Hot hatches may have been the favoured sporty cars during the 1980s, but there were still those discerning individuals who hankered after a sleeker coupé. Just for them, Volkswagen followed up its popular Scirocco with the more rounded and faster Corrado.
The Corrado used the second generation Golf GTI as its starting point, so the first ones had the same 136bhp 1.8-litre 16-valve engine as later GTIs. This was enough for brisk performance, and for the Corrado to earn a strong reputation for its handling among the motoring press of the time.
While coupé buyers liked the svelte looks and the clever mix of VW parts bin elements - including a Passat dashboard - more power was required. It arrived with the 158bhp G60, which took the unusual route of using a supercharger to boost output. It could crack 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and go on to make 140mph - heady figures for the late 1980s.
However, it took until 1991 for the definitive Corrado model to go on sale in the shape of the VR6. Under the bonnet of this version was a compact 2.8-litre V6 engine bristling with 187bhp. It may not sound so muscular nowadays, but the Corrado’s light 1230kg weight helped this version spring from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and onwards – if you were brave enough on the Autobahn – to 142mph.
The fact the VR6 could handle its power, and put it down on the road when rivals such as the Vauxhall Calibra fumbled, made the Corrado even more appealing. VW had created a serious rival to the likes of the Porsche 944 and Lotus Excel, at a much more affordable price.
Other appealing features of the Corrado included a rear wing that rose up electrically above 50mph to aid stability, and flush-fitting glass to give a more aerodynamic shape.
As an understated express the Corrado was perfect for passing by unnoticed, which may have been why it was footballer Roy Keane’s first car as his career took off to help him slip past his fans.
When production of the Corrado ended, 97,000 of VW’s coupe had found homes. Unfortunately, many went on to lives – and deaths – of being poorly modified as part of Max Power culture in the 1990s. Now, thankfully, the Corrado is recognised as the modern classic coupé it deserves to be, and good examples are perfect everyday classic transport.
There’s little to worry about when buying a Corrado now. Make sure the rear spoiler operates as it should, there’s no crash damage and the VR6 engine doesn’t smoke. Otherwise, get in and enjoy one of the best compact coupés ever built.
What are your memories of the Volkswagen Corrado? Did you own one? Let us know in the comments below.