Volkswagen Scirocco R review: The forgotten hot hatch is one of the best

VOLKSWAGEN has made a serious name for itself as the king of comfortable hot hatches, with both the Golf GTI and Polo GTI leaders of their classes. They each have some poke to them but ultimately are just quick hatchbacks to drive around. They have an often forgotten brother though, their brother with a bit of mongrel: the Scirocco R.

The Golf GTI, while a great fast car still looks like your regular old hatchback. There’s some fancy wheels, it’s a little bit lower and there are bits of body kit here and there, but unless you try and notice, it still looks just like a regular Golf.

The Scirocco on the other hand looks like a proper sports car. The wheel arches are big, the roof is slick and low and the black front grill makes sure people know it means business. It’s a car that has serious presence on the road, which is not something that can normally be said about hot hatches.

Thankfully the performance backs it up.

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The 2.0 litre turbocharged engine is the same engine it’s had since launch in 2011, but that’s not a bad thing. It puts out 188kW of power and 330Nm of torque which is sent to the front wheels, just enough for you to feel like you’re in fast car, but not enough to give horrible torque steer. The engine growl is intoxicating, especially for a four-cylinder car and the crackle and pops from the DSG gearbox as you change gears at full throttle still make me chuckle.

Its power gets to the ground better than most hot hatches I’ve driven, with very little tyre spin or torque steer, especially when compared to the likes of the Ford Focus ST.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t raw or fun to drive, quite the opposite in fact. Poke the throttle around a corner, the front wheels will squirm while the rear squeaks a little as it flicks out just a little bit. It’s hilariously fun, but you always feel like you’re in complete control and that grip is there whenever you need it.

Adaptive dampers also come standard which mean you can bring the chassis alive in sport mode or soften it up to absorb bumps in comfort.

The Scirocco R comes in either six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic transmission. The DSG is from the previous generation of Golf, which feels a little unrefined when driving at low speeds and traffic, but is still fast enough when you’re after quick shifts.

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While it’s only a three door car, the interior is surprisingly spacious, although a bit dated. The front seats hold you right in place, yet are still comfortable on longer trips. In the back, you wouldn’t exactly call it roomy, but it’s certainly not uncomfortable for an adult to sit back there. Bonus points goes to the amount of boot space you get when folding the rear seats down — I was able to fit 3 big flat pack boxes from Ikea without a problem. It has a weirdly high bootlip though, which could be an inconvenience for some.

Easily the worst thing about the car though is the infotainment system. Volkswagen’s system in the Scirocco R is horrible dated and possibly one of the worst on the market. It’s unintuitive, can be confusing at times and lacks iPhone or AUX input — basics in today’s cars.

Priced from $45,990, it’s at the upper end of hot hatches, but if you want something with presence, effortless performance full of flair, and around-town driveability when you need it, the Volkswagen Scirocco R could be exactly what you’re looking for.