The Scirocco-that-wasn’t became a significant car for Volkswagen and kicked off its move upmarket in the ’90s. Here’s what you need to know before buying one.
The Classics World offices recently saw an, ahem, lively debate about whether Volkswagen’s Corrado was a replacement for the Scirocco or not: the newer car was sold alongside the Golf-based Scirocco for a few years but ultimately replaced it as the coupe model in the range.
Leafing through the press pack from the original UK launch in May 1989 though, we find notes from the original presentation stating firmly that the Corrado was not to be a replacement for the Scirocco but a car heading in a different direction altogether. Volkswagen’s UK importer was aiming to sell 3000 cars a year and commented: “Placed above the Golf and Scirocco, the Corrado lifts Volkswagen into a new sector of the market.” The firm naturally expected many prospective owners to be trading up from a Golf GTI, but also reckoned the car would appeal to those considering BMW 3-Series, Porsche 944 and Mercedes models.
That alone showed the strength of VW’s ambition with its new coupe, since the Golf-based Scirocco would never have been considered in the same light as these cars.
Perhaps surprisingly though, the underpinnings for the Corrado were provided partly by the Mk2 Golf, itself a facelift of the Mk1 Golf on which the Scirocco was based. It was much modified though, being in effect a hybrid of the Golf and the ‘B3’ Passat launched in 1988. This much-underrated car debuted some interesting technology for VW under its anonymous looks and donated its passive rear-steer rear suspension set-up, cable-change gearbox and its dashboard moulding among other items.
The car’s styling was the work of Herbert Schäfer and although it mimicked Giugiaro’s Mk1 Scirocco in the shape of its rear quarters, the car was very much of the moment and had a squat, chunky presence on the road. Some elegant packaging also gave the Corrado a competitive edge in that it was a full four-seater where its rear-drive rivals were noticeably cramped in the rear. With a hatchback rear and folding seats it was a practical car but it was the driving experience which gained the most praise. With a turn-in sharper than that usually found on a front-driver, a balanced poise and benign behaviour on the limit, it was an easy car to drive fast and the contemporary road testers loved it.
The Corrado was launched in the UK with just two engine choices: the Corrado 16V used the familiar 136bhp, 1.8-litre 16-valve unit as found in the Golf GTI and the G60 sported a 160bhp supercharged version employing VW’s novel ‘G-charger’ supercharger and the single-cam eight-valve layout. The G60 was initially available only as in left-hand drive form, with right-hand drive cars available from 1990.
In February 1992, the range received a mild facelift identified by a grille with just four slats. ABS became standard, while the 1.8-litre 16V was upgraded to the 2-litre unit, power remaining at 136 bhp but torque up to 132 lbf.ft.
In July 1992, the supercharged G60 was replaced by a new range-topping model in the shape of the VR6, created by dropping in the 190 bhp 2.9-litre narrow angle V6 engine already used in the Mk3 Golf. This involved changes including a revised front suspension (largely derived from the Mk3 Golf) on VR6 models and reshaped front wings and bumper to suit its wider track which were shared across the range.
In April 1994, the range was broadened with the addition of an entry-level model using the 115 bhp eight-valve 2-litre engine from the regular Golf GTI. It wouldn’t last long though, since the Corrado was discontinued in 1995, with the Storm limited edition serving as a run-out model and reprising a name first used on the Mk1 Scirocco.
The Corrado was never really replaced, with the modern Scirocco not appearing until 2008 and the VW Group’s mid-range coupe duties taken over by the Audi TT.
Today the Corrado makes a fascinating alternative to the BMWs of the same era and still stands up as one of the great driver’s cars. Here’s what you need to know if you fancy breaking away from the Golf GTI herd.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Despite production duties being handled by Karmann, the body panels on the Corrado were well rustproofed for the era, with galvanising used in what the firm referred to as ‘strategic areas’ and as a result their corrosion resistance is broadly on a par with the Mk3 Golf. The youngest are now 23 years old though, so it’s not unusual to find blisters around the side repeaters, on the sills, the front valance and around the filler cap. Bubbling under the screen rubber is the sign of an expensive job on the horizon.
Body panels aren’t easily available, although VW Heritage Parts Centre can supply repair sections for the floors and chassis areas as well as subframes and crossmembers. The only outer panel which is available is the bonnet, so used parts or skilled fabrication is the solution in extreme cases.
Sticking outer door handles can be replaced with Passat items if Corrado parts can’t be sourced and a Passat glass sunroof panel is also a straight swap for a rusty steel panel.
The supply of lights and lenses can be a touch patchy and at the time of writing nobody was listing either headlight units or lenses for sale. Sadly, they’re unique to the Corrado.
If the automatic spoiler doesn’t rise and fall at 50mph, then use the manual switch to raise it and if it won’t move then it may simply need cleaning out. A ‘sighing’ or grinding noise from the system was common when the cars were new.
The 1.8 and 2-litre VW engines are well known and essentially reliable, with blue smoke from worn valve guides the usual issue. Make sure the cam belt has been changed in living memory though.
The supercharged G60 suffers from wear in the seals of the ‘G-charger’ and low boost or oil in the boost pipe are signs that an overhaul is required. Reconditioned units start at around £1000.
As for the VR6, it’s surprisingly robust too and although there’s no cam belt to worry about, the scheduled chain and tensioner replacement can be a big job if you’re paying to have it done.
The 2.9-litre VR6 used in the European Corrados used the ABV engine code, so check that a failed engine hasn’t been replaced by a 2.8 unit from a Golf.
Perished suspension bushes will really take the edge off the car’s impressive dynamics, but are all available and are mostly a DIY prospect.
A clonk from the rear might not be a suspension issue but the exhaust knocking – the standard part sits close to the axle and worn rubbers can see it sagging. The top mounting area for the rear spring and damper can also corrode.
Seized rear callipers are a common issue, especially when cars haven’t been used but are available from stock for around £140 or a conversion to the less seizure-prone Mk4 Golf calipers can be done for £205.
ABS problems are usually down to sensors and trigger rings, with rear rings under £10 and the sensors all available from stock at under £20. For an MoT pass the warning light neds to come on with the ignition and go out when the engine is running.
It’s a mixture of Golf and Passat in here with a few Corrado-specific items. A musty smell can be bad news though, since it indicates a leaking heater matrix. The standard part is only £21 but there’s a lot of labour to remove the dash and replace it, so go the extra mile and pay a tenner more for the upgraded Mk3 Golf matrix if you have to do the work.
Compared to other iconic VWs like the Mk1 GTI, the Corrado appears to be something of a bargain, with MoT’d and usable cars available for around £2500. For that money you’ll be getting an average 16-valve car though, with the VR6 and G60 starting at £4000-£5000. Nicer VR6s go for closer to £7000 and the rare Storm can be advertised for up to £12,000 for low-mileage examples.
CORRADO 1.8 16V
ENGINE: 1781cc 16V
POWER: 136 bhp at 6300 rpm
TORQUE: 119 lbf.ft at 4800 rpm
MAX SPEED: 132 mph
0-60 mph: 8.1 secs
GEARBOX: five-speed manual
WEIGHT: 1100 kg