Volkswagen Golf R Review & Prices

A Volkswagen Golf that’s both incredibly intense and classily cultured at the same time. Shame the looks aren’t quite as subtle as they used to be, though

Buy or lease the Volkswagen Golf R at a price you’ll love
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RRP £44,605 - £49,930
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Reviewed by Carwow after extensive testing of the vehicle.

What's good

  • Massive performance
  • Quiet and comfortable when you’re not 'on it'
  • Plenty of space

What's not so good

  • Cheap-feeling seat fabrics
  • Touch-sensitive heater controls
  • Fiddly steering wheel-mounted buttons

Find out more about the Volkswagen Golf R

Is the Volkswagen Golf R a good car?

This is the new Volkswagen Golf R, the latest in an established line of Golfs with more than a little extra “Grrr”. Or perhaps just “Rrrr”.

So, is the Mark 8 VW Golf R still the cool kid at school who’s bulked up a bit at the gym? Well, it appears so. It has lowered suspension and a cool blue LED light strip between the headlights, plus LED tail lights, four (real) exhaust pipes, a rear diffuser and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Certainly, it’s a bit more obvious that this is a performance variant than the last Golf R. Whether or not that floats your boat, or you prefer the ‘sleeper’ look, is entirely subjective.

Meanwhile, the interior is all very minimalist and classy like it is in the standard Golf, with few buttons and some fiddly details. There’s a dedicated R steering wheel with some bright blue trims (as well as some seriously annoying touch-sensitive buttons), plenty of sporty blue stitching, and one-piece sports seats with stripy blue trim that feels a bit cheap.

Those sports seats hold you really well when you’re making the most of a clear stretch of your favourite twisty road, and they’re very comfortable on the motorway, but because of the integrated headrests they’re pretty bulky when you’re sat in the rear, and so are difficult to see around.

Twin test: Audi S3 v Volkswagen Golf R

Under the bonnet lies a 315hp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, which also produces 420Nm of torque. It drives all four wheels through a DSG automatic gearbox; there’s no manual gearbox available this time. Truth be told, the auto suits the R, because it allows you to feel like a racing driver one minute and then lets you sit back and leave everything alone the next.

We recently tested the Golf GTI in damp conditions and got pretty close to VW’s official 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds. However, a GTI driver will not see which way the new Golf R goes, so intense is the R’s accelerative ability. We tested it and it covered the 0-60mph sprint in a fraction over 4.0 seconds. Wow. It’s another league.

As before the Golf R gets independent suspension all-round, which helps it feel agile through the corners, and the four-wheel-drive system means traction is never an issue. This Mk8 Golf R also gets an electronically controlled limited-slip differential on each axle to further enhance cornering balance and traction.

You can pay an extra £850 to have your Golf R fitted with adaptive dampers. These let you stiffen everything up for hooning it down country roads and soften the ride for cruising home on the motorway. The system works very well indeed, and we would heartily recommend that you tick that box.

You can personalise these settings through the infotainment system, too. So you can fine-tune your favourite set-up and save it for later.

The Golf R still flies a bit under the radar, but there's nothing subtle about the way it performs

An 8.0-inch infotainment system and a 10.0-inch digital driver’s display are both standard but you can pay extra to get a pair of 10-inch screens instead. Both displays come with R-specific blue graphics and you can customise the driver’s display using buttons on the steering wheel. You also have the ability to control lots of the car’s features using voice commands – just as you can in the standard Golf.

However, the ventilation and audio systems are controlled using touch-sensitive ‘sliders’ below the infotainment screen, and these are much less successful. What’s wrong with buttons? They’re not backlit at night, either…

You can add numerous options to your Golf R, including an Akrapovic exhaust system, which sounds better and saves 7kg. However, £3,500? You might be better off going on a diet and making the noises yourself.

Space in the R is basically the same as in every other Golf, so there’s plenty of room for four adults (or five if they’re on speaking terms), and decent room in the 374-litre boot (down by seven litres on lesser Golfs because the four-wheel-drive takes up a bit more space), and there are all the usual hooks and lashing points to keep shopping where you want it to be.

So the Golf R is still the good-at-everything kid, and now it’s a whole lot stronger, as witnessed by our timing gear. Frankly, it’s a bit of a show off.

If this sounds like your next car, take a look at the latest Volkswagen Golf R deals, and you can also look at other VW deals, as carwow has them too. You can also get used Volkswagen deals through carwow, and if you want to change your car you can sell your car through carwow too.

How much is the Volkswagen Golf R?

The Volkswagen Golf R has a RRP range of £44,605 to £49,930. Monthly payments start at £400. The price of a used Volkswagen Golf R on Carwow starts at £30,662.

There are several impressive all-wheel-drive turbocharged alternatives to the Golf R, offering similar power and performance figures, as well as pricing that is (mostly) within a few hundred pounds of each other. 

The BMW M135i and Mercedes-AMG A35 have posher badges and more luxurious interiors but are no quicker. The A35 is also around £3,000 pricier. The Audi S3, meanwhile, shares much of its underpinnings with the Golf R giving it similar performance and nearly identical price tag, but its interior is arguably a cut above the Golf’s.

The Golf R still retains a certain q-car appeal, with only some minor design cues hinting at its performance potential. It also shifts between daily-driver and back road blaster more seamlessly than ever before, especially if you opt for the Dynamic Chassis Control option.

Performance and drive comfort

The Golf R is a superb all-rounder, offering staggering performance allied with high refinement levels, but there's a bit more road noise than is ideal

In town

It may have over 300hp, but the Golf R is no all-or-nothing racer for the road. It rides reasonably well, especially with the optional adaptive suspension setup, and the controls are direct yet light to use. Aside from being a lot more eager to pull out of roundabouts, it still feels like a Golf, which makes it a great daily driver. 

The car’s compact dimensions and good visibility make it great for tight city streets, and you get a whole host of driver aids such as autonomous emergency braking, surround parking sensors as well as rear traffic alert. 

On the motorway

The Golf R feels perfectly at home on the motorway, ready to overtake slower moving traffic at a moment’s notice. Only the presence of some road noise spoils the otherwise refined driving experience. Adaptive cruise control, lane assist and dynamic headlight control all go towards easing stress levels on long journeys.

The sports seats up front are supportive and comfortable, while back seat passengers will appreciate the large window area.

On a twisty road

Down a slightly damp, tightly winding back road the Golf R would pull away from some very exotic rear-wheel-drive sports cars. It just offers so much grip and speed out of corners; the quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic gearbox keeping the engine in its powerband, ready to spear down the next straight.

You may get more thrills out of a Honda Civic Type R, but only because it would have to be driven so much harder to achieve the same goal. It may not be the last word in an immersive driving experience, but the Golf R is a superbly capable hot hatch nonetheless.

Space and practicality

The Golf R offers the same interior space as a regular Golf, although boot space is slightly smaller thanks to the all-wheel-drive gubbins 

Occupants up front will appreciate the supportive and comfortable sports seats, there’s also enough head and leg room for just about any shape or size. The steering wheel also offers plenty of fore/aft and up and down adjustment.

Aside from the usual (padded) door bins, cupholders and storage area below the dashboard for your phone, there’s also a handy slot next to the stubby little gear lever for loose items. You also get a netted storage pocket in the passenger footwell and a usefully-sized glovebox.

Space in the back seats

Back seat space is great for two adults, and a bit of a squeeze for three. That about sums up the second-row space for the Golf as well as most of its hatchback-shaped alternatives. There’s plenty of head and leg room, although those sporty front seats can make it feel a bit claustrophobic compared to a regular Golf. What you do get are some handy seat-back pockets, ideal storage spots for tablets or phones.

There’s also a pair of large door bins and a foldable centre seat which has a pair of cupholders. Two easily locatable ISOFIX mounting points are provided on each outer rear seat.

Boot space

A hot hatch needs to be practical and the Golf R doesn’t disappoint thanks to 341 litres of boot space. That’s 40 litres less than in a regular Golf thanks to the added space requirements of the all-wheel-drive setup.

It trails the BMW M135i’s 380 litres, but is slightly more spacious than the Audi S3’s 325 litres. The load area is also a useful shape, with useful luggage straps and an adjustable boot floor to remove the step you get when folding the rear seats. When they are flipped down, the luggage space grows to 1,233 litres which is on par for the class. If you need even more space, then perhaps take a look at the cavernous Golf R Estate.

Interior style, infotainment and accessories

The interior is very high tech and fashionably minimalist, spoiled slightly by a few bits of hard plastic trim and a frustrating climate control interface

The interior of the Golf R will feel immediately familiar to anyone who’s been in a Golf 8, although there are plenty of subtle ‘R’ touches, too. The fabric-covered seats feature funky blue detailing, tying in with the blue trim inserts on the steering wheel, dashboard and doors.

The similarity to the regular Golf range extends to the hard plastics used lower down in the cabin, and especially in the rear. Fine for a family hatch, but not quite as acceptable in the Golf R which is priced on par with the BMW M135i and Audi S3. 

Aside from that, the controls and buttons all feel suitably premium and hard-wearing. There’s also a standard 30 colour ambient lighting feature. You can also add a few ambience-improving extras like a sliding and tilting panoramic sunroof and fancy heated Nappa leather seats. The pricier Golf R 20 year trim includes the leather seats as well as power adjustment and leatherette door and side trim panel inserts.

The standard fitment 10.25-inch infotainment system looks slick with sharp, clear graphics and all the connectivity and tech you could want. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard so you can leave your phone in the handy wireless charging dashboard slot. 

There are two USB-C charging sockets up front and another two for the rear passengers. Navigation, DAB digital radio and internet streaming round off a very impressive infotainment offering. Except for one thing…

A row of touch-sensitive controls is placed at the base of the screen which allow you to adjust the climate control and audio volume. In practice they are frustratingly imprecise and tricky to use on the move. There’s also no backlight on that section of the panel, so make sure to get your settings just-so before night falls. The 8.0-inch digital driver display works as advertised, though, providing plenty of customisability and being easy to read while on the move.

MPG, emissions and tax

The Golf R sits at the top of the Golf 8 range and is fitted with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Power is sent to all four wheels through a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The standard model offers up 315hp and will rocket you from 0-62mph in 4.7-seconds. The claimed 36.7mpg fuel economy and 176g/km of CO2 are both good figures considering the power on offer. The Mercedes-AMG A35 matches the 0-62mph time, while the Audi S3 and BMW M135i are just 0.1-seconds slower. Fuel economy figures are just as close, with the M135i being slightly more economical overall with 38.2mpg.

The Golf R 20 years edition comes with 329hp, which cuts the 0-62mph time down a fraction to 4.6-seconds. Fuel economy is 36.2mpg while the CO2 emissions are actually 1g/km better. In real-world terms, there’s really nothing in it aside from the bragging rights to having the most powerful and fastest Golf R yet. With our test of the regular Golf R already yielding a blistering 4.0-second 0-60mph time, there really is no need to spend extra on the more powerful model.

Safety and security

The standard VW Golf 8 was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019 and received a full five-star rating. It scored well across all four main categories with 95% for adult occupant protection as well as a notable 78% for safety assists.

The Golf R comes packed with plenty of standard kit such as adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlights, autonomous brake assist, surround parking sensors, rear traffic alert and lane assist. It also has VW’s Car2X communications feature which can transmit road condition data between vehicles.

Reliability and problems

Volkswagen tends to build reliable cars, but the Golf 8 and by extension the Golf R has not fared so well in recent customer surveys. Areas of concern were overall reliability and the infotainment system. 

The Golf R is offered with a standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty, extendable by another 12 months at an additional cost. The Golf 8 range has been recalled three times since it was launched.

Buy or lease the Volkswagen Golf R at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £44,605 - £49,930
Carwow price from
Ready to see prices tailored to you?
Compare new offers Compare used deals