Costs & verdict
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Golf R costs roughly the same to buy as an Audi S3 or BMW M135i, and this might lead you to raise an eyebrow. After all, each of those rivals wear a premium badge, and it’s usually the case that an equivalent Volkswagen costs less.
There are some mitigating circumstances, however. Firstly, as we’ve already mentioned, the Golf R does have a more powerful engine than its rivals. It also comes with more standard equipment; as well as those Matrix LED headlights and the infotainment gadgetry we mentioned earlier, you also get adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and three-zone climate control with separate controls for those sitting in the back.
Mind you, the only standard paint colour is white, and you have to pay extra for heated seats. There are plenty of other options worth considering, too, including adaptive suspension (DCC). The R Performance Pack, which we’ve yet to try, adds larger 19in alloy wheels (you get 18s as standard), raises the top speed to 168mph and adds a drift mode.
The Golf R comes with a three-year warranty, but Volkswagen didn’t perform brilliantly in the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing in 20th place (out of 31 brands). That’s above Audi but below BMW, Ford and Honda.
Automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and something called Car-to-X comes as standard. The latter allows all cars fitted with the same feature – not just Volkswagens – to share information on the traffic conditions and any hazards within a radius of 800m, so you can get an early warning of the dangers that lie ahead.
The Golf also achieved a five-star (out of five) Euro NCAP safety rating, with excellent category scores that all but matched the best cars in the class. For even better protection should the worst happen, you can add front side and rear curtain airbags for a reasonable price.
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