The stylish Corrado coupe makes an excellent and often overlooked alternative to the Golf sharing many of its best bits with the hatchback. It’s comfortable, usually quick and undeniably sportier. If you fancy yourself behind the wheel, here’s what to look out for when buying…
Third time lucky
Volkswagen had previously tried collaborations with Porsche, firstly with the 914 then with the 924 to crack the sports car market, but neither worked much in Volkswagen’s favour.
When the Corrado was announced in the late ‘80s, it was a case of third time lucky plus it had a VW roundel on the grille too. The pretty three-door coupe bodywork was penned by VW Design and despite being based on a Mk2 Golf floor pan it didn’t really echo the other VW models at the time. The carefully considered styling meant that it lasted well into the production lifespan of the Mk3 and has aged brilliantly, still looking good today.
What’s under the bonnet?
It is engine choice that dictates the VW Corrado’s character on the road. The 1.8 16v / 2.0 8v is quick enough and great for daily commuting or weekend blasts, with the 8v boasting more bottom-end torque. The later 2.0 16v version is more agile further up the rev range, but arguably not as smooth.
The supercharged 1800cc G60 engined model is highly strung, but responsive to performance tuning – it offers 158bhp from the factory but 250bhp (and some awesome noise) is possible with the right tweaks.
The lusty six-cylinder VR6 offers 176/190bhp in 2.8 and 2.9ltr ‘guise with a wonderful intake/exhaust note and smooth power delivery. It’s fast, but not silly; a 90s muscle car with a matching thirst for petrol. Tuning potential is huge, 1000bhp is possible if you have the bank balance to fund it!
What to look for: Engines
While the 2000cc 8v isn’t desperately quick, it’s a unit that will go on forever if looked after. The 16v is the same but watch for an erratic idle indicating idle stabilisation valve issues. Oily plugs and subsequent misfires could be the result of a leaky rocker cover gasket. Cambelts along with tensioners should be changed every 60,000 miles. If you can’t find a recent receipt, get it done anyway for peace of mind.
Shopping for a Supercharged Corrado?
The G60’s scroll-type ‘G-Lader’ supercharger sadly has a reputation for breaking and its general health will depend on the frequency of oil changes and the quality of oil used. Problems usually occur when the centre scroll ‘apex seals’ wear and come adrift of their grooved seatings, something that can happen if the unit hasn’t been properly serviced. In short, a G60 that’s low on boost or has oil in the boost pipe between the charger and intercooler should be viewed with suspicion: recon units start at around £1000. A duff charger does, however, present the opportunity to barter, or justify the need to upgrade once in your possession!
The VR6 engine is chain driven and largely bombproof, although abused ones that have missed regular servicing may require a timing chain and tensioner replacement. Check for blue smoke which points to bore wear – reason enough to make a swift exit, unless you want to carry out a rebuild anytime soon.
Don’t worry too much about the rest of the car’s mechanicals because everything is available and there’s huge scope to upgrade or tune, should you wish.
If your potential new steed requires suspension bushes or bottom arms use that as a negotiating tool and invest the money you’ve just haggled in a new set or even Powerflex upgrades.
You’ll notice standard cars like this one, have quite a large arch gap between the tyre and bodywork. Many owners favour a set of Corrado lowering springs to combat this, alternatively adjustable KW coilovers will take care of the ride height and be perfect to handle any potential power increase or proposed track use you have planned in the future.
ABS was fitted as standard on VR6 and later G60s, but only optional on lesser models. If the car you are looking at does have ABS, check for warning lights on the dash, as the modules can become faulty and leave you swapping parts hoping for the light to dim in time for your next MOT.
VW was using galvanised panels by the time the Corrado came around but that’s not to say they aren’t immune from the tin worm. A hard life with poor cleaning will almost certainly mean corrosion just waiting to be found! Look for paint blisters and signs of rust around the door edges, beneath the windscreen, the sills, front valence, around the filler cap and side repeaters.
Underneath the usual Mk2 Golf rust traps will apply: Front and rear suspension mounts and jacking point areas and inner wheel arches – check the spare wheel well and behind the fuel filler neck too!
Corrado Parts availability
The good news is that most mechanical VW Corrado parts are shared with other models of the time ie. Mk2 Golf, Mk3 Golf and Passat, so are fairly readily available. Body panels and trim are a little trickier to come by, so take caution if “it just needs all body trim” as it could cost you the asking price again to get finished. Corrado door mechanisms are prone to breaking but you can buy replacements (for some models) fix them with a Corrado door handle repair kit or swap them with those from the rear of a Passat.
Party Trick Spoiler
One of the Corrado’s most popular party tricks involves the rear spoiler which should rise automatically once you clock 55mph. If you need to flick the dash switch to get it to work, either the module or wiring is at fault.
Take a seat
Corrado seats are pretty hardy (and sit lower than Golf pews) but as with all VW sports seats, the bolsters take a battering from bums sliding over them every day. Look out for rips and foam wear on the drivers and passenger side, and take that into account when making your offer. A leather interior is considered desirable and any seats badged Recaro will command an additional premium.
Inside the cabin…
Most of what’s inside the Corrado should look pretty familiar to VW enthusiasts, but that means it also shares some of the VW family’s inherent interior weaknesses – and by this, we mean the heater matrix. Damp floor mats or lack of hot air isn’t a good sign. New matrixes aren’t expensive but the labour involved stripping the dash down will bump up the repair bill should you employ a garage to do it for you.
Buying a modified VW Corrado…
The Corrado responds well to modifications but depending on why you are purchasing the vehicle be aware of anything that can’t be easily undone. The biggest potential turn ons, or turn off is an engine upgrade. 20v Turbo swaps are probably the most common and can provide 300bhp+ with minimal effort, but in years to come history says the original engined vehicles will be worth more. A vehicle slammed on big wheels may have spent its days scraping speed bumps and knocking the paint of the wheel arch lips and it could be hiding some horrors below that jaw-dropping stance. Proceed with caution if the car is fitted with air-ride too – whilst cool and convenient, it offers many more things that could go wrong!
How much is a VW Corrado?
Because only around 9000 Corrados made it to the UK, they are a relatively rare sight on the roads. That’s not to say they are pricey, as they are typically a little cheaper than their Golf equivalent. While the 1800cc 16v and the 2.0 8v are the ‘least desirable’ of the bunch, they are by no means bad and can still be picked up for less than £2k if you look hard enough. The larger capacity 16v starts around £2500 and a really good one will cost you double.
The G60 and VR6 are the most sought after and the last of the line VR6 Storm models are the pick of the crop from an investment point of view (discounting the uber-rare Corrado Campaign, of which only 6 were ever made). Earmark around £5k for a nice G60 and set aside 4 grand for a useable VR6, with prices heading into the teens and even twenties depending on condition, mileage and provenance should you want something really special.
Buy on the condition, as well as proof of regular care and attention in the workshop – high mileage isn’t an issue if it has been looked after. Our thanks to Ron White of the Corrado Club of Great Britain for the use of his vehicle in this feature.