CLASSIC FEATURE:

Volkswagen Scirocco Storm

by David Finlay (21 October 2008)

The first surprise is how small it is. Park a first-generation Volkswagen Scirocco - of which this example, a Storm recently acquired by Volkswagen UK from a very careful owner, is one of the last, dating from 1981 - beside its modern equivalent and it seems tiny. But this should not come as a shock. It was, after all, based on the contemporary Golf, and that was only about the same size as a current Polo. As cars have developed in the intervening 27 years - become faster, more economical, less polluting, safer - they have also become considerably fatter.

Likewise inside. I can fit inside the '81 car, but only just. Not a problem with its grandchild. The older model also seems fragile, as if it would fold up if involved an accident that would barely scuff the paintwork of any car you can buy today.

1981 Volkswagen Scirocco Storm Interior.And I can't help noticing the number of things in the cabin that would do me a series mischief if I collided with them; the idea of my chest hitting the steering wheel, for example, is not one I want to investigate too closely. I don't think Euro NCAP has ever given any car a negative number of stars for occupant protection, but this one might well qualify.

So I'm not inclined to drive the Storm with a great deal of vigour. The car itself, in marked contrast, seems up for a good time. One of the first signs of this appears before I've driven so much as a yard; it's very clear right from the start that any time I want to change gear the car is going to make the process as enjoyable as possible.

The shift quality is so unbelievably smooth that it's hard to imagine you're using it to force hefty metal cogs into engagement with each other, yet at the same time precise enough that I have no concerns that I might miss a change at any point.

At speeds above . . . ooh, let's see, about 20mph, the Storm gives more indications that it's ready to please. For a start, it's surprisingly perky, and this is another thing that has been lost in the last quarter-century of automotive development. The 1.6-litre engine officially develops only 110bhp, but because the car is so light that's enough to push it from 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds.

To put that into perspective, it's comparable with the maximum acceleration of a new Scirocco 2.0 TDI, which has a further 28bhp and vastly - vastly - more torque. The TDI is a lot more economical, of course, but Volkswagen has conducted a modern fuel consumption test on the Storm (a test not merely unknown but in fact impossible back in 1981) and found that its combined figure is 30.7mpg. 1981 Volkswagen Scirocco Storm.That's not great by modern standards, but it's also not too dusty if you bear in mind the enormous advances in engine technology, particularly in the field of electronics, since this car was built.

The light weight - along with the tyres, which are freakishly thin by today's standards - also make the Storm a blast to drive. I don't imagine that the overall grip level is very high (and I wasn't going to make any attempt to find out), and the car's age was apparent in a slight tendency to prefer left-hand corners to right-hand ones, but in general the handling was superb. It's almost a case of devoting more thought than physical effort into making changes of direction.

I ended up wanting a Mk1 Scirocco of my own, but this would be a more expensive project nowadays than it would have been a few years ago. The car cost £6687 new, and you could easily end up paying a similar sum now for a really well-preserved and carefully tended example like this one. It's a sign of the classic status which old Sciroccos are rapidly approaching, if indeed they haven't already reached it.

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