Dashboard, infotainment, sat-nav and passenger space

VW is limited in what it can do with the Golf R’s interior, but even if it could go wild, fitting deep bucket seats and making the place very racy indeed, it almost certainly wouldn’t. This model has always been about an understated sense of intent, and so it is with the latest iteration.

Admittedly, there’s still no mistaking that you’re sitting inside one of the quicker Golfs in the range, and much of the design is shared with the GTI. The blue check on the part-cloth, part-leather, part-Alcantara modular seats immediately strikes the right tone, as does the perforated black leather of the steering wheel, and there are Alcantara inserts in the door cards. Even the rear berths are sculpted, and R logos abound.

Gone are the pathetic old shift paddles, whose stubby shape made them unengaging. The new ones are far larger and sweeter to pull, if still a little light in action.

What’s also satisfying, especially in a performance car, is the sense of simplicity that VW’s new cabin architecture for the Golf endows. The old gearlever is replaced by a shift- by-wire stub, which is unattractive in itself but does free up some space. And while the faux-carbonfibre dashboard trim and some obvious hard plastics elsewhere may irk, the organic shape of the mouldings is pleasing and modern-feeling.

Assuming that you don’t need to interact with the infotainment system, there are precious few distractions here, only an intuitive driving position and plenty of space. A choice of 30 colours for the ambient lighting is also part of the high level of standard equipment, which includes the 10.0in Digital Cockpit Pro display, USB-C charging ports, parking sensors and a wireless phone charger.

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VW Golf R Infotainment and sat-nav

Our concerns about Volkswagen’s new-generation infotainment system centre on the latency of the software, the slightly suspect layout of menus and, above all, the complete absence of physical switchgear and poor layout of touch-sensitive controls.

The 10.0in Discover Navigation touchscreen in the Golf R is no different. Not only is it challenging to do something as simple as changing the volume but also, in doing so, you also run the risk of your knuckle grazing the surface that brings up the driving mode or safety system menu. Equally, the haptic-feedback controls on the steering wheel offer plenty of functionality, but it’s all too easy to trigger something by accident. Although the graphics and capability of this infotainment system are strong, it constantly frustrates, and much time can be spent fiddling with controls just to execute straightforward actions.

The fully digital 10.0in instrument binnacle is at least very clear and has the option of presenting the rev counter front and centre, with intuitive but striking colours.