The Golf R is comfortable, has loads of grip on slippery roads and is quick enough to humble sports cars – other hot hatches are more hardcore though
No two ways about it – the Golf R is a seriously rapid family hatchback that can out-accelerate a long list of more expensive sports cars.
Getting from 0-62mph takes just 4.8 seconds and the car’s light pedals and slick gearbox makes this an easily attainable figure. Fitting the seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox will lose you some sense of involvement but it makes the car even easier to drive and quicker, with 0-62mph taking just 4.6 seconds – faster than numerous Porsches.
The Golf R's 2.0-litre engine produces 70hp more than already-quick GTI – it's almost crazy fast
You’ll find everyday performance is just as impressive, so even if you put your foot down in fourth gear at 50mph you can overtake without having to wait for the engine to get up to speed. In this respect, it’s better than the Honda Civic Type R.
Such performance doesn’t come without its drawbacks, but fuel economy of about 40mpg, irrespective of the gearbox you choose, is none too shabby for something this quick – though expect to get closer to 35mpg in the real world.
The Volkswagen Golf R really comes into its own when you use it every day. It doesn’t suffer from the laughably stiff suspension fitted to the Honda Civic Type R so can drive down lumpy country roads without every bump being transmitted into the cabin.
The £830 adaptive dampers are an option you absolutely must go for. They have a Comfort setting that slackens everything off so you would have no idea you’re in a sporty car – great if you’re faced with a long motorway slog that you want to dispatch as comfortably as possible. At a cruise the Volkswagen Golf R’s large tyres transmit a little more road roar into the cabin than the basic car, but you don’t get the annoying engine whine that the Honda Civic Type R inflicts on you.
You can also stiffen the optional dampers – say you’re presented with the opportunity for a B-road blast – to cancel out major body lean even in fast bends. Most of the time the Golf is two-wheel drive but, if slip is detected, power will be sent to the back wheels for amazing traction. It feels like a big hand is shoving you forwards as you power out of corners and makes the VW extremely grippy on wet and slippery roads.
The Golf R shares its five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score with the regular car, although it was evaluated under 2012’s less stringent test conditions. Automatic emergency braking comes as standard and it includes active cruise control that can slow the Golf to match the speed of the car in front.
Driving in town is easy because the Volkswagen Golf R offers a great view out that makes it easy to spot cyclists and pedestrians and fitting into tight spaces is no bother thanks to the front and rear parking sensors. The optional automatic gearbox comes into its own in town, giving your left leg a rest and changing gear quickly and smoothly.