Which Volkswagen hot hatch is best – the Golf R or the Scirocco R? Ben Griffin has driven both, and is here to tell us which deserves your cash.
Ask any petrolhead about the VW Golf R and most will tell you it’s the benchmark in hot-hatch land, a car that arguably ticks more boxes than anything else. But it has a new contender to worry about in the form of the Scirocco R.
Can a revamped blast from the past put the latest generation Golf in its place? Which car deserves your £30,000 most? We put the two together in the ring and let them fight until a winner emerged.
The Scirocco R is one of the most impressive hot-hatchbacks to look at. New aesthetic additions to the car include bi-xenon headlights, LED tail lights, daytime running lights and meatier, more aggressive bumpers.
Inside is a comfortable interior that will survive family life, but only three gauges atop the dashboard indicate this is no ordinary Scirocco. It’s a very understated affair.
The VW Golf R is based on the seventh-generation Golf GTI. It is, however, beefier thanks to flared arches, larger air intakes and revisions to the bumpers. Silver mirrors, quad exhaust pipes and unique alloys complete the look.
Inside is much the same story as the Scirocco R. A few R badges here and there hint at the performance, but there’s nothing to really shout home about.
Based on looks alone, the more unusual Scirocco and its fresh revisions secures our vote.
Winner: Scirocco R
The Scirocco R is much sleeker, which means the roof is lower, therefore really tall friends will hate you. Luckily the legroom is pretty good for those slightly beyond average height, but there’s no middle seat, so you can only carry two in the back.
Boot space is 312 litres with the rear seats up and 1,006 with the seats down. The Golf R wins here, because although the gubbins needed for all-wheel drive have reduced the boot space by 37 litres over the standard GTI, there’s still 343 litres to cram full of suitcases, push chairs and the like.
Both cars benefit from extremely comfortable seats that will keep you in place when blasting through corners. Both cars have enough cubby holes and storage areas to be practical for families. But the Golf is more spacious overall and seats five, so it wins here.
Winner: Golf R
Performance & handling
You would assume the Scirocco R uses the same engine as the Golf R, but you would be wrong. The Scirocco R has a 2.0-litre TSI that outputs 276bhp. Peak torque kicks in at 2,500rpm so there’s a momentary lapse before the turbo kick in, the dashboard turbo pressure bar starts spinning and hell breaks loose. 0-62mph happens in just 5.5 seconds.
A sizable elephant in the room is the lack of all-wheel drive. Although there is a clever differential that helps put power to the tarmac, the front-wheel drive nature means the Scirocco R will always lose to the Golf R, especially if conditions get slippy.
The Golf R’s 296bhp four-cylinder engine allows it to hit 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds with the six-speed manual and 4.9 seconds with the six-speed DSG. Sub-five seconds is ridiculous for a £30,000 car.
At speed, the Golf R and Scirocco R have that dependable, sturdy VW feel. They handle well, even when you push hard. Clearly the Golf R is faster, though, more powerful and more capable of putting that power down in a variety of conditions. It therefore wins another point.
Winner: Golf R
Economy & environment
Even though the Golf R is faster, its newer engine manages an impressive 40.9mpg with the DSG gearbox and 39.8mpg with the manual. CO2 emissions come in at 159g/km for the DSG and 165g/km for the manual. For the level of pace on offer, that’s an astonishing set of numbers.
The Scirocco R is actually a decent performer, too, when it comes to eco-friendliness. But 185g/km of CO2 emissions makes it £45 more expensive to tax on a yearly basis. It is also worse on fuel, at 35.8mpg, although we did find ourselves easily achieving 30mpg so the difference may not be so noticeable during daily life.
Both cars have stop/start and brake energy regeneration for eking out a little extra mileage but, again, the Golf R is just that bit better.
Winner: Golf R
Equipment & value
This is where it really starts to unravel for the Scirocco R. It costs the same as the Golf R and is similarly well-specced, but as we have seen it is less practical and slower, and therefore represents less value for money.
But the Scirocco R does get navigation as standard, a useful and sought-after extra that costs £795 on the Golf R. Apart from that, both cars get dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys, Sports suspension, bi-xenon headlights and front sport seats.
Even with the lack of a sat-nav as standard, the Golf R wins this round.
Winner: Golf R
The only reason to really pick the Scirocco R over the Golf R is for the looks. Honestly, as much as we love its sure-footed handling and aggressive styling, you’d feel a little silly knowing you could have bought a faster car for the same money.
The Golf R is a cruise missile. It’s a hot-hatch that puts some sports cars to shame, yet is still able to carry a boot-load of shopping.
Really, the Golf R’s only competition is the rear-wheel drive BMW M135i, the track-happy Renaultsport 275 and the super fast but ridiculously expensive Mercedes A45 AMG. But each alternative has its flaws.
Anyone who buys the Scirocco R will end up loving it, make no mistake, but its sporty design doesn’t quite make up for its inferior performance, practicality and value for money.
Champion: Golf R