The R-Line comes with a choice of two engines: either a 2.0 TDI 150 diesel or this sweet 1.4 TSI 150 petrol. It might lack the low-down torque of the oil burner, but it’s gutsy enough for day-to-day pootling and encourages you to use the slick six-speed manual gearbox more often, and that’s no drag.
Actually, the fact you have to work it a little harder combined with its free-revving disposition quite suits the car’s sporty pretentions. It’s only a shame that the tone doesn’t; it’s very smooth-sounding but wholly unexciting. Surprisingly, for a petrol at least, what you do get is a fair amount of buzz through the steering wheel and pedals the minute the rev-needle hits 3000rpm.
This is a ‘clever’ engine, because it uses Active Cylinder Technology to make it cleaner and more economical. On part-throttle between 1000-4000rpm, and at speeds of up to 80mph, it shuts down the middle-two cylinders by switching off their injectors and using actuators to shift the camshaft lobes away from the valves so they remain closed. VW reckons it saves up to 10% in fuel, and reduces CO2 emissions by around 9g/km.
You would never know it’s going on, though. The switch from two- to four-pot power is totally seamless, the only tell-tale being an indicator on the multifunction display between the instruments.
All R-Line’s come with a Driver Profile selector that allows you to alter the engine’s throttle response and steering weight between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Because our test car had the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, this changes the suspension’s stiffness, as well.
In Comfort the steering is light and the suspension takes the edge off general bumps. However, because the R-Line gets sports suspension - which is stiffer and lowered by 10mm – there’s still a residual firmness to it which means you feel the odd thud over deeper ruts.
Switch to Sport and the setup is noticeably stiffer. The immediate decrease in body roll means the Golf settles quicker in bends, and the steering weights up to give more feedback at speed - albeit with no more feel.
As with all sporty Golfs, it makes for very tidy handling car that’s easy to drive on its door handles. However, if you’re the kind of person that needs something more edgy, then a tail-happy Focus ST is around the same money and is a lot quicker, too.
Mind you, a Focus can’t live with the Golf when it comes to interior look and feel. To some the Golf might be rather stayed, but the gloss-black fascia, aluminium pedals and fancy seat trim of the R-Line do make it swish in a retrained kind of way. Of course, the important surfaces are all made of soft-touch materials and every switch and knob operates like it’s from a premium exec.
This five-door version is very practical as well. The spacious cabin is big enough to fit four six-foot adults without too much of an issue, and the boot is big enough to deal with their luggage needs, too.
You also get an infotainment system with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and sat-nav, which includes a three-year subscription to VW’s Car-Net service. This offers online features such as traffic and weather reports, tells you the availability of parking spaces and where to find the cheapest petrol in the area. Adaptive cruise control with emergency city braking city braking, plus front and rear parking sensors are standard too.