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Volkswagen Golf R 2022 review

This year marks 20 years of R-branded Golfs, so is the latest model the best one ever? (Image: Tom White)
EXPERT RATING
8.5
With such a strong pedigree, how has VW upped the R ante this time around?

2022 marks 20 years of Golf hatchbacks bearing the R logo. What started back in 2002 with a six-cylinder engine shoehorned into a much smaller car, has become the standard to beat when it comes to super hatchbacks.

With such a prestigious history, and a previous-generation car which seemed at the top of its game, what more can VW do to up the ante for the R badge?

Turns out, there’s a lot, but you’ll have to read on to find out.

Volkswagen Golf 2022: GTI
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$54,490

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Perhaps it is best to get the bad news out of the way first. Like the rest of the Golf 8 range, the new R takes a major price-hike compared to the outgoing car.

Starting from $65,990, even after a last-second discount this is to the tune of $10,000 more than the outgoing Mk7.5 R. Double ouch.

A lot of this is sunk into the new technology and updated platform which the eighth-generation Golf brings with it, but there’s a lot of innovative tech hidden from the eye which enhances performance, too.

Starting with the standard stuff though, and the Golf R impresses on the inside with its suite of dual screens for the multimedia and dash complete with sleek new software, Nappa leather bucket seats with R highlights, wireless phone connectivity with a wireless phone charger, tri-zone climate control, interior ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats with a heated steering wheel, and keyless entry with push-start ignition.

The Golf R wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Tom White) The Golf R wears 18-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Tom White)

On the outside the R gets its own bodykit, adaptive matrix LED headlights, front and rear progressive indicators, a squared-off spoiler out the back and a new set of 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Harman Kardon premium audio system has been dropped to the options menu for $1000 (with a corresponding $1000 drop in price), and the panoramic sunroof comes in at $2000.

Up front are adaptive matrix LED headlights. (image credit: Tom White) Up front are adaptive matrix LED headlights. (image credit: Tom White)

Yes, the new Golf R is expensive. But as its main competitors include cars like the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S ($99,985) and Audi RS3 ($92,200) I think it has little to fear. I suppose you could always go down a size-class to the Toyota GR Yaris ($49,500) or lose all-wheel drive in favour of the Hyundai i30N ($48,000) but would you, really?

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

One thing the R has always been good at is subtlety. This certainly continues for this new version. It takes the existing pared back lines of the Golf 8 and turns them up ever so slightly in all the right areas. From blacked-out air dams and the new LEDs up the front, to massive wheels and the 20mm lower ride height in profile, the R absolutely looks the part.

Around the rear is a more aggressive two-tone spoiler piece than the one which appears on the even more low-key Tiguan R, and it wouldn’t be a Golf R without the air splitter and quad exhaust at the rear. Still, blink and you’ll miss it in traffic, making it just enough of a ‘sleeper’ to stay under the radar.

The new cabin brings all of the innovations from the rest of the Golf 8 range. (image credit: Tom White) The new cabin brings all of the innovations from the rest of the Golf 8 range. (image credit: Tom White)

The new cabin brings all of the innovations from the rest of the Golf 8 range, but this is one area where I think there could be more R. The highlights are the new bucket seats which look and feel properly special, but aside from the smattering of small blue highlights throughout the cabin the only thing which sets the R apart is the carbon-look motif dash inlay.

It all looks and feels great, but VW could have added more wow-factor to make it feel a little less as though you could be sitting in just any Golf 8.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Thankfully this tame approach to the cabin means the R doesn’t miss out on any of the practicality innovations this time around. Like all new Golfs the cabin feels spacious thanks to the more restrained design, and I found plenty of leg, head, and arm room for myself up front. Visibility continues to be great, as does seating comfort, even when you’re throwing it around at track velocities.

For every day drives, though, there are enormous bottle holders and bins in the doors, a big centre console bay with a flip-out cupholder, a tidy centre area devoid of transmission stalks or buttons, which leads up to the wireless charging bay. Like the GTI, this bay has a clamshell shelf to hold your device in place while the car is in motion, providing another space on top for wallets and other loose items.

Behind my own seating position I have plenty of room. (image credit: Tom White) Behind my own seating position I have plenty of room. (image credit: Tom White)

Behind my own seating position I have plenty of room despite the R’s chunkier bucket seats, and VW has even gone to the effort to provide the same neat phone-sized pockets on the back. There’s again a large bottle holder in the door, and three more of varying sizes in the drop-down armrest. Here also hides a ski-port (very European).

Most impressive is the third dedicated climate zone for rear passengers with adjustable air vents (rare in the hatch segment), as well as two USB-C outlets. It’s hard to do better in any hatch, let alone one designed to go this fast.

  • Cargo capacity is rated at 374 litres VDA. (image credit: Tom White) Cargo capacity is rated at 374 litres VDA. (image credit: Tom White)
  • The parcel shelf needs to be removed in order to fit the three-piece CarsGuide luggage set. (image credit: Tom White) The parcel shelf needs to be removed in order to fit the three-piece CarsGuide luggage set. (image credit: Tom White)

Even the boot is great, with 374 litres (VDA) on offer, on the upper-end for a hatch. This accepts the three-piece CarsGuide demo luggage set, although the parcel shelf needs to be removed.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

Of course, the new R is the most potent Golf ever built, with a revised version of the renowned EA888 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Power figures come to 235kW/400Nm this time around, with the peak torque arriving from just 2000rpm.

Power is sent to the wheels via an overhauled '4Motion' all-wheel drive system, which uses a new twin-clutch pack at the rear to enable more torque to be actively sent to a single wheel when needed.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 235kW/400Nm. (image credit: Tom White) The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 235kW/400Nm. (image credit: Tom White)

Drive itself is regulated by the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, the wet clutch version of which is at home here in a performance application.

Could you have more power? You can always have more. The Mercedes-AMG A 45 S is your next port of call, with 310kW/500Nm, just have your cheque book ready.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The Golf R has an official/combined cycle fuel consumption rating of 7.5L/100km. Not bad. Our car only overshot this number slightly in our three-day test, with largely urban kilometres generating 9.0L/100km. Still, for the potential this car has, I’d consider this result very good.

At the rear is the R's signature quad exhaust. (image credit: Tom White) At the rear is the R's signature quad exhaust. (image credit: Tom White)

The caveat is you have to fill its 55-litre tank with top-shelf 98RON unleaded fuel.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The R features all of the new safety equipment which ships on the new eighth-generation Golf.

Included is all the expected gear and more, with freeway-speed auto emergency braking which detects cyclists and pedestrians, intersection assist auto-braking, low-speed manoeuvre braking, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, driver attention alert, and an exit warning system. Excellent.

The Golf also has eight airbags (dual front, quad side, and dual curtain) as well as the expected stability controls for a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating to the 2019 standard.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

All Volkswagens have a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the duration. Interestingly what they don’t have is a limited (non-timed) warranty coverage for the track like rival Hyundais.

The Golf R is covered by VW's five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (image credit: Tom White) The Golf R is covered by VW's five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. (image credit: Tom White)

I would describe service pricing as ‘European’, with the Golf R most cheaply serviced with the inclusive care packages which need to be selected at the time of purchase. Three years costs $1700, while the most affordable five-year package costs $3100 for an average of $620 a year. Not ‘premium’ but not cheap either.

What's it like to drive?   10/10

The Golf 8 was already excellent to drive, and the R only adds the missing punch. It’s very much a story of not needing to up the power, as much as it is this car using what it has more intelligently through its new hardware and software trickery.

A boost of just 22kW and 20Nm over the previous Mk7.5 is all this car needs to trim lap times down, as the new rear clutch system is a thing of glory, allowing the new R to be more agile, with less understeer and more controlled oversteer where the superb grip levels are exceeded.

Extra modes this time around include ‘Drift’ which preps the car to slide by tuning the ESC down (or, optionally, off) with the preference for sending extra torque to the rear outside wheel to make it easier to break into and sustain a slide.

The R has always looked subtle and the mark 8 continues this trend. (image credit: Tom White) The R has always looked subtle and the mark 8 continues this trend. (image credit: Tom White)

A new Nurburgring ‘Special’ mode sets the steering and driveline up for race settings, while loosening the ride more for fast driving on less-than-ideal surfaces. Again, this car works smarter, not harder.

Minor hardware changes this time around also includes a 20mm drop in ride height and a lighter aluminium subframe also seen in the GTI. The dual-clutch is at home in this application, with the 4.8-second 0-100km/h sprint time feeling quite real when launch mode is enabled.

When it comes to driving on the road the R is alarmingly tame and composed. The dampers offer a surprisingly forgiving ride over most bumps and corrugations, even with those large 19-inch wheels and in the default ‘Sport’ drive mode.

Around the rear is a aggressive two-tone spoiler. (image credit: Tom White) Around the rear is a aggressive two-tone spoiler. (image credit: Tom White)

'Comfort' mode, which quietens the exhaust and softens the steering and ride further makes it easy to forget what kind of antics this hatch is capable of, with the only reminder of this car’s super-hatch properties being the extra road noise from the slim tyres.

My main complaint about the R is one of the same issues I had with the rest of the Golf 8 range, in that it can be quite distracting to use the touch functions for climate and multimedia while you’re trying to drive.

The R is an impressive all-rounder, offering the security of all-wheel drive and everyday comfort with the smarts to more effectively make the most of its power.

Verdict

The new R is not just faster, better equipped, and better appointed than its predecessors. It expands the envelope by being smarter in the way it uses its power through its software and hardware innovations.

While it is much more expensive than the outgoing car it offers an unprecedented breadth of ability, being safer and more refined for the casual driver, with the ability to strip it back for the purist. To me it’s a win-win.

Pricing guides

$50,890
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$32,790
Highest Price
$68,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
110TSI 1.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $32,790 2022 Volkswagen Golf 2022 110TSI Pricing and Specs
110TSI Life 1.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $35,290 2022 Volkswagen Golf 2022 110TSI Life Pricing and Specs
110TSI R-Line 1.4L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $38,490 2022 Volkswagen Golf 2022 110TSI R-Line Pricing and Specs
GTI 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $54,490 2022 Volkswagen Golf 2022 GTI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.5
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality9
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Safety9
Ownership8
Driving10
Tom White
Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$54,490

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.