What's the used Volkswagen Golf R hatchback like?
Human nature being what it is, there’s always the temptation to try and improve even the very best of things. Evidence of this is rife in the car world, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the case of the Volkswagen Golf R. You see it’s basically a tarted-up version of the Mk 7 Golf GTI, and those in the know know that the GTI is a very nice thing indeed. However, working on the basis that there is nothing made by man that is not capable of improvement, VW has made the R more powerful and equipped it with four-wheel drive, and the result of all this fettling is a car that’s a definite improvement over what is already an outstandingly good all-round hot hatch.
Outside, the styling tweaks are subtle - this is definitely a Golf, first and foremost. However, the R has its own special front bumper, air intakes, grille, sills, wheels and tailpipes, to add a bit of sparkle. The magic really starts under the bonnet. Power from VW’s 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine has been boosted up to 296bhp, and this means the Golf R can sprint from 0 to 62mph in under five seconds in automatic DSG form, and that’s considerably quicker than the GTI. The car was tweaked in 2017 and later models, known as the R 310, boast 306bhp from the same size engine, with impressive increases in efficiency. However, tougher emissions tests in 2018 meant that later cars were detuned back to the level of the older cars, in order to meet new legislation.
Standard kit is fairly comprehensive and includes LED head and rear lights, front and rear parking sensors, LED foglights, electric heated folding mirrors, tinted rear windows, adaptive cruise control, and automatic lights and wipers on the outside. Inside there are plenty of luxuries to enjoy too such as dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, Volkswagen's 12.3in digital instrument cluster, and the inclusion of an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system complete with sat-nav, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a DAB radio and smartphone integration.
On the road that performance is seriously impressive, and good fun. You’ll never want for power, in almost any situation. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph, but those who want to go faster could specify an R Performance Pack that derestricts the top speed and adds bigger wheels and bigger brakes. In truth, the standard versions will be fine for most people, and the car goes, stops and handles with considerable aplomb. True, one or two of its stiffer rivals, cars such as the Honda Civic Type R and the RenaultSport Megane, handle in a more eager fashion, but none of its rivals are as refined when you want it to be, and few are as comfortable over rough roads - it really can smooth over lumps and bumps on rougher roads with ease.
Inside is a typically Golf-like interior of solid quality and one that uses an excellent choice of high-class materials. It’s classy, and there are comfortable seats, finished in Alcantara and leather, which grip and support a driver without the long-term discomfort of something racier. The driving position is first class, with plenty of adjustability to the steering wheel and seat. Visibility is excellent, too, and there’s plenty of space up front. Rear seat passengers get plenty of head and leg room, too, and the boot is an excellent size and shape.
The dashboard and surrounding areas are all logically laid out. An 8.0in high-definition, glass-fronted, colour touchscreen is standard. Either side of it are touch-sensitive shortcut buttons (so you can flit between the main functions) and two knobs: one for volume control and the other for scrolling through lists or zooming in and out of maps on the sat-nav. There was also the option to upgrade to a 9.2in screen, too.
Either way, the menus are easy to figure out, so you won't need to resort to the handbook to connect your phone or create radio station presets. You can also see the sat-nav maps on the excellent 12.3in digital instrument binnacle. This standard feature replaces regular instrument dials and, as well as maps, displays lots of useful information right in front of your eyes.
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