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Volkswagen Golf R 2020 review: Final Edition

Viper Green somehow looks sharper than it did on the Scirocco R.
EXPERT RATING
8.4
Six years is a long time in the car world, so why is it that the VW Golf R is more appealing now than ever?

A lot has changed in the past six years. Most of it seems to have happened in 2020, but since the Mk7 Golf R first arrived in April 2014, Australia also stopped manufacturing cars, the US wound up with President Trump, England left the EU and Elon launched a human rocket.

During this time, the Golf R has been treated to a handful of special editions on Australian soil and updated to Mk7.5 status in early 2018. Despite its age, it’s hard to think of another car that quite matches the Golf R for outright ‘only those in the know’ cool and everyday proper performance at a pretty reasonable price.

But it’s almost time to say goodbye to this generation of the ultimate road-going Golf, and VW Australia has saved a couple of tricks to the end that can make you the perpetual envy of any Mk7 forum, group, gathering, club or Golf R owners in general.  

That’s because the Golf R Final Edition’s most distinctive feature isn’t just another bolt-on, but rather three hand-painted colour options yet to be seen on a Golf in Australia, which are being spread across a limited run of just 150 units. The remaining 300 Final Editions will feature a selection of regular Golf R colours, but more on that later.

Volkswagen Golf 2020: R
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.2L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$55,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Compared to the regular Golf R that continues to be available - including the uber-cool wagon that sadly hasn’t made the cut as a Final Edition - the Final Edition hatch adds $2500 for a list price of $57,990. 

The three special colours of Victory Blue, Viper Green and Violet Touch Pearlescent purple will cost you a further $300, but the other Final Edition goodies are black mirror caps, Dynaudio premium sound system, lashings of Nappa leather trim (upgrading from the regular Vienna), Final Edition badging and the black Pretoria 19-inch alloys we’ve seen on other Golf R special editions and in my opinion are the best MK7-era Golf R wheel they made.

These three special colours will cost you a further $300. These three special colours will cost you a further $300.

If none of the special colours tickle your fancy, you can still opt for Pure White, Lapiz Blue or Deep Black Pearl with your Final Edition, but if you’re after Tornado Red or Indium Grey, you’ll have to stick to the regular Golf R.

Other standard Golf R features beyond its hot mechanical package and subtle design tweaks include a 9.2-inch multimedia screen with gesture and voice controls on top of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, heated front seats with electric driver’s adjustment and memory settings, tinted windows, active LED headlights, active cruise control and front and rear parking sensors. You can also add a panoramic glass sunroof for an extra $1900. 

If anyone you share financial responsibility with suggests that nearly $60k is a lot for a small hatchback, you might want to remind them that Mercedes is asking nearly $100k for an A45 S, and it’s far from double the car.

Subtle design tweaks include a 9.2-inch multimedia screen. Subtle design tweaks include a 9.2-inch multimedia screen.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The thinking behind the Final Edition’s special paint options is nothing new to VW, and represents the latest in a line of ‘Colour Concept’ models that include the now-cherished multicolour Harlequins that were available in other markets and a handful of specifically coloured Mk3 VR6s that made their way to Australia in the ‘90s.

The Golf R Final Edition’s Colour Concept colours aren’t just plucked from the European options list either. Despite the Viper Green appearing previously on the Scirocco R, each green, blue and purple Final Edition is removed from the regular production line before painting. It’s then taken to a specific paint shop to be hand painted (no robots here) before returning to the production line for final assembly.

The thinking behind the Final Edition’s special paint options is nothing new to VW. The thinking behind the Final Edition’s special paint options is nothing new to VW.

Aside from these colours, the typical Golf R hallmarks of specific (but not annoyingly low-hanging) front and rear bumpers remain, with the key visual cue remaining those quad oval exhausts.  

My appreciation for the Final Edition’s Pretoria wheels is two-fold. They’re both lighter than the regular-issue Spielberg design, but also visually fit the R’s performance-focused character better with their pragmatically straight spokes and lack of diamond-finish glitz. I’d be working out a way to have mine in silver though. 

The Final Edition’s Nappa-appointed seats also continue with the carbon-pattern bolsters of other leather-equipped Golf Rs, which I’ve never been a fan of given real carbon isn’t a pliable material, but it’s certainly distinctive.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

Nothing new here, with the same five-door livability we’ve seen from every MK7 Golf R.

There’s cupholders front and rear, bottle holders in each door, an armrest on the back seat and ample room for four average-height adults at once.

There's nothing new here when it comes to the space inside. There's nothing new here when it comes to the space inside.

There’s ISOFIX shield seat mounts in the two outboard positions, and top tethers for all three rear seats. 

The 343-litre boot is still 37 litres smaller than a regular Golf due to the R’s rear differential eating into the space, but it’s still a decent size for its class and expands to 1233 litres via the 60/40 split-fold. Also eating into that space is the space-saver spare under the boot floor. Many of the R’s rivals have moved to a more compact inflation system, but you’d be grateful for the spare if you ever need it.

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

There’s also no mechanical differences for the Final Edition, but this is hardly a bad thing.

The 213kW and 380Nm from the familiar turbocharged 2.0-litre, combined with the seven-speed DQ381 wet-clutch dual clutch (DSG) auto that came with the 7.5 update still carry a 4.8 second 0-100km/h claim, which is still mighty fast for this end of the price spectrum. Maximum torque available all the way from 1850-5300rpm, which bodes well for everyday easy urge from just 2.0 litres. 

There’s no mechanical differences for the Final Edition, but this is hardly a bad thing. There’s no mechanical differences for the Final Edition, but this is hardly a bad thing.

Now more than a couple of years into production, this wet-clutch DSG seems to be faring much better than the often trouble-plagued dual-clutchers of yore, and VW is committed to keeping these issues in the past. 

No, there’s no manual option anymore, but anyone that doesn’t understand how fundamental the DSG is to the Golf R character just doesn’t get it.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

The Golf R’s 7.2L/100km official combined fuel consumption figure is mighty impressive for a car boasting a 4.8 second 0-100km/h claim. 

It does need the exxy 98 RON Premium unleaded to do its best though, but can manage with cheaper 95 RON Premium. 

Among my many Golf R experiences, I managed to record an even more impressive 6.9L/100km highway figure during the month my family spent aboard the previous Grid Edition wagon, which aside from being 70kg heavier than the hatch, was also fully laden with kids and luggage at the time. 

The Golf R’s official combined fuel consumption figure is mighty impressive. The Golf R’s official combined fuel consumption figure is mighty impressive.

During this test of the Final Edition, I aimed for the opposite end of that spectrum by recording pump figures after a morning of flat chat track driving around Luddenham Raceway. 

The result? Try 17.1L/100km including to and from the nearest servos, which is pretty amazing considering I get about 16L/100km from my standard 1.6-litre MX-5 under similar circumstances, but with miles less performance than the Golf R. 

So with its 55-litre fuel tank, you can expect a range between 310-797km, depending on whether you’re cruising along the highway or using all 213kW on the track.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

Safety has always been a Mk7 Golf strong point, and despite first appearing nearly eight years ago and the regular Golf's maximum five star ANCAP safety rating being based on standards dating back as far as 2013, it’s continued to offer features to seemingly keep pace with much more recent products. The all-wheel drive Golf R (and Alltrack) is sadly still officially unrated.

Nonetheless, dual front airbags are complemented by a driver’s knee bag, front side airbags and curtain airbags front and rear. 

Safety has always been a Mk7 Golf strong point. Safety has always been a Mk7 Golf strong point.

The city AEB only works at speeds up to 30km/h, but does include pedestrian detection and is bolstered by multi-collison braking that holds the brakes on after an initial collision to prevent successive impacts.

It also features driver fatigue detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane guidance and rear cross-traffic alerts. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Another detail that’s changed during the Mk7 Gold R’s lengthy lifespan is VW’s warranty extension to now cover five years and unlimited kilometres, which thankfully represents the status quo for mainstream brands these days.

Service intervals are a generous 12 months or 15,000km and are covered by capped price servicing for the duration of the warranty. 

VW’s warranty extension now covers five years and unlimited kilometres. VW’s warranty extension now covers five years and unlimited kilometres.

The average cost per service during this period is $559.80, leading to a total cost of $2799, which is only marginally more than a regular Golf and quite impressive for a car in this performance league.

This cost can be reduced by prepurchasing a Volkswagen Care Plan, which will cut the servicing price over five years down to $2300, or can also be purchased as a three year plan for $1350.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Of all the Golf R’s many bow strings, the way it drives is clearly the most important. Like most of these attributes, it’s also changed very little in the past six years. 

It’s always a nimble little jigger with a light, yet connected feel in the nose and heaps of urge available under your right foot. 

The chassis is still a smidge tighter than a GTI, but a fair chunk faster, and just on the right side of comfortable enough to live with for car-apathetic family members. 

Of all the Golf R’s many bow strings, the way it drives is clearly the most important. Of all the Golf R’s many bow strings, the way it drives is clearly the most important.

There’s always a nice rumble from those four exhausts and sounds more like a WRX than the current Subaru, but not enough to annoy those same family members or wake the neighbours. 

I’ve personally spent thousands of kilometres aboard all variations on road, track and ice, with the wagon loaded to the hilt, and child seats locked and loaded, and it’s hard to think of another car with such breadth of ability and appeal. 

The ride comfort and grip from the seats is indeed better with cloth and Alcantara trim, which was standard on the few Mk7 cars not optioned with leather or the limited Mk7.5 Grid Edition to my knowledge. But it’s still a nice place to be with whichever grade of leather you wind up with. 

The Final Edition’s media launch included the aforementioned morning at the still very fresh Luddenham Raceway, which is a tight, technical and short 1.4km track with lots of elevation and camber changes and grass runoff into oblivion to keep you on your toes. 

The Golf R continues to be a really easy car to drive at its limit. The Golf R continues to be a really easy car to drive at its limit.

Just the place for something small with great point to point acceleration and extremely safe chassis balance then. Sounds a lot like the Golf R to me. 

With the drive mode switched over to Race to sharpen up the steering, dampers, transmission and throttle to make the most of the experience, the Golf R feels more like it’s crouching ready to pounce. 

Even in Race mode, the steering is still relatively light, and the crispness of all other controls helps to overcome the numbness of wearing a race helmet.

Chassis balance is generally good, and gives way to subtle understeer once the limits are reached. It’s therefore a relatively safe way to go fast and makes inducing oversteer that much more satisfying given the effort required to induce it on throttle liftoff.

Like most road-focused performance cars, the tyres get too hot after a handful of full noise laps. Like most road-focused performance cars, the tyres get too hot after a handful of full noise laps.

We fiddled with the tyre pressure balance from front to rear to add a bit more front end grip, so don’t feel you need to run out and splurge on semi slicks to alter your R’s track performance straight away. 

The stability control can be switched off altogether if you’re wanting to really push things, but I didn’t actually think to given it was my first time at Luddenham and the runoff can be on the precarious side.

Like most road-focused performance cars, the tyres get too hot after a handful of full noise laps and the brakes start to smell, but it’s all in the name of prioritising on-road all-weather performance. 

In short, the Golf R continues to be a really easy car to drive at its limit, and therefore a safe option for hitting the track if you’re still working your way up to Senna status.

Verdict

So it seems the more the world has changed, the more the Mk7/7.5 Golf R has stayed pretty much the same for its six years on sale to date. And it simply doesn’t matter. 

Anyone who bought one in 2014 is understandably probably looking forward to the next one by now, and the Mk8 Golf R will make an appearance in the not too distant future. 

But right now, the last of the current Golf Rs is still a very special thing, and if you want one of the rarest ones built, now’s your chance.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Pricing guides

$41,890
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$25,790
Highest Price
$57,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
110 TSI Comfortline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,790 2020 Volkswagen Golf 2020 110 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
110 TSI Highline 1.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $34,990 2020 Volkswagen Golf 2020 110 TSI Highline Pricing and Specs
110 TSI Trendline 1.4L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $25,790 2020 Volkswagen Golf 2020 110 TSI Trendline Pricing and Specs
GTI 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $47,190 2020 Volkswagen Golf 2020 GTI Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.4
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership9
Driving9
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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Pricing Guide

$55,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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