Volkswagen Golf R vs mega-hatch rivals
Sizzling new 296bhp Volkswagen Golf R meets Audi RS Q3 and Mercedes A45 AMG in performance battle
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
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?
Click the links above to read each review, and then read on for our verdict.
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.
Car group tests
- Volkswagen Golf Estate vs Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
- Volkswagen Golf GTD vs BMW 120d
- Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Volkswagen Golf R
- Hyundai i30 vs Volkswagen Golf
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.
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.
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.
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.
|VW Golf R DSG||Mercedes A45 AMG||Audi 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%|
|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/cost||34/£340/G/£180||43/£382/G/£180||37/£435/K/£285|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£16pcm (2yrs/20k)||£32pcm (2yrs/2 serv)||£226/£317/£226|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,984cc||4cyl in-line/1,991cc||5cyl in-line/2,480cc|
|Peak power||296/5,500 bhp/rpm||355/6,000 bhp/rpm||306/5,200 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||380/1,800 Nm/rpm||450/2,250 Nm/rpm||420/1,500 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||6-spd auto/4wd||7-spd auto/4wd||7-spd auto/4wd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||55 litres/sealant||56 litres/sealant||64 litres/sealant|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||343/1,233 litres||341/1,157 litres||356/1,261litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||10.9 metres/N/A||11.0 metres/N/A||11.8 metres/0.33Cd|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/1yr||3yrs (unltd)/4yrs||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||Variable/233||Variable/136||Variable/121|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||16th/25th||5th/12th||10th/23rd|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./points||94/89/65/5||93/81/67/5||N/A|
|0-60/30-70mph||4.5/4.7 secs||4.6/4.1 secs||4.5/4.1 secs|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||2.5/3.5 secs||2.3/3.9 secs||2.5/3.6 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th||4.5/5.9 secs/N/A||4.4/7.8/14.8 secs||4.6/6.0/7.7 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||155mph/2,500rpm||155mph/1,800rpm||155mph/2,100rpm|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||25.3/5.6/306 miles||24.8/5.5/305 miles||25.7/5.7/362 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||258/159g/km/24%||263/161g/km/25%||254/206g/km/34%|
|Leather upholstery/heated seats||£1,700/£355^||£1,080/£300||Yes/yes|
|Metallic paint/stop-start/adapt susp||£535/yes/£815||£570/yes/no||Yes/yes/no|
|Park sensors front/rear/xenon lights||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes||Yes/yes/yes|