The Volkswagen Golf is a highly popular hatchback around the globe. It’s not surprising because this 5-door offers a ton of flexibility for urban living. You get utility, fuel efficiency, and sporty driving dynamics. That makes a good formula for success. Add in the Golf R high-performance model, and you get a pocket-rocket that will excite any driving enthusiast.
This week we test drove the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.
What’s New For 2016?
The 2016 Golf remains relatively unchanged except for a few tech updates. It gets new infotainment touch screens that support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base model, and the newly available Driver Assistance package offers advanced accident-avoidance technology.
Features & Options
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R ($35,650) comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic adaptive xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, a rear spoiler, quad tailpipes, keyless ignition and entry, selectable drive modes, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Golf R also gets leather upholstery, heated front sport seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (with power lumbar), a partial power passenger seat with power recline, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and split-folding rear seats with a center pass-through. The aforementioned rearview camera was included along with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and Bluetooth connectivity. Finally, an eight-speaker audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, USB port, SD card reader, and voice controls topped off our Golf R.
Total MSRP including destination: $36,470.
From the outside, the Golf looks like a small compact, but on the inside, it’s a different story. Because of its exterior shape, the inside is much bigger than you would think. The relatively boxy shape may not be the most stylish, but it provides impressive head and shoulder room for this class. Up front, there’s ample room for taller drivers and passengers. Out back, it’s spacious enough for adults.
The Golf has a conservative feel to it, but most surfaces are covered in soft quality materials. The black dash is nicely complimented with light metallic trim. The theme in the Golf R is sporty and clean, not unlike many German sports cars. The Golf R gets a sport tilt/telescoping steering wheel, red ambient lighting, and upgraded instrumentation. The sport seats are clad in leather with ample bolstering that held us tight during spirited driving.
Utility is the key word for the Golf hatchback too. There is 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and an exceptional 52.7 cubic feet with it folded flat.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
What’s under the hood is what will excite performance enthusiasts. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R is powered by a 292 horsepower, 2-liter turbo four-cylinder. It features a stiffer suspension, and comes with all-wheel drive. According to Volkswagen, the Golf R launches from 0-60 mph in a lightning quick 5.3 seconds with the stick shift.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 25 mpg combined and 22/31 city/highway with the manual gearbox.
Along with the Subaru WRX STI, the Golf R is a track-focused machine that is a 9.5 of 10 on the fun-to-drive meter. If this car were in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, it would get a gold medal. The BMW M2 is the only car this writer has driven that ranks higher. The Golf R has come directly from the factory with enough performance to get driving purists ripe from anticipation every time they get behind the wheel.
With its 4Motion all-wheel drive and various suspension upgrades, the R feels like it’s on rails on pavement. We took it up a twisty stretch of two-lane mountain road and the hatchback performed as advertised. We took 20 mph corners a lot faster than the local law enforcement would appreciate. On the daily commute, the R performs like a perfect citizen – the ride isn’t harsh like some compact performance cars. It’s quick to maneuver in heavy traffic and easy to park in tight spots.
The Golf R is the perfect balance of utility, performance, and comfort for urban commuters.
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R is arguably the most well-rounded compact that will appeal to any performance enthusiast. It’s highly practical with the hatchback body style, it’s fuel-efficient, and once you drive one, you can’t wait until you get behind the wheel again. It may be a bit pricey compared to the Golf GTI, but you won’t find a better track star. It will win the gold against the competition easily.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy