Currently reading: Volkswagen Golf R long-term review
In November 2014, we named the Volkswagen Golf R the best car on sale in the UK. We're running one for nine months to see how we get on

Finally, the wait is over. It’s been a whole year since deliveries of the latest Volkswagen Golf R got under way in the UK, a year since we discovered what a high-achieving driver’s car the mega-hatch is in Mk7 guise.

For various reasons, we’ve had to bide our time until now to get our hands on one for long-term appraisal, getting more and more excited as the Golf R won our ‘best in the wet’ shootout and then earned the number one spot in our list of the top 50 cars on sale in the UK.

On the face of it, the Golf R represents remarkable value for money. For just a whisker over £30k in three-door manual form, you get 296bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, all-wheel drive and a level of performance well beyond that of regular hot hatches such as the Ford Focus ST.

The five-door, dual-clutch automatic Golf R we’ve chosen starts at £32,220, but that’s still significantly cheaper than performance rivals such as the BMW M135i auto and Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

Whichever bodystyle you go for (there’s also going to be an intriguing estate version soon), the Golf R is a handsome-looking (if understated) car by hatchback standards, especially with the Lapiz Blue paintwork and optional 19in ‘Pretoria’ alloy wheels of our car. I’ve never been a fan of the factory wheel offerings on fast Golfs in the past, GTI included, so it’s pleasing to find that there’s a genuinely desirable option on the R this time.

Inside, we’ve upgraded to Carbon/Grey nappa leather — a strange name, given that the centre sections are actually beige, but the two-tone hide does a welcome job of brightening up the cabin. It costs a hefty £2615, but for that you also get the heated front seats that would otherwise be part of the winter pack (which becomes hardly worth having, I now realise, because all it adds is heated windscreen washer jets).

Other desirable options fitted to our car include the Discover Navigation Pro multimedia upgrade (£1765), with an 8.0in touchscreen, and the £815 Dynamic Chassis Control, which brings adaptive dampers and a revised batch of driving modes that includes a relaxed Comfort setting. Among the five modes, there’s also a Race setting that allows the driver to fully deactivate the stability control for the first time, and Eco, which introduces a coasting function for economical cruising.

Although my normal preference these days is an automatic gearbox over a manual, in the Golf R’s case the decision wasn’t clear-cut in favour of two pedals. The DSG model may be slightly quicker (0-62mph in 4.9sec, compared with 5.1sec for the manual) and more economical (40.9mpg versus 39.8mpg), but VW’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox isn’t necessarily the best of its breed for smoothness or shift speed, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ve made the right choice.

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First impressions, though, are overwhelmingly positive. The Golf R is not only effortlessly fast but also sounds amusingly growly under acceleration (synthesised but a welcome dose of character nonetheless), and it takes no time at all to realise that the way it rides, handles and steers is really rather special. It’s incredibly comfortable by most performance hatchback standards, too.

Although the Golf R’s star quality is already evident, we’re confident that there’s much more to learn about it from living with one for nine months. Personally, I’ll be interested to see if the VW can supplant the six-cylinder BMW M135i auto as my favourite mega-hatch. That won’t be an easy task, but the Golf R appears to have all of the tools required. Either way, it’s going to be a rewarding nine months for all of us.

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Peter Cavellini 23 April 2015

Right then.

When your spending this kind of Cash you can obviously afford it,so,when your buying such a Car,what's the important things a Car has to have for your liking?.If i'm spending upwards of £30K i'd want Leather interior,comfy Seats and so on,besides that,it's how it Drives obviously,personal taste,what you yourself consider a good Car,on these criteria i'd have the BMW,not because i have one,but because the VW just looks sterile,not GTi enough so to speak,so there you go,what's your handle on the subject?
d79m 23 April 2015

Even with just the few

Even with just the few options mentioned in this article the car suddenly gets very close to the price of a RS3!
oop north 23 April 2015

Significantly cheaper than M135i?

List price on a 5-dr M135i is £1k more than the Golf, I grant you - but that does include leather interior. Which on the Golf you have added at over £2,500. I make the Golf more expensive on that basis... (even adding heated seats into the BMW and Harman Kardon speakers to make sure the stereo isn't inferior). Posh sat nav costs are similar

I might quite like cloth seats in a 135i but they aren't available - so the leather is the price difference - and so the suggestion that the M135i is significantly more expensive is just plain wrong...