The interior layout, fit and finish
The driver’s seat in the Volkswagen Golf R is figure-huggingly bolstered and holds you in place well during quick changes of direction. It also has adjustable lumbar support as standard and there’s plenty of reach adjustment in the steering wheel. We also love that the pedals are placed neatly in line with the wheel and seat, helping you to feel right at home.
Visibility isn't a problem; the Golf’s large windows and relatively slim windscreen pillars make it easy to see straight ahead and to the sides. The rear pillars are fairly chunky, but given that front and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard, you shouldn’t find slotting into a tight parking space an overly stressful experience.
A rear-view camera is optional, and to help you see where you’re going at night, Adaptive Matrix LED headlights that you can keep on main beam without fear of dazzling other drivers, are also included.
So far so good, then – until we come to the Golf R’s dashboard. It has no physical buttons, just silly touch-sensitive controls for the lights and a few other features, plus touch-sensitive sliders to adjust the interior temperature and volume. This makes everything needlessly distracting to operate on the move, because a touch-sensitive button is impossible to find unless you take your eyes off the road.
Because even the controls on the steering wheel are part touch-sensitive, it’s all too easy to accidentally trigger a driving mode change by brushing the wrong part of the wheel when steering around a corner. Overall, the Audi S3 and BMW M135i have much more user-friendly interiors.
What isn’t controlled with touch-sensitive buttons is operated via the touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard – and that's no better. The software is clearly designed to look good, but Volkswagen forgot to make it intuitive, so you find features buried in locations that make absolutely no sense – for example, the traction control switch is hidden in a sub-menu for the brakes. Overall, we much prefer the infotainment systems in the S3 and M135i.
On the plus side, the screen is mounted high up, is a decent size (10.0in) and is of fairly high definition, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are included in the price, along with wireless phone charging and a DAB radio. A more powerful Harman Kardon sound system is a reasonably priced option.
Interior quality isn’t bad by any means but, as we’ve already explained, the Golf R is priced in line with premium-badged rivals, such as the S3 and M135i. Those cars, particularly the BMW, feel more upmarket inside, with fewer hard plastics and more lavish materials on show.
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