Volkswagen gave CNET some wheel time in its Sirocco R, a model not sold in or destined for the US market. And that is a shame because the car looks sportier than anything in its US lineup, a car that really defines the phrase "hot hatchback."

Caption:Photo:Wayne Cunningham/CNET
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In many ways, the Scirocco R is similar to the Golf R. Both are high performance variations on existing hatchback models and use very similar drivetrains. The Golf R has more practical body styling, but the Scirocco R will turn more heads. Under the hood, both cars feature a turbocharged 2-liter engine, although the Scirocco R gets a slight output bump, up to 261 horsepower.

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A three-door hatchback, the Scirocco R seats four, and includes some cargo room. The side windows, or graphic, accentuate the athletic line of the roof and rocker panel.

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The cabin narrows toward the rear, adding definition to the fenders.

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Surprisingly for a high-performance compact, the Scirocco R gets an adaptive suspension system, using computer-controlled valves in the shock absorbers to regulate hydraulic fluid flow.

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The R badge, one of Volkswagen's performance designations, finds its way onto the grille, door sills, and rear of the Scirocco.

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Eighteen-inch wheels do not look oversized on the Scirocco R; while wide, 235/40 tires offer a big contact patch.

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The small hatch covers a cargo area that appears deep due to the limited opening area. Cargo access would be one strike against the Scirocco R in the practicality department.

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The bolsters on these comfortable sport seats are just large enough to keep passengers in place while not impeding access.

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The R logo shows up stitched into the sport seat headrests.

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The rear seat is divided into two buckets, which would make it very uncomfortable for a third rear-seat passenger.

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This model included a navigation system, but, loaded with European maps, it was not of any use in the US. In other ways, this head unit was basically the same as one the company offers in other US models.

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With a speedometer showing kilometers per hour, the needle was often above 100 in our time with the car, but that merely converts to typical freeway speeds.

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Volkswagen's DSG automated manual transmission has six gears and two computer-controlled clutches. Instead of the driver pushing a clutch pedal, the engine engages and disengages clutches depending on its programming or driver selection.

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