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Volkswagen Golf R vs mega-hatch rivals

Sizzling new 296bhp Volkswagen Golf R meets Audi RS Q3 and Mercedes A45 AMG in performance battle

VW Golf R vs Audi RS Q3 vs Mercedes A45 AMG

If the latest crop of hot hatches isn’t quite hot enough for you, this trio of supercar-quick pocket rockets should be just the ticket.

Leading the charge is the all-new Volkswagen Golf R which, with 296bhp and 380Nm of torque, is the fastest-accelerating production Golf ever. Fitted with a fifth generation of VW’s Haldex 4MOTION all-wheel drive, it’s the latest in a long line of ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ flagship Golfs. But can the new R replace the GTI in the hearts of fast VW fans? And is it better than two very interesting

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Volkswagen Golf R review

Mercedes A45 AMG review

Audi RS Q3 review

The even more powerful Mercedes A45 AMG has rewritten the rule book when it comes to hot hatch performance, although it’ll cost you £6,220 more than a five-door Golf R with a DSG box. Alternatively, you could go for Audi’s new RS Q3, which uniquely blends crossover practicality and high-riding stance with traditional fast Audi looks and power, as well as a characterful five-cylinder engine.

All three cars will cover 0-60mph in under five seconds, but which of the trio is the pick of the bunch?

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Click the links above to read each review, and then read on for our verdict.

Head-to-head

Hottest hatches

In 2000, Porsche launched the 996-generation 911 Turbo, which was capable of doing 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds. Only 14 years on and these family hatchbacks match an early 21st century supercar.

We recorded our own acceleration and braking figures at the track, and the results show how closely matched all three cars are. With launch control systems, in the wet they all matched or bettered their official claimed performance.

Gearbox

All three cars have dual-clutch transmissions, but the Mercedes’ seven-speed DCT box is a real highlight. In manual mode it gives you full control with no kickdown or auto upshifting and has a lovely fluttering exhaust on each change. However, only the Golf is available with a traditional manual gearbox.

Passenger space

The Audi Q3 offers more rear legroom than the Golf, but as the wheelbase is shorter than the hatches’, you don’t get the SUV space you expect. A tapered roofline and tighter rear means the A45 can feel claustrophobic.

Verdict

1st place: Volkswagen Golf R

While the Golf R often struggles to make a case for itself against the GTI, it’s a great hot hatch that adds all-wheel-drive traction and extra power to the usual upmarket package. It’s cheaper than its rivals here, and has performance to match.

2nd place: Mercedes A45 AMG

There's much to like about the A45 AMG. It looks great, is the cheapest AMG model yet and its turbocharged engine produces incredible power. But the steering could do with more feel and the optional extras are expensive.

3rd place: Audi RS Q3

The RS Q3 is another example of Audi filling every niche. The engine is packed with character and the chassis is fun, plus it holds on to its value well. However, the looks won’t be to all tastes and, in this company, it’s an expensive choice.

Figures

 VW Golf R DSGMercedes A45 AMGAudi RS Q3
On-the-road price/total as tested£31,970/£36,335£38,195/£51,595£43,000/£47,520
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£17,520/54.8%£20,393/53.4%£24,252/56.4%
Depreciation£14,450£17,797£18,748
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,524/£3,047£1,898/£3,796£2,878/£5,756
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£2,976/£4,959£3,036/£5,059£2,929/£4,882
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost34/£340/G/£18043/£382/G/£18037/£435/K/£285
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£16pcm (2yrs/20k)£32pcm (2yrs/2 serv)£226/£317/£226
    
Length/wheelbase4,276/2,630mm4,292/2,699mm4,410/2,603mm
Height/width1,436/1,799mm1,433/1,780mm1,580/1,841mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,984cc4cyl in-line/1,991cc5cyl in-line/2,480cc
Peak power296/5,500 bhp/rpm355/6,000 bhp/rpm306/5,200 bhp/rpm
Peak torque380/1,800 Nm/rpm450/2,250 Nm/rpm420/1,500 Nm/rpm
Transmission6-spd auto/4wd7-spd auto/4wd7-spd auto/4wd
    
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel55 litres/sealant56 litres/sealant64 litres/sealant
Boot capacity (seats up/down)343/1,233 litres341/1,157 litres356/1,261litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,495/560kg1,555/525kg1,655/560kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient10.9 metres/N/A11.0 metres/N/A11.8 metres/0.33Cd
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (unltd)/4yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealersVariable/233Variable/136Variable/121
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.16th/25th5th/12th10th/23rd
Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points94/89/65/593/81/67/5N/A
    
0-60/30-70mph4.5/4.7 secs4.6/4.1 secs4.5/4.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th2.5/3.5 secs2.3/3.9 secs2.5/3.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th4.5/5.9 secs/N/A4.4/7.8/14.8 secs4.6/6.0/7.7 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph155mph/2,500rpm155mph/1,800rpm155mph/2,100rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph50.6/35.6/9.0m41.3/30.8/9.7m50.1/35.4/9.3m
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range25.3/5.6/306 miles24.8/5.5/305 miles25.7/5.7/362 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined32.1/47.9/40.9mpg32.1/48.7/40.9mpg23.2/40.9/32.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined7.1/10.5/8.9mpl7.1/10.7/9.0mpl5.1/8.9/7.0mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket258/159g/km/24%263/161g/km/25%254/206g/km/34%
    
Airbags/Isofix/cruise controlSeven/yes/yesSeven/yes/yesSix/yes/£225
Leather upholstery/heated seats£1,700/£355^£1,080/£300Yes/yes
Metallic paint/stop-start/adapt susp£535/yes/£815£570/yes/noYes/yes/no
Park sensors front/rear/xenon lightsYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes
Sat-nav/DAB radio/Bluetooth£750/yes/yes£2,100/yes/yes£495/yes/£175
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