Though Volkswagen’s Golf GTI might be its most iconic hot hatch, it’s not actually the brand’s flagship or even its most powerful.
Nope, that award goes to the R – a seriously quick, all-weather hot hatchback that has a very loyal following.
And it’s now returning for the Golf’s eighth-generation, and bringing with it a lot of expectation – its predecessor was widely considered as one of the most well-rounded cars on sale. There’s now more power, racier styling and also the same tech-heavy cabin that’s seen on the standard hatchback. So can all of this join together to create the ultimate everyday hot hatchback? Let’s find out.
Volkswagen is a brand that’s a creature of habit, so beneath the R’s bonnet you’ll find what’s fundamentally the same engine as before – a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine producing 316bhp and 420Nm of torque, up from 306bhp and 380Nm of torque. That is delivered to all four wheels with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
Performance is nothing short of rapid, with the Golf R taking just 4.5 seconds to make the sprint to 60mph, while flat out it can hit 155mph. Yet, its running costs aren’t too bad considering, with Volkswagen saying it will return 36.2mpg combined, with CO2 emissions of 177g/km.
Ride and handling
The Golf R has always excelled by delivering all-weather ability that people of all talents can make the most of. Its all-wheel-drive system is superb, helping it to keep it on the straight and narrow, and clinging on through the bends.
Its pace is also ridiculous, picking up speed at a silly rate, and in honesty is quicker than anyone reasonably needs on the public road. It can outclass many more flamboyant and expensive cars in this respect.
This latest car also now features torque vectoring, which allows power to be split between the rear wheels for the first time, rather than just the front and back axle. In short, it means the Golf R can corner tighter than ever before, and go quicker around bends than you’d ever expect to be able to.
Interior and equipment
The cabin on the latest Golf has really divided opinion so far, mainly due to its almost button-less layout, with either digital displays or voice recognition being used to power the car’s many functions. It certainly looks smart, but can be fiddly to use on the move, and it takes time to adjust to. Over the standard Golf, you also get more sporty seats and a range of blue accents – the trademark colour of ‘R’ – though some might prefer a bit more excitement in the cabin.
It can’t be faulted for spaciousness, though, with the Golf R having plenty of rear seat room for adults, as well as a generous 374-litre boot. Volkswagen is also set to introduce an estate version soon, which will expand practicality further.
With the R sitting at the top of the Golf range, standard equipment is unsurprisingly generous. Highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels, a heated sports steering wheel, part Alcantara sports seats, Matrix LED headlights and a whole suite of safety kit – including travel assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Unsurprisingly for a flagship hot hatch, the Golf R commands quite a high price, with models dipping just under £40,000 – prices starting from £39,295. It makes it around £4,000 more expensive than a Golf R, while even Audi’s similar S3 is available for slightly less.
You’ll want to be careful on the options list, though. Adding the more appealing 19-inch alloy wheels and adjustable suspension – both of which you’ll want – will set you back another £1,500 combined. Meanwhile an Akrapovic exhaust system (£3,100) and Nappa leather interior (£2,600) will rack the price up further. It really wouldn’t be too difficult to end up with a £50,000 Golf, which is a massive amount of money to spend on a hatchback.
Volkswagen has once again proved it’s a leader when it comes to all-wheel-drive hot hatchbacks, with the Golf R being fearsomely quick and also very easy to live with at the same time.
Though – like its predecessor – it’s not the most involving hot hatch on the market, it remains a force to be reckoned with, and fully worthy of its flagship perch in the Golf range.Enquire on a new Volkswagen Golf R