Friday 05 May 2017
The Volkswagen Golf R is often considered the safe suggestion whenever someone asks what hot hatch to buy. It’s been updated for 2017, and now gets 306bhp, up from 297bhp, as well as an updated interior with a new infotainment screen and all-digital dials.
The exterior has been updated too, though the changes are subtle. The bumpers are different, as are the LED headlights – the Golf R retains the understated looks that won favour with those who like to travel fast under the radar.
There’s no wild over-the-top styling here – just subtle R badges and four menacing exhaust pipes at the rear. Part of its appeal is that it looks a lot like every other Golf on sale today – only those in the know will recognise it for what it is.
This new and improved interior is just as solidly made as the old car’s, with plenty of high quality materials and soft touch plastics. The driving position is spot on as before, while everything feels well put together.
Boot space is decent, but it’s not as good as the rest of the range as the four-wheel drive system intrudes a little. Still, at 343 litres it still beats the Ford Focus RS, which has 316 litres. Put the seats down, and the VW offers an impressive 1,233 litres.
To make the most of the hot hatch practicality, go for the five-door variant. It suits the styling of the car better and makes it easier to get in the back – once there, passengers will find plenty of leg and headroom.
This is where the Golf R really makes a case for itself. The four-wheel drive system makes it formidable in all conditions – there’s just endless grip.
The ride can be a little harsh thanks to the lowered sports suspension, but this improves performance when driving hard. Adaptive Chassis Control can be fitted as an optional extra, allowing you to change how the car rides on the move.
The price of a VW Golf R starts at £31,510, and for that you get adaptive cruise control, climate control and the all-new Discover navigation system. The subtle bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels come as standard.
Our test car cost a hefty £38,165 with options, though. This came courtesy of a larger touchscreen, lane assist and full Nappa leather upholstery as well as a few other options. To be honest, though, none of the options on our car were totally necessary – you could easily take the basic Golf R and enjoy it.
The Golf R’s audience is largely younger as it’s a performance car with excellent finance offers. It’s also for people who like to drive quickly but fly under the radar, as its styling is less shouty than many rivals.
Model: Volkswagen Golf R
Price as tested: £38,165
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 4.8 seconds
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