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Volkswagen Golf R Review

The professionals pocket rocket.

The VW Golf has always been hot-hatch royalty.

Historically, it is a vehicle that is only dethroned by its next bloodline successor.

But today, there are many more competitors in the market, offering powerful engines, manual gearboxes and price tags to entice young hoons enthusiasts.

Volkswagen Golf R Review

This week, we're driving the Golf R, the new, powerful and mad version of the Golf. To make matters even spicier, the Golf recently rose in price by a considerable $10,000. You'll need to pay $73,439 to drive away the newest model.

Sure, the new version gets an extra 10.3% power. Some might be willing to pay $10,000 for that. But how does the Golf R stack up overall?

What's the Golf R like inside?

That price tag does get you a sophisticated vehicle. It is very much the grown-up hot hatch.

The interior is premium and sensible. There is nothing offensive about it – it is just like your everyday German runabout.

That's not always true in the category. The i30N, for instance, features big blue and red buttons on the steering wheel and red accents around the cabin that feel distinctly childish. The 2023 Golf R doesn't make that mistake.

The vehicle is bolted together very well, with solid parts and a level of sophistication that cheaper competitors don't have.

VW Golf R Interior

That's not to say the interior is boring though. You get a cockpit-style driving position with the infotainment screen tilted towards the driver, not the passenger. The little gear shifter looks like it could be the key for a supercar.

You also get racing seats with integrated headrests that are wrapped in supple Nappa leather and perforated in places. There are some subtle blue accents, but nothing that screams "boy racer".

The 10-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash is easy to use. This is good because it controls almost everything, including the air conditioning and drive modes. It also comes loaded with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Optioned on our test model was a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, which is a potential $1,000 option for audiophiles.

Below that is a wireless phone charger that has a nifty lid that locks your phone in place so it doesn't slide around. This is a nice touch and a level of detail missing in other vehicles.

Behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel is a 10.25-inch digital driver's display that is fully customisable. You can choose speed, map, directions and other options in a range of combinations.

The screen itself is good too. Crisp graphics, responsive and matched up to a heads-up display that can also show you a bunch of information.

For all this good tech though, I did find the controls on the steering wheel to be a bit fiddly. They're touch sensitive, so sliding your finger across the volume button will increase or decrease the volume – you can see how that could be annoying.

The temperature controls on the dash are also touch sensitive, which in this case is pretty handy – until you go to press the "home" button in the bottom corner of Android Auto and the temperature controls pop up and block it.

They certainly do look the part though.

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Generous door bins up front mean that there is plenty of storage alongside a smaller centre console bin. A cupholder can also be folded away to have more storage space if it is not in use.

In the back, I had a good amount of room for a hatch. My knees did touch the driver's seat with the seat in my driving position (not uncommon), but it wasn't uncomfortable and toe and headroom is also quite generous.

Taller people might be a tad uncomfortable back there.

What's the 2022 Golf R boot like?

Due to the subwoofer taking up some under floor space in the boot, the Golf R gets 374 litres of space. While that is more than Audi's S3 hatch, it might surprise you to learn that you cannot, in fact, fit golf clubs back there.

You'll need to fold the rear seat down for that.

If you fold both rear seats down though, you'll be able to use 1,230 litres of space. There is only a tire repair kit available.

VW Golf R Carrying Golf Clubs

What's the 2022 Golf R like to drive?

So it is grown up inside, but how does it drive?

The Golf R is powered by a 2-litre turbo petrol engine that produces 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque. That's more than the 228kW that the Audi S3 puts out or the 206kW from the i30N.

It's got guts then.

Power is then sent to all 4 wheels via a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The 4Motion all-wheel-drive system cleverly gets the power down for rapid acceleration and if traction isn't your thing, there is a drift mode too.

That means that it will dispatch zero to 100km/h faster than you should ever need to on public roads, with official figures at 4.8 seconds. This is similar to the Audi S3, but ahead of the Hyundai i30N, which does the dash in 5.8 seconds.

Unlike the i30N though, you never feel any danger. Power is linear and the all-wheel-drive system keeps everything on the straight and narrow – where the i30N wiggles around and torque steers as it gets the power down.

VW Golf R Parked

Gear changes are always sharp, and depending on what mode you have it running in, you can get the cracks and pops that we all love on shifts and lift off.

Big chunky R-branded brakes are fitted as well to help you wash off the speed.

When you aren't driving it like a lunatic, it will slurp through 7.8L litres per 100kms. With a 50-litre tank, you're looking at $99.7 to fill it to the brim (assuming a price of 199.4c per litre for 98RON).

In terms of ride, it's actually a bit more boy-racer than you might think from my earlier comments. In my first drive in the Golf, we headed along the M1 out of Sydney in comfort mode, and we found it to be fairly stiff in its set-up.

That being said, if you are in a part of Australia with decent roads and potholes that actually get fixed, you should be fine.

You get damper control, which allows you to pick a comfort setting and works in tandem with the Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) to make the car feel planted if you're hitting the track or some twisty roads.

All the while, the 4motion system is making calculations, analysing all sorts of information and feedback to make adjustments to ensure that each wheel maintains traction.

It almost feels as though it is on rails.

Parking is a cinch through the high-resolution and crystal-clear reversing camera. You shouldn't ever need 2 attempts at parking it.

Good rearward visibility means that you won't have to rely on the camera either, and when you flick it into reverse, the rear-view mirrors tilt downward to help you get in between the lines first time around.

Keep in mind though, that as part of the safety kit, it features autonomous emergency braking in both forward and reverse. At some point, this will scare the living sh*t out of you.

For me, this happened when reversing into a parking spot next to a small fern, which the Volkswagen Golf decided was too close (despite clearing it completely).

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There's nothing wrong with being overly cautious, especially when it comes to keeping panels straight – but don't say I didn't warn you.

And don't worry, those black leather seats wipe clean.

How safe is the 2022 Golf R?

As you would expect from Volkswagen, the 2022 Golf R scores a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

The standard safety kit includes the following:

  • Lane-keep assist
  • Blind-spot detection
  • Autonomous emergency braking front and rear
  • Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist
  • Reversing camera
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Driver fatigue detection

What are the ownership costs like for the 2022 Golf R?

For 5 years of service, you are looking at $3,100, which is a little on the expensive side. It is broken down as $1,700 for the first 3 years, while in the subsequent 2 years, you'll pay $1,400.

Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000kms (whichever comes first ). The 2022 Golf R also comes with a 5-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R Review: Verdict

This is the hot hatch for those who wear a suit Monday to Friday and are at the track Saturday and Sunday.

It's sensible and tastefully appointed inside.

It is rather handsomely styled too. It won't look out of place in the car park of company HQ but equally has that aggressive look that lets you know it means business.

It has more get up and go than you'll ever need day to day but is also completely manageable. While the touch-sensitive buttons may be a tad annoying, over a week of using the Golf R I eventually adjusted.

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Publisher

Alex Jeffs is the senior publisher for automotive content at Finder. He has tested vehicles everywhere from Tasmania to Oodnadatta. See full bio

Alex's expertise
Alex has written 70 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Automotive industry
  • Car finance
  • Car insurance
  • Personal finance

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