1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S hatchback coupe

I’ve liked the styling of the first-generation Scirocco since it was new. It was, of course, designed by one of the all-time masters.

“For the most discriminating and demanding sports car enthusiasts”

1981 was the final model year for the first-generation Scirocco, which was first available in North America in 1975. Though the Scirocco used the same platform as the Golf, it was actually released about six months before the Golf.

With its basic form penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro—who seemed to have a hand in nearly every 1970s Volkswagen design—the Scirocco debuted at the 1973 Geneva Motor Show. Like the Karmann Ghia that it putatively replaced, the Scirocco was assembled by Karmann.

Classified as sub-compact by the EPA, the Scirocco was not a large car—its 155.7-inch length is more than a foot shorter than the 2022 Golf GTI. For 1981, the configuration of the Scirocco sold in North America moved to a slightly large 1.7 liter engine, transitioned the standard transmission from a four-speed manual to a five-speed manual, and offered a new Scirocco S package.

The Scirocco’s standard powertrain was the EA827 74 bhp 1.7 liter/105 ci inline four with fuel injection mated with a five-speed manual. A three-speed automatic was optional. With a curb weight of 1,892 pounds, 0-60 came in a little over 12 seconds. Fuel economy was rated at 25 city/40 highway by the day’s standards. With a 10.6-gallon gas tank, a Scirocco owner could expect a range of 280 to 310 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

Scirocco S pages from the 1981 brochure

Standard mechanical features on the $8,495 Scirocco (about $27,800 in today’s dollars) included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and 175/70SR13 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, a tachometer, a trip odometer, and front bucket seats were standard.

A new package for 1981 was the S, which included black trim, a red VW radiator badge and belt-line moulding, a larger front spoiler, light alloy wheels, and specially designed striped cloth sport seats. The S package was available in three of the eight standard Scirocco colors and cost $520.

Options for the Scirocco were few—a sunroof, a rear window wiper/washer, the aforementioned three-speed automatic transmission, and air conditioning.

The View From 2021

First-generation Sciroccos attract collector interest, and there is club support. They are sometimes available in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds, on eBay Motors, and at online auctions such as Bring a Trailer that cater to the eighties car market.

Make mine Cirrus Gray Metallic, please.

Other Volkswagens I have written about include the 1983 Rabbit GTI hatchback coupe and the 1985 Cabriolet.


2 thoughts on “1981 Volkswagen Scirocco S hatchback coupe

  1. In high school in the late 1980s I recall a buddy had a 78 or 79 Scirocco, silvery blue. It didn’t have my mustang’s grunt but I always liked the styling, very appealing car.

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