The Volkswagen Golf R’s interior may not be as overtly sporty as some fast family cars but it’s beautifully built and comes with plenty of kit you’d expect to see in some far bigger cars
The regular Golf feels better built than more expensive cars – such as the Mercedes A-Class – and you’ll find the R is no different.
The body hugging sports gets you in the mood straight off the bat and you also get a R-branded sporty steering wheel. The optional Nappa leather upholstery feels lovely, but the £2,615 price means it is a luxury you pay handsomely for. If you must have leather the cheaper, £1,750 Vienna leather is the better option.
Look around and you’ll spot carbon-fibre effect trim pieces on the dashboard and doors that give a suitably sporty air, and the rest of the interior plastics, up front at least, are of the predominantly soft and squidgy variety you find in the rest of the range.
Volkswagen’s Active Info Display is fitted as standard to R models. It replaces conventional analogue instruments with a massive 12.3-inch digital display, which means you can switch from digital dials to a massive sat-nav map, with smaller dials. It looks brilliant and also makes it really easy to follow the satellite navigation’s instructions.
You really do need the body-hugging sports seats because you can fling the Golf R through bends far faster than you ever thought possible
Buy an R and you get the Golf’s mid-range Discovery Navigation system. Its eight-inch touch screen is simple to navigate thanks to shortcut buttons on the touchscreen that mean you can quickly switch from one function to another, although they’re tricky to feel for on the move. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted as standard, so you can mirror your smartphone navigation and media apps to the Golf’s screen. The built-in sat-nav system has detailed graphics, but entering a postcode is more time consuming than it really ought to be.
The system includes a three-year subscription to VW’s Car Net for real-time updates on traffic, parking spaces, fuel prices and news.
It’s best not to bother upgrading to the £1,325 Discovery Navigation Pro system. It has a smarter 9.2-inch screen with a glassy finish and even-more-detailed graphics, but you lose the conventional volume knob in favour of tricky-to-use touch-sensitive buttons that you can’t feel for as you drive along. Voice recognition and gesture controls are also fitted but they’re a little inconsistent and if you stream your videos and music, you can probably survive without the DVD player and 64GB hard drive for your music collection.
The standard stereo’s eight speakers muster 80W combined, but can’t offer the depth of sound you’ll want if you’re a big music fan. If that’s you, then it’s worth upgrading to the £550, 400W Dynaudio Excite, which has weight and clarity that the basic unit just can’t match.