Volkswagen Scirocco R Manual Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Brisk performance, arresting looks, manual more engaging than DSG.
What's Not
Boot space, interior-style now ageing.
Low, wide and pumped - track-day handling with lots of creature comforts.
Tony O'Kane | Sep, 25 2012 | 11 Comments


Vehicle Style: Two-door sports hatch
Price: $47,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1 l/100km | tested: 11.6 l/100km



Part of the enjoyment of driving a car fast is the total engagement it demands: with the wheel, the pedals, the gearshift, and the micro-management of what’s happening at the road.

Executing a perfect heel-toe downshift, finding a razor line through a corner, or balancing a controlled slide - those are the things that make a track day memorable.

That’s why most of us who love driving, and love the feel of engagement with the machine, will, most times, opt for a manual transmission.

Which brings us to Volkswagen’s Scirocco R. The choice is between two models: a DSG ‘auto’, and the manual.

Since its introduction in the first Golf R32, Volkswagen’s twin-clutch transmission technology (DSG, in VW parlance) has offered lightning-fast shifts, the convenience of auto and the ‘connected’ feel of a manual when taking things in hand with the wheel-mounted paddles.

The best of both worlds, and all well and good. Except that when it comes to the Scirocco R, for sports driving, and all-round liveability, we still prefer the manual.

Not that there is much to complain about with the DSG, it’s just that the six-speed manual in the Scirocco R is better.



Quality: It might not be the most visually interesting interior, but material quality is good with plenty of soft plastics and solid switchgear.

Upholstery quality is good, but we’d prefer it if Volkswagen ditched the grey bolster trimming on the seats. The leather upholstered steering wheel is borrowed from the Golf R and feels superb.

Comfort: Although the grey-black trim colours won’t be for everyone, the front seats have deep bolsters and give excellent lateral support for the upper body.

There’s a wide range of movement in the manually-adjusted seats, and it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.

Outward vision is compromised though, by the thick raked-back A-pillars at the front, and the sharply-rising beltline and back seat headrests at the rear.

The rear seats, although lacking in headroom, are also amply bolstered. Legroom is acceptable too, but thanks to the narrowness of the Scirocco’s body this car is strictly a four-seater.

But back seat passengers take note: because of the high beltline and shallowness of the glasshouse, it can feel mighty claustrophobic back there. Young kids seated in the back will also struggle to see out through the windows.

Ergonomically, the dash layout is easy to comprehend and use, however, the power window switches are irritatingly tucked away behind the Scirocco’s bizarre triangular door pull.

Equipment: The standard equipment list includes trip-computer, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, 19-inch alloys and LED daytime running lamps.

The eight-speaker audio system includes a six-disc stacker, an SD card input, a USB input, and Bluetooth telephony and audio integration. Rear parking-sensors and auto-dimming mirrors are also standard.

Options include sat nav ($2500), a panoramic glass roof ($1800) and a 300-watt premium audio system ($1100).

Storage: Open up the hatch and there’s a deep boot measuring 312 litres, but the hatch opening is narrow and the loading lip is very high - both of which make loading cargo into the Scirocco a pain.

The 50/50 split rear seatbacks fold forward to create a luggage space of 1006 litres, but they don’t fold flat or flush with the boot floor.

Inside the cabin, there’s a decent-sized glovebox and lidded centre console bin, however the cupholders are rigid and don’t adjust for different-sized bottles and cans.



Driveability: The Scirocco R’s engine, shared with the Golf R and Audi S3, is a gem.

It’s got 188kW of power and 330Nm of torque - healthy numbers, and with the latter available from as low as 2500rpm, it’s got plenty of midrange pulling power.

The best way to drive it is by exploiting that beefy midrange. Peak power arrives at 6000rpm so there’s not much point in revving it right to the 6800rpm redline.

Instead, shifting just after 6000rpm lets the tachometer drop right into the middle of the torque band, which produces the strongest acceleration.

After some initial turbo lag, boost builds cleanly and in a linear fashion. This engine is nowhere near as savage in its power delivery as, say, a Subaru WRX. That, depending on your point of view, can be either a good or a bad thing.

What’s definitely a good thing, though, is the standard manual transmission.

No, the six-speed manual isn’t faster than its DSG-equipped sister (the manual gets to 100km/h in a VW-claimed 6.2 seconds, the DSG does it in six seconds dead), but it’s far more fun to row through the ratios yourself than to delegate that task to a computer.

With an engine that’s as smooth and sophisticated as the Scirocco R’s, opting for the manual is the only real way of injecting some personality into the car.

Some say that the DSG’s petite steering wheel-mounted shift paddles allow you to have it both ways, but we disagree. There’s simply no substitute for the engagement a driver feels with three pedals and a H-pattern stick shift.

Refinement: The Scirocco R emits a sporty exhaust burble at idle and masses of induction roar at full throttle. And while a gruff note is always present, it’s not at all grating when cruising at highway speeds.

Road noise from the 19-inch rolling stock is another issue though, as it can get rather intrusive at triple-digit speeds on coarse tarmac.

Suspension: As standard, the Scirocco R is fitted with adaptive dampers with three modes - Normal, Comfort and Sport. Forget about employing Sport mode on anything but a racetrack. It’s unbearably firm for everyday driving.

Comfort mode should be made the default setting. Its compliance improves general comfort, and it even helps traction under power by allowing the suspension to conform to bumps rather than just skipping over them.

Cornering grip is exemplary for a front-wheel-drive hot hatch, but traction under power is limited. It’s a problem that doesn’t show up so much on dry roads, but add some rain and the Scirocco gains an appetite for understeer.

So while the lighter Scirocco R might be fractionally faster in a straight line, the AWD Golf R feels much more surefooted.

Braking: The Scirocco R is fitted with a sizable brake package using 345mm front discs and 310mm rear discs, each clamped by sliding calipers.

Braking performance is very strong, and the firm, responsive pedal feels great under foot.



ANCAP rating: Untested.

Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, ESP, hill hold assist and brake assist are standard.

Passenger protection technology includes six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts for all occupants and pretensioners for the front seatbelts.



Warranty: Three years/100,000km with 12 years corrosion warranty.

Service costs: Service costs vary so consult your Volkswagen dealer before purchase.



Renault Megane RS 265 Cup ($42,640) - The current king of hot hatches, Renault’s Megane RS is scintillatingly fast on both road and track.

Its 2.0 litre turbo inline four doesn’t rev as high as the Scirocco’s but with 195kW and 360Nm it’s a more muscular unit by a healthy margin.

It also corners like a cut cat, but the Megane’s performance-focused suspension is its one downfall - it’s even stiffer than that of the Scirocco R. (see Megane reviews)

Mazda3 MPS ($39,490) - Another big-power front-driver, the Mazda3 MPS suffers from its age (that interior is positively retro by now) and issues with torque steer.

Still, with 190kW and a huge 380Nm of torque, you get plenty of bang for your buck. The MPS can also be hustled along a winding road very quickly, but it will demand more of the driver than the Scirocco and Megane. (see Mazda3 reviews)

MINI Coupe Cooper S ($42,990) - The MINI Coupe is well down on power against the rest of these contenders, having only 135kW and 240Nm in its 1.6 litre turbo four in Cooper S trim.

But, at just 1165kg it also weighs substantially less than the others.

It handles superbly as a result, and although it’s not quite in the same league of performance as the Megane, Mazda3 or Scirocco, the MINI coupe is still an immensely agile little thing. (see MINI Coupe reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



On its own merits, the Volkswagen Scirocco R stands tall. It’s got easily accessible performance, handsome good looks and handling that shames most other hot hatches.

But there’s one problem - the Renault Megane RS 265.

The Megane RS is a faster machine with better handling and a dramatically cheaper price-tag. It’s also more visually arresting both inside and out - albeit just as impractical as the Scirocco.

Further complicating matters for VW is the impending arrival of the Ford Focus ST, which, with 20Nm more torque than the Scirocco for nearly $10k less, will surely set the hot hatch market ablaze.

But, we accept that there will still be people enticed by the image and badge value of the Scirocco R. Our message to those people is simple: choose the manual. You’ll have more fun.



  • 2012 Volkswagen Scirocco R - six-speed Manual - $47,490
  • 2012 Volkswagen Scirocco R - six-speed DSG - $49,990

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

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