Why the comparison?
This comparison is admittedly a little leftfield, but during a recent drive in Volkswagen's brilliant new Scirocco we had the chance to experience a 29-year old original Scirocco MkI. It was a real eye-opener as to how far things have come - or not - in the past few decades. Unsurprisingly the two cars are very similar in their design and layout, but worlds apart in terms of technology. What is really surprising though is how close the two cars are on performance, despite the older car having significantly less power than its young relative. You might think the new car would walk away from the old model, but the MkI exhibits that not all the three decades between them have resulted in progress.
How are they similar?
Both are coupés, have three doors, low slung driving positions - not quite low enough in the new car - and are at the top of their respective ranges. Although looking proportionally similar, the new car is bigger in every dimension, though interior space feels just as accommodating in the MkI despite it actually being a touch smaller externally and in wheelbase. Unsurprisingly they share styling cues, the new Scirocco's enclosed headlamps featuring four lights in a stylistic nod to its older relative. Inside, both demonstrate Volkswagen's solid build quality and a neat, uncluttered approach to the driving environment.
With distinctively shaped hatchbacks, both have decent sized boots - access to the MkI's load space being far easier - meaning they're both practical choices. Surprisingly, performance is similar between the cars, with the new car timed at 7.2 seconds to reach 62mph, the MkI taking only 1.6 seconds longer; if this were a comparison against the new 1.4-litre TSI model the older car would actually beat it in straight line acceleration. Both Sciroccos feel light and wieldy too and more overtly sporting than their Golf hatchback relatives.
How do they differ?
Similar as both cars are there are some glaring differences. The ability of the old Scirocco to nearly match the new car's 0-62mph time despite an 88bhp deficit in power underlines the weight that the modern car carries over its older relative. That additional mass manifests itself in a number of ways, the MkI feeling more involving, giving more feedback through the controls to the driver. In comparison - and although very impressive against its contemporaries - the new car is lacking in intimacy and feel compared to its three-decade old relative. That loss of involvement thanks to an increase of weight is normal these days; people simply wouldn't drive a car today that's so lacking in safety, comfort and infotainment as the original is.
Despite the additional weight - and almost twice the output - the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine in the new car betters its 1.6-litre relative for economy; 37.2mpg on the official combined cycle compared to 30.7mpg. There are no CO2 figures, but the new car will be massively cleaner on all emissions from its tailpipe. Visibility out of the MkI is vastly superior to the new Scirocco though, the slim pillars all round affording a far better view out. But the chunky pillars on the new car are there for safety and we know which car we'd rather have a crash in. Driving an old car against a modern alternative also underlines just how far lighting, windscreen wiping, braking, ventilation and heating technology have all come. It also reminds you of how lazy we've all got, with seats, door mirrors, windows and everything else needing to be moved manually in the MkI, instead of using a motor in the modern car.
So which one would we have?
In the ideal world we'd have both. The old Scirocco is a real joy to drive, reminding you of how much fun driving can be with low power outputs, grip levels and little weight. But it's the sort of fun you want to save for the weekend, on quiet roads when you've nothing but the fun of driving on your mind. The new car is a great drive, but has all the comfort and convenience we've come to expect in our modern cars. Crucially, it's leagues ahead on safety -coming loaded with airbags, clever seatbelt pretensioners, computer designed crumple zones, anti-lock braking, stability control, traction control and lights that illuminate gloomy roads brilliantly. It could still learn some lessons from its ancient ancestor though, as losing a few kilograms would make it even better, and more efficient too.