Driven - September 2019

Why I’ve come to love the VW Golf R

Why I’ve come to love the VW Golf R

If there is one vehicle VW know how to make well, it’s the hatch. More specifically, the hot hatch.  We’ve been blessed with the Polo & Golf GTI for many years and more recently, the Golf R and special edition vehicles such as the Clubsport and Clubsport S. As South Africa is a massive market for these vehicles, we’ve had our fair share of driving tests and experiences. 

In all honesty, I’ve always been a bigger fan of the Golf GTI, ( Especially Clubsport) over the Golf R. Yes, the Golf R is much quicker but the GTI always provided a better, more engaging driving experience. A great front-wheel-drive hot hatch can be hard to beat from a driving engagement perspective, but having said that, I’ve really started to understand the Golf R and the reasons to own one over a GTI.

After my recent test drive, I realized that the 228kW Golf R is your everyday super hatch.  Power is delivered through all 4 wheels and this makes for cleaner acceleration, more grip and an overall smoother driving experience. Due to this, there’s not much drama with the R but that doesn’t discount from R’s straight-line speed, it flies, it’s an absolute weapon. Add this to a comfortable, well-insulated cabin and you have yourself a great way to get to work, and if you’re running late, you’ll be glad you bought one. 

In-car technology is also an area the 228kW Golf R excelled, VW has refined the interior cabin in the 7.5 generation and the streamlined, flush display is instantly noticeable. Add this to the digital cockpit display which replaces the analogue dials and you have yourself a pretty futuristic setup – in a hatchback!  I’m a big fan of seamless processes and being able to jump into the Golf R, connect my phone and have Apple CarPlay with Spotify and Waze running in a matter of minutes is a big plus. There’s no fuss, no mess, you plug and go which is pretty much the 228kW Golf R overall.

In the past, previous generations of the Golf R haven’t been the most exciting looking vehicles, however the 228kW version now available in South Africa gets some additional black gloss trim, slightly redesigned bumpers and the rear exhaust tips placed further out to give a wider look at the rear.  The small details add to the overall look and feel of the car and makes the R look and feel that little bit more special. 

If you’re reading this article, you’ll probably know that for an extra fee ( R40k) you can have yourself a factory-fitted Akropovic exhaust system. Now if you’re worried that this will reduce practically and make the vehicle annoyingly loud, you can stop worrying. Firstly, the R is very well insulated and the system doesn’t drone, which means when your driving at a steady pace on the highway it’s not going to cause much bother. Secondly, I found most of the sound to come on hard acceleration, and if you’re accelerating hard you’re probably going to want to hear it as well. Also, the additional crackles and pops on gear changes make the system WELL worth it. 

What really rounds off the Golf R package is practicality. We mustn’t forget that the R is a Golf – one of the most practical hatchbacks around. There’s plenty of space for rear passengers and ample boot space as well. Not all “ family cars” are cool, this one is. 

If you’re someone who is looking for the practicality, comfort, and safety of a Golf, but find yourself craving power and performance of a sports car, the 228kW Golf R is a splendid choice.