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Two-litre turbocharged engine? Check. Six-speed DSG gearbox? Yep. Front-wheel drive? Absolutely. Flat-bottomed steering wheel? Ticks that box. Familiar platform? Of course. Three doors? Affirmative. Cost a little over £20,000? Yes, sirree.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that VW hasn’t built its new Scirocco from scratch. Economies of scale dictated it, just as they did for the original Scirocco (based on the mk1 Golf) and the later Corrado (Golf mk3). But this new Scirocco, here in 197bhp 2.0 TSI form, isn’t as closely related to the current Golf GTI as you might think. Not only is it longer, wider and almost 100mm lower, but track widths are up, 35mm at the front and a generous 59mm at the rear, while the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars have all been retuned. What’s more, the back axle is entirely different to the Golf’s. It’s from a Passat. Good news? We’ll see.

Let’s start with the bodywork, though. The 2006 Iroc concept first sweet-talked us into the idea of a long-roofed hatch-style coupe. The nose has been re-profiled since, though, allegedly because the show car’s gaping nostril was deemed too Audi-like. Otherwise, on the outside at least, it’s pretty much what we saw then. It’s neat, but hardly inspirational. Then again, the pics don’t do it many favours; viewed in 3D the curves start to work, especially the long swoop over the rear haunches. It won’t stop you dead in your tracks when you first see one, but I guarantee you’ll nod appreciatively.

The detailing’s good, too, with frameless door windows and turbine-like 18in alloys, while the way the tailgate overlaps the bumper makes it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Clever stuff.

Not so sure about the interior, though. It’s all highly ergonomic and nice to use, but it’s also all taken from existing VW models, meaning it doesn’t do enough to make you, as the prospective buyer or new owner, feel special. Economies of scale biting again, obviously.

At least the bean-counters didn’t instigate a total clampdown. The seats are unique (and very good, too), and chunky triangular pulls have been grafted onto the door armrests. The best thing about the interior, however, is the packaging: four adults fit comfortably, the boot’s a good size and the two individual rear seats fold flat.

But VW hasn’t gone to all the trouble of bringing us out to this sinister ex-Soviet airbase hidden deep in the forests north of Berlin just to have a poke around the new coupe. The car’s official launch is still three weeks away, but at this low-key event â€" two PRs, a couple of valeters and a fridge of cold drinks in a disused hanger (it’s 28 degrees outside) â€" we’re being given full access to some of the very first production examples. No distractions, no press conference, no glad-handing, just the car and an empty track to play on.

It’s not an ideal test venue, though. The panelled concrete surface is ultra-smooth and super-slippy. The tyres squeal from the get-go, chassis behaviour is exaggerated and the ABS triggers almost instantly. Oh, and I can’t disable the stability control. I assumed this was another foible of these early models, but no. As VW’s product communications manager Christian Bühlmann points out: ‘All VW products have traction and stability systems that remain partially active even if switched off.’

I can’t help thinking that in a coupe as driver-orientated as this one (and make no mistake, it is) it would be nice to have full control. It’s certainly not helping my cause, with requests for dramatic action shots ringing in my ears since I left the office yesterday. Still, there’s only so much ESP can do to combat a thuggish attitude and a good tweak on the handbrake…

Even when forced to slide, it’s impressive how quickly the ESP collects its thoughts, pulling the Scirocco back into line smoothly and effectively. But there’s no need to hassle the stability system. The wider track and lower centre of gravity mean the Scirocco can be tipped into corners with relative abandon.

Its behaviour and manners are very hot- hatch â€" it ****s a rear wheel in the air and exhibits (and successfully communicates) a real enthusiasm for the task in hand. It’s also surprisingly adjustable on the throttle. Not to the extent of provoking the rear wheels into moving out of line â€" it’s too planted and safe for that â€" but enough to allow plenty of scope for line-tightening. Given the rear axle’s origins, we hadn’t expected it to be this playful.

Compared with the Golf GTI, which admittedly isn’t the snappiest hot hatch, the Scirocco is more agile and energetic. It also seems to gain speed faster. VW claims the same 7.2sec 0-62mph time for both cars, but given the coupe weighs 38kg less, we reckon that’s rather pessimistic. It moves smartly off the line and once into second and third you’d swear the needles move a bit faster through their arcs.

The 2-litre turbo engine is as impressive as ever, with oodles of mid-range shove, a decent exhaust note and a nice pop when you change up with the (optional) DSG gearbox. Unfortunately we’ve been banned from heading out on to the roads, but we do manage to slip away from our handlers and find a decidedly unpolished access road. While it’s hardly the best place to make a detailed analysis of body control and chassis composure, it is clear the Scirocco has a very stiff shell and brushes off big impacts without too much suspension fuss and reaction.

Later we get the chance to be impressed by the car’s refinement and high-speed stability. Road driving may have been off the menu earlier, but we’re a minibus short for getting back to Berlin airport, so Christian drives us in the Scirocco. It’s a comfortable, undramatic experience, autobahns and traffic handled with ease.

We’ve a feeling the Scirocco is going to prove equally adept on the M4, A4 and B4000, too. Adept, but not wonderfully charismatic. VW is a sensible company and this is still a sensible, dependable car, one that delivers a warm glow of satisfaction rather than full-blooded thrills.

There’s something else that heightens its desirability, though. When it arrives in the UK in September, the 2.0 TSI Scirocco is likely to cost around £20,500, compared with the Golf GTI’s current list price of £20,825 â€" and the first cars will be fully loaded ‘GT’ models aimed at early adopters and featuring switchable dampers.

In the longer term, prices for the lower-spec 197bhp model, badged simply Scirocco, could dip below £20,000, and three more engines will come on stream next year: a 158bhp 1.4 TSI and a pair of 2.0 TDIs with 138 and 168bhp respectively. There’s also an R version in the pipeline. After a 13 year wait, it’s time to get excited about a VW coupe again.
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