Volkswagen Golf R (2014 – 2020) Review

Volkswagen Golf R (2014 – 2020) At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Golf R is all extremely impressive, but despite its all-round capability it lacks the fizzy, characterful personality of some rivals, most notably the third generation Ford Focus RS.

+Surefooted all-wheel drive handling, impressive performance, subtle styling, available as an estate

-Less exciting than a Focus RS, estate is DSG auto only.

Insurance Groups are between 30–39
On average it achieves 77% of the official MPG figure

The Volkswagen Golf R sits at the top of the performance tree for this hatchback range, yet it doesn’t shout about its abilities in the way it looks. Rather, the Golf R does its talking when you get behind the wheel and experience its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with more than 300PS on tap. This is delivered through a four-wheel drive system to make sure every ounce is used to best effect, and you have a choice of manual or DSG automatic gearboxes. There are also three- and five-door hatches, and an estate for good measure.

For anyone who likes the subtlety of the Volkswagen Golf GTI but wants more performance, the German firm has offered the R version for many years.

Rather than a faster version of the GTI, the R is very much a standalone model and this is emphasised by this top of the tree model having 4Motion all-wheel drive where the GTI makes do with front-drive.

The R is certainly restrained by the standard of rivals such as the Honda Civic Type R or Mercedes-AMG A35, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything shy or retiring about its performance. When launched in 2014, the three- and five-door hatch and the estate models all packed a 300PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine. There was also a choice of six-speed manual or DSG auto gearboxes.

Under the bonnet of the Golf R is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, putting out 300PS and 380Nm of torque. Importantly that torque is available right the way from 1800rpm to 5500rpm, so there is plenty of readily accessible overtaking performance almost regardless of which gear you are in.

In 2017, power was increased to 310PS and there was also the option of a Performance Pack. This did nothing to the power figure but relieved the R of its top speed limiter at 155mph. So, the hatch could march on to 166mph and the slightly more aerodynamic estate could hit 168mph.

The all-wheel drive system does a good job of transferring that power to the road. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 5.1 seconds with the manual transmission and cornering grip is huge. The R can be driven with absolute confidence, despite its impressive performance, with great body control and accurate steering.

The DSG version needed just 4.6 seconds for the same sprint. In anyone’s book, that makes the Golf R a very quick car indeed and one that only the very quickest of hatch rivals could get near, such as the Mercedes A35 and Ford Focus RS in its third generation with four-wheel drive and 2.3-litre motor.

Inside it’s as restrained and well-made as any other Golf, with three-door, five-door and estate body styles offered. It is well-equipped, with climate control, a touchscreen navigation system, auto lights, auto wipers and cruise control included as standard, along with selectable drive modes.

Some might find the interior a little too similar to the Golf GTI’s, but that’s no bad thing in our book as the Golf’s cabin is always a comfortable, superbly well built place to pass any journey.

Ask Honest John

Which estate car or SUV should I buy for under £20,000?
"Which sporty (200+ bhp) estate car or SUV should I buy with large boot and a £15,000-£20,000 budget? I currently have a 45-50-mile daily commute and holiday a lot in the UK. Ideally, I would like a petrol but wonder if diesel is more suited. I have considered the BMW 5 series and X3, Skoda Superb saloon/estate or a Volkswagen Golf R estate. What would you recommend - any of these or something else? "
There's nothing wrong with any of those cars. Sportiest of the lot is the Volkswagen Golf R estate – it'll keep most supercars honest on a twisting road. And it's a Golf, so it feels nicely built and is very well designed. It's even reasonably frugal given its power and four-wheel drive: The BMW 5 Series is the other model I'd recommend. It's not got the outright pace of the Golf R but it's got nicer steering and is better balanced, it's a great all rounder. Your budget will get a 520d version of the current estate or a 530d of the old model – the 520d is surprisingly punchy and gets great fuel economy, but the 530d has effortless power and is frugal for its size and performance.
Answered by Russell Campbell
Volkswagen Golf GTI vs Golf R - which is better?
"Which would be most appropriate for everyday use, a second-hand Golf GTI or a used Golf R?"
Both are fine for everyday use. Our money would go on the GTI - it's got a little less power but is arguably more fun than the Golf R. The Golf R is very good at getting you to your destination quickly, but it's not as involving to drive. Your money will go further on a used GTI, too.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Is a Volkswagen T-Roc R a logical upgrade from a Golf R?
"Do you think I should buy new or secondhand Volkswagen T-Roc R? I drive a Golf R but my husband finds it difficult to get into. Thank you."
There are some really strong savings to be had on nearly-new T-Roc R models, as long as you're not concerned about having a factory order or the latest registration plate. £35,000 will get you an ex-demo model with just a few thousand miles on the clock. That's a saving of around £6000 but it'll look and feel like new. If you like your Golf R, the Volkswagen T-Roc sounds like the perfect choice. Also consider a Cupra Ateca or BMW X2 M35i.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Can I get 19-inch all-season tyres?
"My 2016 Volkswagen Golf R is due for new tyres and I would appreciate your advice on tyre choice. It came with Continental Conti Sport Contact 5 which have been good but I would like to know if there is a suitable all-season tyre available? It has 19-inch wheels."
All season tyres don't work with very low profiles because the tyre sidewalls are insufficiently compliant. I'd go with Pirelli P Zeros that work well on the Golf R and Golf GTI TCR and have a bead around the sidewall to protect alloy rims from kerbing. Check Tyres On The Drive ( and ( for sizes and prices and read our Tyre Buying Guide (
Answered by Honest John
More Questions

What does a Volkswagen Golf R (2014 – 2020) cost?