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).