Volkswagen Golf R-Line 2016 review

Get the sporty look for less with latest Volkswagen Golf R-Line family hatch

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

If you like the look of the Golf R but don’t have the budget to buy or run one, then this sporty new R-line model may be right up your street. Of course, even though it looks the part, it doesn’t pack the same punch. However, the Volkswagen is still an excellent family hatch: built to last, great to drive and strong on refinement. Plus, for just £995 extra, you get all the added kit thrown in.

Image is everything in the car world, but not everyone can afford to shell out on a range-topping model. That’s why you can now get a four-cylinder engine in the new Ford Mustang. It’s also why Volkswagen has added this R-Line model to the Golf range.

Best hatchbacks on sale right now

It adds nothing extra in terms of performance, but instead focuses on offering a sporty look to tempt buyers. For £995 on top of the price of a Golf GT, it adds beefier front and rear bumpers, a larger air intake, side skirts, a rear spoiler and an R badge on the radiator grille – the latter is enough to fool those with an untrained eye into thinking it’s a Golf R. However, smaller 17-inch alloys and twin exhausts – the R has quad pipes – give the game away.

The interior gets all dark and moody thanks to the black roof lining, piano black trim on the dash and two-tone sports seats with Alcantara outer trim. These additions, including the alloy pedals and Golf R-style steering wheel, help make it feel racier than a standard Golf. Of course, everything is exceptionally put-together and classy, while it’s spacious and well equipped, too.

The sporty illusion fades away once you start the engine, however. R-Line cars can also be specced with a 2.0-litre diesel, but our 148bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol car idles with an unassuming hum. It’s not a particularly loud engine in the regular Golf, and nothing has changed here.

Still, it’s smooth, happy to rev and will be gutsy enough for most people’s needs, while the slick six-speed manual box helps you make the most of its modest performance. The clever cylinder-deactivation tech allows it to seamlessly run on just two cylinders under light throttle loads, making it more frugal, and contributing to a low 112g/km CO2 figure.

All R-Line Golfs get sports suspension lowered by 10mm, as well as a Driver Profile selector that allows you to tweak the steering weight, throttle and engine response to suit. Dynamic Chassis Control is an optional extra, but even without this, the Golf strikes a strong balance between comfort and agility, although it is firmer than the standard suspension.

It’s not as engaging as a SEAT Leon FR, but the VW’s superior refinement at speed makes it a composed cruiser. And the £995 premium it carries over the Golf GT looks great value considering the upgrades the R-Line brings.

Have you considered?

Ford Fiesta review
Ford Fiesta - front driving
Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta review

The Fiesta is good fun and remains a solid buy, despite increasingly strong competition.
4 Feb 2021
Volkswagen Golf review
Volkswagen Golf - front
Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

Volkswagen Golf review

The Volkswagen Golf continues to be an impressive all-rounder that justifies its price premium over family hatchback rivals
25 Mar 2020
New Ford Fiesta Trend 2020 review
Ford Fiesta Trend - tracking
Ford Fiesta Hatchback

New Ford Fiesta Trend 2020 review

The Ford Fiesta Trend might be the new entry-level Fiesta, but that doesn't mean it is short on fun and thrills
10 Jan 2020

Most Popular

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'
Opinion Nissan EV

'Nissan has been quietly building an advantage over electric car rivals'

Steve Fowler thinks Nissan is in a great position to build on the Leaf's success
8 Apr 2021
New Citroen C5 X flagship crossover set to offer ‘ultimate comfort’
Citroen C5 X - front
Citroen C5

New Citroen C5 X flagship crossover set to offer ‘ultimate comfort’

The new flagship Citroen C5 X will arrive with petrol and plug-in hybrid power, and looks set to cost from around £27,000 when it arrives in the UK in…
12 Apr 2021
New 2021 Skoda Kodiaq facelift brings tougher looks and new vRS
Skoda Kodiaq facelift - front
Skoda Kodiaq

New 2021 Skoda Kodiaq facelift brings tougher looks and new vRS

The updated Skoda Kodiaq SUV gets design tweaks with a more imposing front end, while the hot Kodiaq vRS gets Golf GTI power
13 Apr 2021