New Volkswagen Golf R vs Audi S3 vs BMW M135i: costs

The Golf R has always been a fine all-rounder among the top echelon of hot hatches. Let’s see if the latest one can match the Audi S3 and BMW M135i for thrills and usability...

Volkswagen Golf R 2021 boot open

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

The prospect of spending almost £40,000 on a Golf might raise rather more of an eyebrow than doing so on an Audi or a BMW, but we’re not here to judge the subjective side of things. And in any case, you probably aren’t considering transferring the entire sum from your bank account; you’re far more likely to be signing up to a PCP finance agreement.

Put down a £4000 deposit and you can pay £451 per month over the next four years, assuming a limit of 10,000 miles per year. On the same terms, the S3 will cost you £438 a month and the M135i £424. Those prices are Target PCPs, so you’ll either need to visit whatcar.com or haggle with the dealer to get them; ask for a quote on the manufacturer’s website and you’ll probably pay more.

Audi S3 2021 boot open

If you’re planning to pay cash, expect the Golf R to cost you the most in the long run once all bills have been factored in. The M135i is predicted to cost the average buyer around £750 less over three years of ownership, with the S3 working out a further £550 cheaper. That’s despite the Golf proving to be the most frugal in real-world testing, averaging 32.9mpg to the S3’s 31.3mpg and M135i’s 31.0mpg.

The Golf R goes some way towards making up for its cost with the amount of kit you get, though. Adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and three-zone climate control (with separate controls for those sitting in the back) come as standard, all things you have to pay extra for on the other two. It isn’t all one-way traffic, though, because the S3 has leather upholstery (£800 on the M135i and £2600 on the Golf), and both the S3 and M135i have heated front seats, which will set you back £270 in the Golf R.

BMW M135i 2021 boot open

It’s also worth remembering that, unless you want plain white, you’ll need to fork out extra for paint on all three. The Golf R has the smallest palette, with only two further colours to pick from.

Although all three basic model lines have been appraised for safety by Euro NCAP, the results for the A3 and Golf don’t cover these high-performance models. The 1 Series’ result does include the M135i; crash protection was found to be extremely good for children sitting in the back, although chest protection for adults in the rear was rated ‘weak’.

Audi S3 vs BMW M135i vs Volkswagen Golf R costs

Used alternative

2020 Mercedes-AMG A45 S

Mercedes A45 S front

If you’re prepared to spend an extra £3000 or so over the Golf’s list price, you could get a year-old example of the rip-snorting and exclusive A45 S. Its 2.0-litre turbo engine pumps out a whopping 415bhp – far more than you get in any other hot hatch – so it’s savagely quick. It may not have the handling delicacy of its best rivals, but it’s grippy and thrilling to drive, while its interior is stunning.