From £30,712
Latest hot hatch is undeniably potent without ever being raw
18 December 2009

What is it?

According to VW the new £28,930 Golf R is “the most powerful and fastest accelerating Golf ever produced.” And seeing as it has 267bhp from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and can hit 62mph in just 5.7sec (or 5.5sec with the optional DSG transmission fitted), it’s hard to argue against VW’s claims.

Not that you’d ever realise just how potent the Golf R is merely by looking at it. Given how much poke it has and how quick it undeniably is, this has to be one of the subtlest genuine high performance hatchbacks there has ever been.

Apart from its twin exhausts, mildly restyled black door mirrors, LED running lights and tiny rear boot spoiler, you’d simply not pick this car as anything special were it to pass you in the high street. In reality, a GTi on 19in wheels probably looks meaner in the raw, despite the R’s tinted rear windows and its almost too-subtle badging front and rear.

What does make a difference visually is the reduced ride height. Thanks to the R’s slightly stiffer suspension and new ride height it sits some 25mm nearer to the ground than normal. While this doesn’t quite provide the R with the full Cal-look low rider appearance, it does makes it appear more purposeful than normal if you look closely enough.

Mechanically the big difference is the addition of a new version of VW’s 4-Motion all-wheel-drive system. Apart from allowing the R to handle the extra power and torque that has been squeezed from the venerable 2.0-litre VW engine (it’s actually the same lump as you’ll fid in an Audi S3), the 4WD system endows the R with more on-road decorum in virtually every way, even if it does ad a few unwanted kilos to the kerbweight.

What’s it like?

Look at the raw performance figures and you might expect this to be VW’s answer to hot rods such as the Focus RS and Mugen Civic Type R. But in reality the R is nothing of the sort. It’s very rapid, yes, but it’s also a smooth, grown up, refined kind of hot hatch, very much in the same vein as the old six cylinder R32 but, sadly, without the creamy soundtrack to go with it.

What the R is categorically not is a B-road monster. It rides extremely well for such a rapid hot hatch, and the noise emitted from its big-ish 225/40 18in tyres is unusually well suppressed. On a motorway it doesn’t feel a whole lot less refined than a Passat, or, indeed, a more regular member of the Golf family.


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Is it wooden in feel, as so many quick Golf have been in the past? No, but neither is it what you’d call cutting edge dynamically. VW’s aim with this car is to attract the kind of customer who likes the wolf-in-sheeps clothing approach, hence the reason the ride is so well resolved and the engine/exhaust note are so reserved.

This same restrained, well thought out but slightly plain approach also applies to the interior, which boasts a great pair of front seats and the odd R logo to distinguish it above other Golf, but not much else. The whole thing is quite beautifully put together, however, and this does lend the R an unusually mature feel, not just inside but on the road – and in the showroom as well.

Should I buy one?

It depends what sort of person you are, and what sort of hot hatch you like to drive. If you’re a Focus RS kind of bloke (or bloke-ess) then the R is unlikely to appeal. But if you like a more subtle approach and don’t want the rest of the world to know how fast your car really is, the R could be right up your street.

You will need to like its subtle approach an awful lot, however, because at nigh-on £29k before you have added the must-have DSG option, it costs significantly more than its obvious competition, most of which is more exciting to drive. As ever, you pays your money…

*Please note that the car was tested in all conditions, not just snow as depicted.

Join the debate



18 December 2009

I think this car looks great - apart from the tacky tinted rear windows which rather unbalance the look of the car when viewed in profile. I love the alloys and the black door mirrors - very smart detailing. But I can't help but think the Golf R somehow won't have the same soul as the 3.2-litre V6 engine from the R32. I know the V6 is thirsty (I'm getting 24 mpg overall) but the V6 just sounds so great and is such a smooth engine it somehow manages to justify it's thirst. What I can't quite get my head round is the price - it is very, very expensive. And once I had spec'd my Golf R on the VW configurator it was £38k - and that's pre-VAT increase. Much as I love VW's (and I really do), I'm not entirely sure I would want to write a cheque for that amount for any Golf.

18 December 2009

I agree the price is fairly astonishing and the V6 sound will be sorely missed. I get a similar mpg to you with my R32 but it's a car that has always made me smile. I'm pretty tempted by the Golf R but still trying to justify the price after adding all the extra spec. I guess the Focus RS will ultimately cost the same by the time you factor in all the sets of front tyres you'll need, judging by Autocars experience!

18 December 2009

Thanks for the first drive impressions. Would like to know how it pits against the; Scirocco R, Focus RS, and why not the EVO X. All my mates are just running specs and theories right now. Please quiet our confusion. Last thought, my R32 MKV is a dream to ride, and I'm very impressed by this new rendition, and the amount of performance parts you can get for this new little 4 is great.

19 December 2009

Boring and i can think of better ways to blow 30k...No-one will think you're anything more than an Estate Agent or a Middle Manager. Also, there are better V6s on the market in better cars for that price.

19 December 2009

Also have to add..Golf on 19in rims and sports suspension must have the ride of a skateboard, in fact, I might put my neck out and say the skateboard has the better ride.


19 December 2009

Opinions are like bum holes, every one has one......

Nice car, full stop..

19 December 2009

I was so hoping that this would be a B road blaster. It appears from the first drive that it is aimed at a more mature demographic than ever before. The car is also too heavy at well over 1500kg and so ends up with a power to weight ratio of little more than 175bhp/tonne, it only has a 10bhp/tonne advantage over the lighter and more nimble MKVI GTI. Compare it against the cheaper, better looking Scirocco R and things start to fall apart for this car in a big way. It has one saving grace and that is that the 2.0TFSI engine with the K04 onboard already has aftermarket performance parts available to get it to over 350bhp without too much extra outlay over the (frankly ridiculous) £28.5k basic price tag.

19 December 2009

[quote Hurdy1]The car is also too heavy at well over 1500kg... [/quote]

That's all I wanted to say.

19 December 2009

Love the understated looks will make a fine Qcar but how can a Golf be viable with a price starting with a big 3. A very big 3 !

19 December 2009

I like that. I'm starting to become embarressed to be seen driving hot haches and I'm only just into my 30's...that Golf looks just the job but £30k is expensive.

A lot of these cars don't seem like hot hatches to me though, they're too big, luxurious and refined.


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