In-depth reviews

Volkswagen Golf R review

When a regular Golf GTI isn’t sufficiently extreme, the VW Golf R steps up to the mark

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

  • Very fast
  • Practical cabin
  • Reasonable running costs
  • Expensive for a Golf
  • GTI almost as quick
  • Costly extras

The choice between a VW Golf R and its similarly impressive GTI siblings boils down to being able to exploit the R’s upgrades over slightly less powerful, front-wheel drive hot hatch – and you need to be honest with yourself, because that price tag places the R firmly in sports car territory. Given the extra space and its subtle looks, this Q-car is arguably the pick of the range.

The Golf R's discreet looks mean it won't draw the kind of attention that the big wings and bright colour schemes of rivals can attract, leaving you to go about your business and revel in the R's performance and practicality. It’s a performance car for all seasons.

If you want a fast car that's also very discreet, then the Volkswagen Golf R is well worth a look. It's for sale as the flagship of the Golf range, and slots in above the Golf GTI in the line up. It comes as a five-door hatchback, with the more practical estate now discontinued. All cars use a 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine packing 296bhp, with power going to all four wheels via VW's 4MOTION four-wheel drive system.

As a result, the Golf R has ballistic performance and plenty of grip to make it a fantastic all-weather performance car. And yet, to look at, it could easily be mistaken for a diesel Golf in sporty R-Line spec. For some buyers that's a huge bonus, putting the fastest Golf ahead of lairy-looking rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG A45, Ford Focus RS, Audi RS 3 Sportback and Honda Civic Type R.

In many ways, the Golf R is something of an unsung hero in the Golf range. Subtle colours and an understated bodykit contribute to that, while the only real clues to the car's potential are its 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension and four exhaust tips poking out of the rear bumper. This really is the definition of a Q-car – a vehicle that doesn't draw attention to itself, but offers searing pace that will surprise passengers and other road users alike.

The Golf R joined the Mk7 range not long after it first arrived in 2012. During that time it has been offered with either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG auto gearbox, although all versions are now DSG-only. Launch Control is fitted as standard, and you should be able to match the quoted 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds without much problem – although we've tested the Golf R in the past and recorded even faster figures.

At just over £37,000, the price reflects that the R is the top-spec Golf in the range. All cars are well equipped, while fuel economy quoted at up to 32.8mpg under the WLTP test is reasonable for a car with such high performance.

For an alternative review of the latest Volkswagen Golf R Hatchback visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk

More on Golf R

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf R: prices, specs and launch date
Volkswagen Golf R
7 Jul 2020

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf R: prices, specs and launch date

Our spy photographers have snapped the new Volkswagen Golf R inside and out, ahead of its expected launch later this year
New Volkswagen Golf R Mountune M52 2019 review
Mountune VW Golf R - front tracking
Volkswagen Golf R
18 Aug 2019

New Volkswagen Golf R Mountune M52 2019 review

Mountune have extracted another level of performance out of the Volkswagen Golf R, but are the upgrades worth it?
Mercedes-AMG A 35 vs Honda Civic Type R vs Volkswagen Golf R
mercedes-amg a35 vs honda civic type r vs vw golf r header
Mercedes A-Class
23 Feb 2019

Mercedes-AMG A 35 vs Honda Civic Type R vs Volkswagen Golf R

We see if the hot new Mercedes-AMG A 35 can leave the Civic Type R and Golf R hot hatches trailing
Used Volkswagen Golf R review
Used Volkswagen Golf R - front
Volkswagen Golf R
24 Dec 2018

Used Volkswagen Golf R review

A full buyer’s guide on the Volkswagen Golf R covering the Golf R Mk7 (2014-date)
Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R
Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R - header
Volkswagen Golf R
18 Jul 2018

Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R

New Volkswagen Golf R Performance pack meets the class-leading Honda Civic Type R in a hot hatch battle
Volkswagen Golf R power dropped down to 296bhp due to WLTP emissions rules
Best hot hatchbacks - Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R
5 Jul 2018

Volkswagen Golf R power dropped down to 296bhp due to WLTP emissions rules

Volkswagen's top hot hatch follows the SEAT Leon Cupra with a reduction in power to appease new emissions laws
New Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack 2018 review
Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack - front
Volkswagen Golf R
8 Jun 2018

New Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack 2018 review

The Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack carries a £2,300 premium over the standard R. Is it worth the extra money?
Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack comes to the UK
Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack rear
Volkswagen Golf R
9 Nov 2017

Volkswagen Golf R Performance Pack comes to the UK

£2,300 VW Golf R dynamic updates include new brakes, tweaked suspension and 166mph top speed
New Volkswagen Golf R 2017 review
Volkswagen Golf R 2017 corner
Volkswagen Golf R
28 Mar 2017

New Volkswagen Golf R 2017 review

A supremely capable and surprisingly quick hot hatch, the latest VW Golf R isn't cheap and faces talented rivals
Volkswagen Golf R facelift adds extra power
Golf R 2017
Volkswagen Golf R
4 Jan 2017

Volkswagen Golf R facelift adds extra power

Updates for VW Golf R include a subtle new look and a bit more power for the 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Ford Focus RS vs Volkswagen Golf R vs Audi RS3
Focus RS vs RS3 vs Golf R - header
Ford Focus RS hatchback
12 Jun 2016

Ford Focus RS vs Volkswagen Golf R vs Audi RS3

The new Ford Focus RS has arrived and is ready to take on the might of the Audi RS3 and VW Golf R. Let’s settle mega hatch argument!
Volkswagen Golf R - best performance cars
VW Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R
27 Apr 2016

Volkswagen Golf R - best performance cars

The four-wheel-drive VW Golf R is almost as fast off the line as the Ford Focus RS, but the two cars’ characters couldn’t be more different
Volkswagen Golf R Estate vs SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280
Volkswagen Golf R Estate vs SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280 rear tracking
Volkswagen Golf R
18 Nov 2015

Volkswagen Golf R Estate vs SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280

Which fast estate is the king of the load?
Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2015 review
Volkswagen Golf R
30 Oct 2015

Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2015 review

The ever-impressive VW Golf R super-hatch with a 605-litre boot. What's not to like?
VW Golf R400 super hatch set for 2016 release
Volkswagen Golf R
20 May 2015

VW Golf R400 super hatch set for 2016 release

Rapid VW Golf R400 spied for the first time, could arrive next year with 395bhp 2.0-litre turbo
VW Golf R Estate revealed: Full details and launch date
Volkswagen Golf R
20 Nov 2014

VW Golf R Estate revealed: Full details and launch date

Volkswagen has released full details on the 296bhp Golf R estate at the LA Motor Show
VW Golf R Estate spotted undisguised
Volkswagen Golf R
20 Oct 2014

VW Golf R Estate spotted undisguised

Spy shots of Volkswagen's rapid new Golf R estate show it out testing in showroom spec, ahead of December 2014 launch
Volkswagen Golf R32 review
Volkswagen Golf R32
Volkswagen Golf R
28 May 2014

Volkswagen Golf R32 review

The Volkswagen Golf R32 MkIV has a devoted following these days, and here's why
Volkswagen Golf R 400 concept unveiled in Beijing
Volkswagen Golf R
19 Apr 2014

Volkswagen Golf R 400 concept unveiled in Beijing

Volkswagen reveals the VW Golf R 400 concept at Beijing Motor Show 2014
Volkswagen Golf R vs mega-hatch rivals
VW Golf R vs Audi RS Q3 vs Mercedes A45 AMG
Volkswagen Golf R
15 Apr 2014

Volkswagen Golf R vs mega-hatch rivals

Sizzling new 296bhp Volkswagen Golf R meets Audi RS Q3 and Mercedes A45 AMG in performance battle
Volkswagen Golf R vs SEAT Leon Cupra video track battle
Volkswagen Golf R
28 Mar 2014

Volkswagen Golf R vs SEAT Leon Cupra video track battle

The powerful new Volkwagen Golf R takes on the SEAT Leon Cupra 280 on track
Volkswagen Golf R estate spied
VW Golf R Estate front quarter
Volkswagen Golf R
25 Mar 2014

Volkswagen Golf R estate spied

First pictures of a 296bhp four-wheel drive Volkswagen Golf R estate, possible launch at the end of 2014
Volkswagen Golf R 2014 review
Volkswagen Golf R
23 Jan 2014

Volkswagen Golf R 2014 review

The 296bhp, all-wheel-drive 2014 Volkswagen Golf R looks a lot of car for under £30k