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
Allan Muir
22 April 2015

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.

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.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf R

Billed the 'Ultimate Golf' and given more power, but can this facelifted Volkswagen Golf R knock the imperious Ford Focus RS from its perch?

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Comments
16

22 April 2015
How could it be anything but, with a carefully prepared car supplied by VW? It's a pity that magazines can't afford to pay for and run normal cars supplied by normal dealers. The experience of running even a stunning car like this might be tinged somewhat if Autocar was supplied with a car through normal sales channels, and experienced the often colossal depreciation involved with short term ownership. I for one would like to see Autocar reporting on real cars that have notched up say 100,000 miles over a two year period, to get some idea of real world reliability and costs. As it stands, I suspect this "test" will amount to little more than an extended joyride. Unless, of course, I am wrong and Autocar really has bought this Golf as an ordinary customer?

22 April 2015
LP in Brighton wrote:

I for one would like to see Autocar reporting on real cars that have notched up say 100,000 miles over a two year period, to get some idea of real world reliability and costs.

I'm not sure how almost 140 miles a day - every day - for two years, is more "real" than, say, 20 miles a day, five days a week. It probably represents a much smaller proportion of "real" car owners' use.

23 April 2015
Kind of shows the difference between Autocar and AutoExpress

Autocar picks a car that neither private nor fleet buyers can really access.

Whereas AutoExpress chooses a car that everyone can enjoy.

AutoExpress 1, Autocar 0

22 April 2015
The article states that this Golf is significantly cheaper than an M135i but the difference is in the region of £1,000. Doesn't sound significant to me. The AMG of course remains a rip-off.

23 April 2015
Lee23404 wrote:

The article states that this Golf is significantly cheaper than an M135i but the difference is in the region of £1,000. Doesn't sound significant to me. The AMG of course remains a rip-off.

You are comparing different levels of cars here,0-60 in 4.2 from a hot hatch is not a rip off IMHO if that is what you want.It is comparable with the new RS3 which is a step up the family ladder from the Golf R,I hate it when people,magazine journalists especially,compare different price levels of cars.You are saying this perhaps because it is too expensive for your budget? If so then fine,my son has a Golf R VI and it is wonderful! I would have trouble justifying the A45 at that level,though am Tempted by the RS3,neither of which we get in Canada.The only 4 door RS we get is RS7,another league,but I would rather have a Panny Turbo at that price.

Madmac

23 April 2015
madmac wrote:
Lee23404 wrote:

The article states that this Golf is significantly cheaper than an M135i but the difference is in the region of £1,000. Doesn't sound significant to me. The AMG of course remains a rip-off.

You are comparing different levels of cars here,0-60 in 4.2 from a hot hatch is not a rip off IMHO if that is what you want.It is comparable with the new RS3 which is a step up the family ladder from the Golf R,I hate it when people,magazine journalists especially,compare different price levels of cars.You are saying this perhaps because it is too expensive for your budget? If so then fine,my son has a Golf R VI and it is wonderful! I would have trouble justifying the A45 at that level,though am Tempted by the RS3,neither of which we get in Canada.The only 4 door RS we get is RS7,another league,but I would rather have a Panny Turbo at that price.

What has whether I can or cannot afford the A Class got to do with anything? You know nothing of me and you it sounds like the sort of thing I'd expect from a 5 year olds playground argument. If a 0.3 advantage in the 0-60 dash is important to you then fine, but to me the 4.5 second time of the M135i is fast enough and at a comparatively low price, especially against the rather tacky looking and expensive AMG. Then there's the noise of the straight 6 which the A class doesn't come close to matching.

22 April 2015
My local vw dealer has a golf demonstrator but the manager has it as a run around. I've been in there twice to test drive and have a look but he has been on holiday with it. This time for 2 weeks! Ok I could ring and book a test drive but what is the point of a demonstrator that is always away with the boss? Plus when it becomes available it is up for 36k with 4k miles on it....not exactly a bargain hot hatch

22 April 2015
No doubt looking at the performance figures, the list price does look attractive - if your in the market for such a car (how can over £30k ever look attractive), but what is it with VW and their options? My del miles GT cost £20500, list was around the £24500 mark. I'd have liked a rear view camera but that meant ordering new and paying over £200 - is it really worth it? By the time you take discounts in to account, effectively I'd have been paying over £2000 for a rear view camera. But check out the spec Autocar has chosen - How much value does that add to the car, a few hundred quid? Dynamic Chassis control adds nothing to the value, the upgraded wheels, again nothing. Autocar have added what must be near on £7000 of options - you'll be lucky to see £700 of that come trade-in. All of a sudden that 'bargain' has just become a very, very expensive car.
scotty5 wrote:

Audi 'only' charge £900 for Nappa leather, £1800 LESS than VW

So Audi is now a bargain? err no - they change for hill hold assist, cruise control, parking sensors, auto dipping rear view mirror etc. Basically they charge for equipment I'd expect to see on any mid-range car. It really annoys me when publications use the words 'bargain', makes you wonder if any of these journalist have ever bought and sold a car with their own money?

22 April 2015
In fact, I think the Golf R estate is probably all the car you'd ever need.

23 April 2015
Beastie_Boy wrote:

In fact, I think the Golf R estate is probably all the car you'd ever need.

Absolutely! and at a higher level the E63 AMG 4Matic wagon !

Madmac

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