A one-time avid Beetle enthusiast, it was some time since I had driven a VW, when the Scirocco came up for tests, with the 1.8-litre fuel-Injection engine. This was not the latest 16-valve version which should now be available, but performance is good nevertheless, with a top speed of 117 mph, to 60 mph in 9.2 sec and pick-up in the useful 50 to 70 mph band in 9.3 sec without coming off the fifth speed. On the run home to Wales after collecting the Scirocco from Milton Keynes the thin April sun seemed to have brought out the older cars, because I saw a Ruby A7 and a Riley 9 saloon and later overtook a very sedately driven Rolls-Royce Cloud probably on its way to the R-R EC’s Welsh Weekend. Up the hilly bit of the A44 that is a sort of introduction to the Principality, from England. I was overtaking a TR7 when the Scirocco s engine cut out viciously and I had to pull in quickly behind it I put this down to the ignition cut-out, although the engine was not revving anywhere near its 6.300 rpm limit.
This was, presumably, the intimation of impending trouble, for although the next day the low, sporting two-door 2×2 coupe ran faultlessly over Welsh by-ways, not a car encountered between Yardo and Erwood for instance, the next morning it refused to run for more than a few yards. I could have invoked the excellent National Breakdown Club of Bradford but instead the local VW agent, D & R Jones (Radnor) Ltd of Doldowlod, took the ailing car away, returning It very expeditiously, the fault being a leak round the windscreen that had swamped an electrical circuit. After this I was able to assess the 1.8-litre Scirocco. It is a well contrived car, with good interior fittings and velour carpeting that emphasises VW quality, with side rubbing strips and much of the interior trim in matching black. The driving seat was very comfortable and the instruments easy to read. The fuel gauge is within the speedometer, with well marked low-level position, temperature gauge between speedometer and tachometer, and a digital clock before the driver, which changes into a computer read-out by pressing the lip of the rh control stalk.
The steering-wheel centre is large and to confuse those who condemn horn buttons thereon has four of these! There is a voltmeter on the centre console, the customary warning lights are neatly arranged, and the simple to understand heating ventilatory system functions effectively, and there is now a rear wipe wash. The adjustable heat cold-air outlets are numerous, as are the stowages, with a lockable large illuminated cubby hole. The boot is of good size, but with a high sill: with the split back seats folded there is 42.2 cu ft luggage capacity.
I thought this 112 bhp Scirocco an easy car to drive, and obviously the 129 bhp 16-valve version will be faster still. The ride is a good compromise between soft suspension for comfort and harder suspension for the fast cornering which the car possesses, but over certain surfaces there was some very slight lateral sway, bad pot holes cause bump-thump, and the low-geared (3 3/4, turns, lock-to-lock) steering is too heavy for parking, exhibits some understeer, and in the well did not like the feeling that at times the Pirelli P6s were anxious to break away. Road undulations affecting the front wheels can also set up some rocking of the steering wheel. I felt that perhaps the Scirocco running-gear has dated more than its smooth, responsive power train.
I have heard criticisms of the five-speed gearbox but thought the change quite reasonably acceptable, and reverse is easy to engage. The wide doors badly need restraints to make exiting from the car easier, and mud-flaps behind the front wheels are missed when using the GTX on muddy roads — no sooner had I hosed it down than it needed the treatment again! The door-mounted mirrors have manual internal adjustment but as the driver can’t reach the n/s one electric-actuation would be preferred. I was also disappointed to find that central-locking costs £140 extra, but the test-car did have a manually-operated metal sunroof, Pirelli-made alloy wheels and a Blaupunkt Hamburg radio, and recent improvements include an enlarged rear spoiler, set some way up the rear window, green-tinted glass, etc. The windows have to be raised and lowered by hand, unless you pay an extra £396.
The 1.8 Scirocco proved a companionable car on my long personal haul to VSCC Silverstone and back and it is much to the credit of modern fuel-injected power units that it gave 36.1 mpg, while another significant breakthrough is that this VW needs major servicing at only 20,000-mile intervals, thanks to hydraulic tappets, automatic clutch adjustment, electronic ignition and long-life plugs. In conjunction with a 12-month unlimited mileage warranty, three-year paint warranty, six-year anti-corrosion warranty and a first year recovery service, this sporting coupe is very much in the VAG Volkswagen tradition, while the list of Worldwide VW/Audi Service Depots is impressively reassuring. So the VW Scirocco. in £9,519.14 1.8 GTX form, should retain its following. — W.B.