Volkswagen Corrado Buying Guide

Following in the footsteps of the Scirocco, the Volkswagen Corrado offered coupé style with (almost) Golf practicality. Here’s how to bag a good one

Volkswagen Corrado Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £1000-1500 • Good £3000-4550 • Concours £5000+ •

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
Investment ★★★
Desirability ★★★

Back in the 1990s, car buyers were spoiled for choice if they wanted a sporting hatch or coupé, and one of the best was the Volkswagen Corrado. Using the Golf’s tried-and-tested platform and running gear, the Corrado was strong, suave and usable – while also offering decent performance and drive. What’s not to like?

For fans of classic coupés it’s a bonus that the Corrado was built to a higher standard – and better rustproofed – than many of its rivals, so survival rates are good. And because the model shares so much with the Golf, parts availability is good, too.

Buy a Corrado VR6 and you’ve got near-150mph performance, but any version is good for more than 120mph, while upgrades are plentiful. The Corrado may look less distinctive than rivals such as the Fiat Coupé or Alfa Romeo GTV, yet if you’re looking for something that offers strength, practicality and fun in one affordable package, the Corrado ticks every box.

Your AutoClassics Volkswagen Corrado inspection checklist

Engine

All Corrados featured an engine from one of two families; four-pot or VR6. The four-cylinder unit came in 1.8 or 2.0-litre forms, while the VR6 always displaced 2.9 litres. The 1.8-litre engine came in naturally aspirated or supercharged guises, the latter in the G60. The 2.0-litre engine was offered in naturally aspirated eight or 16-valve forms.

The VR6 doesn’t have a cambelt, but the four-cylinder unit does. This should be renewed every 40,000 miles or five years, so check the service history. The oil and filter should also have been replaced every year; a Bosch or VW part should have been used, along with fully synthetic oil.

After 80,000 miles the VR6’s timing-chain guides and tensioner will probably need to be replaced; listen for chattering at idle. The parts aren’t too costly and it’s possible to do the work yourself, but it’s fiddly and time consuming. Some owners replace the clutch at the same time.

The G60 engine is tough, but the supercharger usually needs to be rebuilt after 50,000 miles – and that’s if the oil has been refreshed frequently, using a fully synthetic lubricant. Replacement costs aren’t too high, though.

Clonking sounds as the car is driven probably points to perished mounting rubbers for the exhaust. These go soft but are cheaply and easily replaced.

Gearbox

Some VR6s were sold with a four-speed automatic gearbox, but such cars are very rare. They’re also not very sought after, as this transmission is not well suited to the Corrado’s sporty nature. As a result, virtually all Corrados were supplied with a five-speed manual. It’s the same unit as is found in the Golf MkII, so it’s strong, but parts are readily available when a rebuild is needed, and used replacements are also easy to find.

Suspension and brakes

All Corrados came with a very reliable power-steering system, while the suspension gives few problems. At the rear there’s passive steering and if the bushes have been allowed to deteriorate the handling will be spoiled, but they’re not a big deal to replace.

Every model had alloy wheels and an alloy spare, but a steel space-saver was fitted from 1992 – although a full-sized rim can still be stowed. Five-stud hubs were fitted to the VR6, while four-cylinder cars got four-stud hubs.

Anti-lock brakes were optional until 1992, when they became standard. As a result, all VR6s and 16v 2.0-litre cars have ABS, as do all of the later G60s. It’s a reliable system, but it’s worth checking that when the ignition is switched on the orange warning light illuminates. This should go out after a few seconds.

If the light doesn’t illuminate at all, it’s probably been disconnected. If it doesn’t extinguish after a few seconds, it might be due to a dirty or failed sensor, or a low brake fluid level, both of which are easily fixed. More costly is a faulty control unit, pump or pedal sensor.

The rear brake calipers also seize, especially on cars used sparingly. It’s not a big job to free things up, though.

Bodywork

Corrados don’t rust badly unless they’ve been crashed. There might be a few localised areas of corrosion, however; check the underside of the bonnet plus the wheelarches, front valance and sills. The top spring plate in the rear suspension can also corrode; you can see these by peering into each wheelarch.

Crash repairs are more likely than rust; rippling in the front inner wings will give the game away. Also scrutinise the two seams on either side of the rear panel. If they’re not even or there are signs of rust, it’s been repaired. An unmolested car should have a factory build sticker on the rear panel, above the spare wheel.

Be wary of a Corrado with an electrically operated tilt-and-slide sunroof. The mechanism for these tends to fail and it’s not that easy to fix, although it is a DIY proposition. Even when broken it’ll tilt, but it won’t slide. The roof also gets scratched easily, but a Passat MkIII (1988-1996) glass roof goes straight in.

Interior

The Storm had leather trim as standard. Hide was optional on some editions, but most cars came trimmed in cloth. Leather lasts better than cloth so it’s more desirable, especially if Recaro seats are fitted. As you’d expect it’s the bolsters that wear, while the base goes baggy after 100,000 miles or so.

Water can get into the cabin via failed inner door membranes or a leaking heater matrix. While the first is easy to sort out, the latter isn’t, because of poor access. Soggy carpets can also be due to blocked bulkhead drains, which lead to water getting into the ventilation intake.

The wipers lose their tension with age, but can be upgraded by fitting a VW Lupo or Audi TT mechanism. Meanwhile, the headlight switch gets hot so the plastic goes brittle and breaks, and the plastic headlight reflectors and glass lenses lose their lustre. This is not hard to fix.

The ventilation controls can break, so check that the four-speed fan works properly, along with the direction control. Until 1992 sliding controls were used (these are no longer available); later Corrados feature dials, which are less durable. Also ensure the MFA trip computer displays correctly. If it flashes, or resets when the ignition is turned on, the car has probably been clocked.

History

  • 1989: The Corrado appears with a 1.8 16v engine.
  • 1990: Electric steel sunroof and front windows are now standard.
  • 1991: The Corrado G60 debuts with a supercharged 1.8-litre 8v engine.
  • 1992: The 1.8 is replaced by a 2.0-litre unit. Standard kit now includes a catalytic converter and anti-lock brakes. Corrado VR6 has V6 and auto option. New switchgear and revised dash layout.
  • 1994: The Corrado 2.0 appears with an 8v engine.
  • 1995: Run-out Storm special has heated front seats, 6.5-inch alloys, Sony CD player, leather trim. Just 500 are made.

AutoClassics says…

The pick of the Corrado bunch is the 190bhp VR6. It sounds the most muscular and has the most power, while it was also built by Karmann; four-pot cars were made by VW in Wolfsburg. The VR6 is built to a higher standard, but the four-cylinder cars were screwed together pretty well, too.

A good G60 will also provide plenty of fun for not much cash – just bear in mind that the supercharged engine isn’t that much quicker than the naturally aspirated alternative. The four-cylinder unit is also lighter, which improves the handling; the same goes for the 2.0-litre cars, which are even more affordable but offer fewer thrills.

Whatever you buy, establish whether or not it’s been modified – and if so, how much and by whom. A few sympathetic brake or suspension tweaks are a good thing, but you should avoid cars with a butchered interior or major mechanical changes that destroy the character.

Focus more on the condition than the spec when buying; any good Corrado is worth owning. If you can buy one without a catalytic converter, it’ll be a bit more frisky than a car that has one.

Specifications

Corrado 1.8
  Power 145bhp
  Top speed 131mph
  0-60mph 8.7sec
  Economy 32mpg

Corrado 1.8 G60
  Power 160bhp
  Top speed 140mph
  0-60mph 8.1sec
  Economy 31mpg

Corrado 2.0 8v
  Power 115bhp
  Top speed 123mph
  0-60mph 10.3sec
  Economy 32mpg

Corrado 2.0 16v
  Power 136bhp
  Top speed 126mph
  0-60mph 9.4sec
  Economy 30mpg

Corrado VR6
  Power 190bhp
  Top speed 145mph
  0-60mph 6.4sec
  Economy 26mpg

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