The catchment area for the already ill-defined category beyond ‘standard’ hot hatches has become even more hazy recently.
The Seat Leon Cupra, blessed with 296bhp in its most powerful format, arguably earns a place at one end of it – despite costing only very marginally more than a regular Volkswagen Golf GTI, while that aforementioned Golf has been given more power under the latest facelift, with the GTI Performance puts out 242bhp - the same inadvertently as the latest Skoda Octavia vRS.
At the opposite extreme, Mercedes-AMG almost left the reservation entirely with the outrageous and very pricey 375bhp A45. That leaves a Sudetenland-sized tract of real estate available in between, which the new Golf R – appears well qualified to annex. Although, the middle ground is there for its taking Volkswagen is wary of the potent, four-wheel drive Ford Focus RS which took the segment by the scruff of its neck. But don't think for one moment that Volkswagen are resting on its laurels, as a facelift saw the Golf R's wick turned up slightly to produce 306bhp, before the addition of a petrol particulate filter brought that figure down to 296bhp.
Volkswagen has a long and well regarded history in this niche. Aside from the previous Golf R, this car’s other obvious antecedents are two generations of R32 – models that cemented the range-topper’s use of all-wheel drive.
They were both powered by six-cylinder engines – a leftover from the front-drive VR6 – which were a big-capacity solution to the Mk3’s weight problems. Given the car’s current identity, it’s worth mentioning that the left-hand-drive-only Mk2 Rallye edition, with a supercharged 1.8 and four-wheel drive, also makes an appropriate forerunner.