¢ ‘Merlin’ black cloth upholstery
¢ RCD 310 CD radio system — eight loudspeakers, MP3 CD compatible, aux in socket
¢ Remote central locking with vehicle immobiliser, tilt sensor and interior monitoring
¢ Split-folding rear seat backrest
¢ 17″ Long Beach alloy wheels, 225/45 tyres with space-saver spare wheel
¢ 4-link independent rear suspension
¢ Galvanised body
Warranty and Assistance
¢ 3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty, 12 year anti-corrosion warranty
¢ 3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance