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Volkswagen Golf R Review

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heycar review

      Launch year
      2014
      Body type
      Hot hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Superlative fast hatch or estate

Best bits

  • Unflappable handling
  • Vault solid build
  • Choice of body styles

Not so great

  • Too subtle for some tastes
  • Estate is DSG-only
  • Late models have detuned engines for emissions

Read by

Volkswagen Golf R Left Side View

Overall verdict

Volkswagen Golf R Driver's Seat

On the inside

Volkswagen Golf R Rear View

Driving

Volkswagen Golf R Right Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Golf R Rear Side View

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict on the Volkswagen Golf R

"If you want a car that's capable of going very fast indeed but doesn't shout about its credentials in the same manner as the Honda Civic Type R, the Golf R is an impeccable choice. Sure, it's not the last word in fun, but it's a versatile family hatch with classy looks and a superb cabin."

Volkswagen Golf R Left Side View

For anyone who likes the subtlety of the Volkswagen Golf GTI but wants more performance, the German firm has offered the R version for many years. Rather than a faster version of the GTI, the R is very much a standalone model and this is emphasised by this top of the tree model having 4Motion all-wheel drive where the GTI makes do with front-drive.


The R is certainly restrained by the standard of rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R or Mercedes-AMG A35, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything shy or retiring about its performance. When launched in 2014 it packed a 300PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine. There was also a choice of six-speed manual or DSG auto gearboxes. As well as the R version of the Volkswagen Golf, there was also a version based on the Volkswagen Golf Estate.


Under the bonnet of the Golf R is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, putting out 300PS and 380Nm of torque. Importantly that torque is available right the way from 1800rpm to 5500rpm, so there is plenty of readily accessible overtaking performance almost regardless of which gear you are in. In 2017, power was increased to 310PS and there was also the option of a Performance Pack. 


This did nothing to the power figure but relieved the R of its top speed limiter at 155mph. So, the hatch could march on to 166mph and the slightly more aerodynamic estate could hit 168mph.


The all-wheel drive system does a good job of transferring that power to the road. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 5.1 seconds with the manual transmission and cornering grip is huge. The R can be driven with absolute confidence, despite its impressive performance, with great body control and accurate steering.


The DSG version needed just 4.6 seconds for the same sprint. In anyone’s book, that makes the Golf R a very quick car indeed and one that only the very quickest of hatch rivals could get near, such as the Mercedes A35 and Ford Focus RS in its third generation with four-wheel drive and 2.3-litre motor.


Inside it’s as restrained and well-made as any other Golf, with three-door, five-door and estate body styles offered. It is well-equipped, with climate control, a touchscreen navigation system, auto lights, auto wipers and cruise control included as standard, along with selectable drive modes.


It’s all extremely impressive, but despite its all-round capability it lacks the fizzy, characterful personality of some rivals, most notably the third-generation Ford Focus RS. That’s a very good thing for buyers who don’t want quite so much attention on the road, but for others it will make the Golf R feel a little cold despite its performance.

Ready to get your top quality Volkswagen Golf?

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Volkswagen Golf

1.4 TSI SE [Nav] 5dr DSG

  • 2017
  • 14,945 miles
  • Letchworth SEAT Letchworth Garden City
  • Hertfordshire, SG61BP
Price:£14,775
PCP: £220.64/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £220.64, Customer Deposit: £2,216.00, Total Deposit: £2,216.25, Optional Final Payment: £6,791.50, Total Charge For Credit: £1,955.15, Total Amount Payable: £16,730.15, Representative APR: 6.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 6.86%, Excess Mileage Charge: 7.2ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Volkswagen Golf

1.4 TSI SE [Nav] 5dr DSG

  • 2017
  • 32,000 miles
  • CMC SEAT Harlow
  • Essex, CM202EG
Price:£13,995
PCP: £209.33/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £209.33, Customer Deposit: £2,099.00, Total Deposit: £2,099.25, Optional Final Payment: £6,420.25, Total Charge For Credit: £1,851.05, Total Amount Payable: £15,846.05, Representative APR: 6.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 6.86%, Excess Mileage Charge: 7.2ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the Volkswagen Golf R right for you?

You like fast cars but don’t want the attention that comes with more overt performance options? This is why Volkswagen created the Golf R almost as an antidote to the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A45 and later A35, as well as the Audi S3 and RS3.


Where these cars shout their intentions from every spoiler, diffuser and wheelarch extension, you could be excused for walking right by the Golf R without paying it another glance. For some, that will defeat the object of spending a considerable sum on a car with this sort of pace and ability. For others, it’s exactly why the R fits right into their lives as it generally drives under the radar of most other road users.


Of course, those in the know will recognise the R as a seriously quick machine with all-wheel drive and superb handling. They will also know this is a car with rock-solid built quality and all of the practicality of any other Golf model, even if the hatch’s boot is a teensy bit smaller than others in the Golf line-up. Heck, you can even get an estate version of the Golf R to really wrongfoot others when you make use of its full potential.

What’s the best Volkswagen Golf R model/engine to choose?

The basic recipe for the Volkswagen Golf R stays the same whichever version you plump for. So, you get a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine powering all four wheels for superb grip and traction.


However, there are variations on the theme, so you have a choice of three- and five-door hatchback bodies, and an estate model. While the wagon impresses, we’d err towards the five-door hatch as the best all-rounder, though this is a very subjective area.


You also have to decide between six-speed manual or DSG automatic gearboxes. The DSG-equipped models are fractionally quicker to accelerate from rest to 62mph, though no R is a slouch. Still, we’d take the manual for its greater engagement between car and driver, and once on the move there’s nothing to separate manual and auto models.


There is also the Performance Pack fitted to some from 2017-on. It doesn’t make the car any quicker, but you get the full unrestricted top speed should you find yourself on an autobahn. This model also comes with uprated brakes, unique alloy wheels and a bespoke exhaust for the hatch versions.

What other cars are similar to the Volkswagen Golf R?

The Mercedes-AMG A35 is as close as you get to a complete rival to the Volkswagen Golf R as both are more understated takes on the uber-hatch theme. The AMG also uses four-wheel drive to great effect for dealing with gnarly, twisty roads, but it is more expensive to buy than the Volkswagen.


Ford’s Focus RS was a worthy adversary and the Yang to the Volkswagen's Ying thanks to its aggressive styling and the way it delivered its performance. For some, though, the RS was just too loud and proud.


That leaves others such as the Honda Civic Type R, Hyundai i30N and Renault Megane R.S. Trophy to pick up the cudgels. All are very good, but none is quite as rounded in every respect as the Golf R, which some might find as off-putting as others find it appealing about the Golf.

Learn more

Volkswagen Golf R Driver's Seat

On the inside

Volkswagen Golf R Rear View

Driving

Volkswagen Golf R Right Side View

How much does it cost to run

Volkswagen Golf R Rear Side View

Prices, versions and specification