The Golf R is Volkswagen's contender in the hot/hyper-hatch fight which is going on between manufacturers currently. Prices start around £35,000 on the road and you can lease them from as little as £300 a month - to have 300PS AWD (or more if you remap) and be paying so little? It almost seems too good to be true.
Slightly older Golf R's did have 310PS, but due to something (ahem) VW have scaled it back by 10PS to conform. Not to fear though, as you can still get to 62mph in under 5 seconds and easily sail to a restricted 155mph top speed.
I was fortunate enough to actually get the 'R' in wagon / estate form, I'd already driven the 3 & 5 door variant in the past - so it was a nice change. It's an entirely different dynamic and feel to the 3 & 5 door, however the performance was still as fun as I remembered. While the 0-62mph was slower due to the weight, the 'R' still took corners like no tomorrow and would easily leave much more expensive 'hyper hatches' at the line thanks to 4MOTION (0-62 in 4.8 seconds!).
My only real issue with the performance of the Golf R is that it's utterly idiot proof, no matter what you do it'll save you from going head first into a ditch. The 4MOTION is extremely quick to sort out any road insecurities, the DSG box is super responsive to even the slightest flick and the steering is firm without ripping your thumbs off. However the steering feedback was slightly lacking as was the pedal feel, you weren't sure if you were 60% or 80% on the brakes because it kind of felt the same.
The vehicle I had on test cost £42,905 (uh-oh), which is without doubt a lot of money. However for that cost you got things like the R Performance Pack (derestricted top end, the Spielberg alloys and performance brakes), Dynamic Chassis Control, tracker, panoramic sunroof and loads more. Even the headlights were fancy, entirely adaptive so you could have main beam on without dazzling other road users.
It didn't feel overpriced though, the technology and additional spec was suitable to the cost and it felt worthy of the over £40k price tag. While it is technically a house deposit, it's a darn good way to spend a house deposit..
Once you've adjusted to how the 'R' fixes everything for you, suddenly you find yourself pushing boundaries. Understeer can happen only when you've been very silly, asides from those user-error moments it's extremely composed anywhere it goes.
In wagon / estate form, I think the Golf R is best. I drove around for 2 days with an Abarth 500 exhaust in the boot.. and it made no change to performance or economy.. and I still had space for shopping. If you were to need a fast family car, it kind of ticks every single box on a 'family car' list. Safe? Tick. ISOFIX? Tick. Space for dogs and prams? Tick. Shouty enough to shove it to Edward and his Qashqai at the school gates? Tick tick tick!
The interior is very typically Volkswagen, lots of hard wearing plastics but equally a premium'ish feel. The standard technology is extremely good, even including radar cruise and an electronic diff lock - that's.. very good for standard yes? It feels comfortable, the seats hold you extremely well, the visibility is superb and as a 'daily' it's just so easy. While the 3 & 5 door variants are great, as a daily I think the wagon is the winner by a country mile.
Outside truly is the beauty of the Golf R, especially as a wagon. The general public aren't really sure what they're looking at, they probably assume is a 'R-Line' Golf and the 17 year old boy racer in a Corsa 'Limited Edition' also tends to agree (it's funny to show them otherwise, though). It has relatively subtle additions to imply performance, bigger brakes.. silver wing-mirrors.. 4 exhaust pipes.. the usual.
The Golf R takes the lovely lines of a standard Golf and doesn't really change them. Unlike an Audi A3 to an RS3, you could realistically spec a 2.0TDI Golf to look quite familiar to an R.. so that pretty much makes it a sleeper right?
So why is it an utter bargain?
Where to start..? Monthly deals are available as low as £300 (less depending on deposit), OTR prices start from £35,000 and there are engine mods available to let you push 600bhp or more. For under £300 you can get a remap and jump straight to 350PS, spend a bit more for some physical mods and you're seeing 375PS easily.. all with 4MOTION and idiot proof driving characteristics.
Simply, it's a value for money hot hatch which will make you smile every single time you go for a drive.