Monthly Archives: May 2011

VW Jetta

The extra weight at the rear and thus the differently placed centre of gravity of the Jetta in both Mk1 and Mk2 forms creates a car with slightly different handling characteristics from the Golf. If you lift off on the limit in a Jetta, the oversteer tendency is greater, especially if the boot is loaded. Driving an empty Jetta GTi 16V back-to-back with a Golf GTI 16V at Donington circuit one morning, it quickly became apparent that the different balance of the Jetta in fact helped to cut understeer and made the car turn-in better. From a driver’s point of view, this can be quite desirable. In terms of grip, the tw o cars are pretty evenly matched but I suspect that in steady-state cornering on a skidpan, the Golf would ultimately produce a higher lateral g figure as it would not move into oversteer so quickly.

Image of a VW Jetta GTI
The Golf GTI is the cult car that has stolen most of the limelight, but the Jetta GTI and GTI 16V are superb drivers' cars in their own right and every bit the equal of the Golf on the road or race track.

Driving both cars around Oulton Park, a hilly circuit with several fast dips and crests, I was impressed with how well the Golf and Jetta handled with four people on board. Both cars could comfortably be driven on the limit in this load configuration with extremely safe and stable track manners. Many good road cars lose their composure rapidly when subjected to the rigours of on-the-limit driving around a racing circuit. The Golf and Jetta and of course their Scirocco and Corrado stablemates are rare cars that offer equally exemplar} behaviour on both road and track, one-up or fully loaded.

©Ian Kuah. This article was published with explicit permission from author Ian Kuah

VW Scirocco

I have fond memories of the fuel-injected Scirocco Mk1 and Mk2 cars, having owned both after a brief flirtation with a Golf GTI 1600. When you drive a Scirocco, you sit in a fairly reclined position compared with the upright Golf, and, combined with the car’s lower height and centre of gravity, this gives the impression of greater cornering stability. In real world terms, the skid-pan numbers of the two cars are not significantly different, but I have always felt a little braver cornering a Scirocco hard on a race circuit. The slight pitching motion induced by fast bumpy corners and caused by fairly soft rear dampers on all the Mkl Golf and Scirocco 1 and 2 cars was felt least of all on Scirocco 1. Sitting higher up in the Golf, you felt if more.

With more weight and overhang, the Mk2 Scirocco was less nimble than the first car. Even compared with the Golf Mk2, though, it is a quiet and refined car that is a pleasure to drive, especially in 112bhp form. It was not until I stepped back into a Scirocco Storm Mkl that I realised how much more agile the original was. The older car was also much noisier, so if you do a lot of long distance work, the progress in refinement is a welcome thing.

The 16-valve Scirocco was only made in LHD form and sold in the UK to special order. I was lucky enough to have sampled the car in Germany in 1985 at the original press launch. With its lower strut brace and uprated springs and dampers, the car was a lot tauter than a Scirocco GTI and stopped better too, thanks to rear discs. When driven back-to-back with the Golf GTI 16V, though, it quickly became apparent that even these modifications could not begin to close the gap with the new-generation chassis. But for all that, the Scirocco 16V looks set to become a classic. Although the Scirocco is still in production, the 16V was the definitive factory car and the used-car market in Germany has already begun to underline that thinking.

VW Scirrocco Mk2 going along a road
The Scirocco Mk2 is some years old now, but its pleasing shape and spritely performance endow it with more character than many newer designs.

©Ian Kuah. This article was published with explicit permission from author Ian Kuah

VW Corrado

While in essence the Corrado has the fioorpan and chassis from the Golf GTI Mk2, its rear axle design benefits from further technical progress made between the launch of Golf 2 in 1983 and the new Passat in 1987. The most significant feature is the passive rear-steer effect given by the special bushes that locate the trailing arms. The dynamic effect of rear wheel steering is better turn-in, better crossvvind stability and more stable cornering. The Golf 2 is already very good when driven on the limit. It is initially hard to believe that the Corrado is significantly better, but those flexible bushings work very well and help to reduce understeer in fast corners. The reduced slip angles enhance cornering power and the Corrado’s poise through corners sets new standards for front-wheel-drive hatchback cars.

The Corrado 16V is about 400lb heavier than the equivalent Golf GTI 16V. Thus you have to use the gears more to get up to speed, but superior aerodynamics mean that the car is quick once you have overcome inertia. The Euro-spec G60 offers performance more in line with the looks and chassis behaviour of the car, but with a penalty at the petrol pump as with any car that uses forced aspiration. The stiffer chassis creates even higher levels of handling and roadholding than the 16V, but the ride is firmer too. On smooth German roads this is fine, but on some broken British A-roads, the ride can become a little jittery.

In terms of build quality and refinement, the Corrado is superb. The car feels hewn from the solid. The driving position will be familiar to those who have owned Sciroccos or even a Porsche 924/944! The difference is that you can get two adults into the back seats of the Corrado and its ability to cruise happily at three-figure speeds makes it a real Grand Touring coupe.

A VW Corrado car
An increasingly familiar sight as supply at last catches up with demand, the G60 Corrado is a true enthusiast's sports coupe and a worthy substitute for the now extinct 'entry level ' Porsche.

©Ian Kuah. This article was published with explicit permission from author Ian Kuah