Blame the Volkswagen Golf for the U.S. Missing Out on 1 Cool VW Car
The Volkswagen Golf combines utility and fun like few vehicles can. From its cavernous storage space to its agile chassis, the German hatchback is a versatile, amusing ride. And in GTI form, the affordable compact adds a healthy dose of sporting dynamics. But even then, it’s still a Teutonic small car.
Over the years, the Volkswagen Scirocco built on the Golf’s positive attributes while adding low-slung sports car styling. Though VW sold the Scirocco in the U.S. for many years, that wasn’t the case upon its reintroduction in 2008. The reason? The Volkswagen Golf.
Let’s look at the Scirocco’s history and why this collector’s vehicle is no longer sold in the U.S.
How did the VW Scirocco ‘fun car’ become a cult favorite?
During its production run, the Scirocco combined utility, style, and fun like little else. For drivers who needed an economy car but wanted a sports car, the VW 2+2 coupe was the ideal solution. For that reason, the German two-door developed a dedicated following.
Volkswagen introduced the Scirocco for the 1974 model year. Penned by famed designer Giorgio Giugiaro — stylist of iconic vehicles like the BMW M1 and Lotus Esprit — the VW coupe featured a wedge-like body with clean, athletic lines. Compared to the boxy Golf, the Scirocco had a sleek, modern silhouette.
Under that appealing sheet metal was the Golf’s platform, though nearly every part was re-engineered for the new coupe. A transverse engine and front-wheel drive brought compact dimensions and all-weather versatility. And like the Golf, the Scirocco offered a playful driving experience.
Volkswagen produced the first-generation Scirocco from 1974 to 1981, with more than 500,000 units sold worldwide. After that, over 291,000 second-generation models found buyers around the globe. Production ended on Sept. 7, 1992.
German coachbuilder Karmann assembled the Scirocco through its first and second generations, using the same handmade craftsmanship in the classic Karmann Ghia coupe.
The third-gen Scirocco appeared in 2008 with low, wide styling and Golf-derived mechanicals. Like previous editions, the new model was built on the Golf’s usable platform but added extra style and performance flair. Production ended in 2017, and Volkswagen didn’t sell this version in the United States.
Why did Volkswagen discontinue the Scirocco in the U.S.?
Volkswagen last sold the Scirocco in the U.S. in 1988. And when the latest version debuted in 2008, the company opted not to bring it to U.S. shores. VW had different reasons for each.
In 1988, the Volkswagen Corrado appeared as a modernized, higher-performing 2+2 coupe. Though the Scirocco was still plenty capable, the Corrado was better and replaced the former in the U.S. market.
Then, when VW introduced the third-gen Scirocco in 2008, the automaker didn’t want to cannibalize Golf sales in the U.S. and chose not to sell it stateside.
“We need to focus on our core products,” Volkswagen North America President and CEO Stefan Jacoby told Car and Driver at the time.
Volkswagen Golf vs. Scirocco: Which VW car is better?
It’s a close competition between the Golf and Scirocco. Though the Golf is about the most versatile on the street, the Scirocco was once a stylish compact without equal. But today’s GTI bests all of them, with world-class dynamics and plenty of good looks.
Back in the ’70s or ’80s, we’d have chosen the Scirocco over the Golf, even in GTI form. The 2+2 coupe was just cooler, with bodywork reminiscent of a DeLorean DMC-12. And with nearly the everyday versatility of the Golf, the Scirocco was still a smart buy.
In the 2000s, the competition got closer, with the Golf, GTI, and Golf R displaying clean, modern aesthetics that compared well with anything on the road. Still, the Scirocco came out ahead style-wise with its shark-like fascia and low, wide stance.
Today, the Golf and GTI no longer have to compete with the Scirocco, discontinued worldwide after the 2017 model year. But the eighth-gen GTI is tough to beat. Now, the sporty hatchback has true sports car style and dynamics on par with almost anything. Add a five-door hatchback body style, and you’ve got a daily driver that expertly blends performance and practicality.
How did the Scirocco get its name, and how do you pronounce it?
“Scirocco” has an appealing sound. But how did this VW car get its name? You can trace its origin to Africa.
According to VW, the moniker comes from the word “sirocco,” a “hot, powerful wind from the Sahara that blows northeast across the Mediterranean Sea.” Add that to the list of car names with intriguing origins.
So, how do you pronounce “Scirocco”? Phonetically speaking, it sounds like shi-rah-koh, with the accent on rah. Merriam-Webster shows the phonetic pronunciation thus: shə-ˈrä-kō. What a cool word and a unique name for a classic VW car.
During its production, the Volkswagen Scirocco brought sports car looks to the Golf platform. That proved an appealing combo, with the coupe earning strong sales worldwide. Unfortunately, the third-gen Scirocco wasn’t sold stateside to preserve sales of core products like the Golf and Jetta. But today, the modern GTI combines the best elements of the Scirocco and Golf, bringing sleek styling and high performance at a reasonable price. It’s a combo that’s hard to match.