As subtle as the outside changes are, inside, it is more of a significant change. It gets a new Virtual Cockpit-style configurable digital instrument cluster and central infotainment system that can be controlled with gesture control. The screen is crisp and clear but it has lost the useful physical buttons and rotary knobs that surrounded it - it’s a step forward in terms of technology, but it may not be ergonomically. After all, it’s simpler to reach out and touch a physical button while you’re driving than grabbing at a specific part of a glossy screen that’s indistinguishable by touch.
Start the engine and an aggressive engine note ignites - albeit artificially enhanced - ready to be coaxed into a guttural growl or recede into the background on a motorway cruise. Although not natural, it does sound suitably yobbish and an Akropovic exhaust option can be ticked for even more throatiness.
On the move, the engine is responsive and free-revving, and the performance is nothing short of rapid, zinging along up to and beyond motorway speeds with minimal effort. It even returns fairly palatable fuel economy. For peace of mind to go with the pace, plenty of standard safety equipment features too, such as adaptive cruise control, predictive pedestrian protection and city emergency braking.
Happily, the R's chassis is never overwhelmed by the performance on offer, displaying poise, genuine adjustability and unrelenting grip, thanks to the standard all-wheel drive setup. Its steering is quick but it’s responsive and offers a confidence-inspiring amount of feel, while the all-wheel drive system pushes power towards its rear wheels when the front begins to struggle to fend off understeer. The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortable and you can add Adaptive Chassis Control to bring yet more versatility to the car.
If there’s perhaps one thing missing from the Golf R, it’s perhaps a bit of a soul - some quirky character. It is, after all, a Golf, not a car that will cause you to go misty-eyed at its styling, nor turn many heads on the street. But, as you blast your way through each and every journey soaking in its well-rounded brilliance, it’s unlikely you’ll care.
Should I buy one?
Yes, you should. Very few cars offer this kind of sophisticated all-round package, with brutal performance and everyday usability and, to top it all, a digestible price tag. To call it an astonishing all-rounder might sound like damning it with faint praise, but it really isn’t. It has the dynamic qualities of sports cars that cost many times more, and it’s as practical as, er, a Golf.
Location Hampshire Price £32,520 On sale now Engine 4cyls in line, 1984cc, turbocharged petrol Power 306bhp at 5500-6500rpm Torque 280lb ft at 2000-5400rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1513kg 0-62mph 5.1sec Top speed 155mph Economy 37.7mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 180g/km, 33% RivalsFord Focus RS, Mercedes-AMG A45