Car Video:  Oversteer

Video | The Volkswagen Golf R Is the Best Hot Hatchback

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE
New 2018 Volkswagen Golf
MSRP $24,925
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Atlas FWD SEL V6 w/ Technology
New 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
MSRP $45,155
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SE
New 2018 Volkswagen Passat
MSRP $27,465
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 4Motion SEL Premium
New 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
MSRP $40,675
RELATED READING
See all Volkswagen Golf+R articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs Mazda cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2018

I've recently come to the conclusion that the Volkswagen Golf R is the best hot hatchback on the market. I wasn't expecting to reach this conclusion, as I've long extolled the virtues of the Ford Focus RS, which has way too much power for its own good and is just raucously fun to operate.

But the Golf R is better. I reached this decision a few weeks ago after driving a Golf R, when I realized something crucial: No, the Golf R is not as fast as the Focus RS, and it certainly isn't as powerful. But the Golf R offers a lot of things the Focus RS simply doesn't.

Before I explain what I mean, a brief overview. The Golf R -- effectively the "high performance" version of the already high-performance Volkswagen GTI -- essentially debuted back in 2004, though it was then known as the R32. Over time, it's been refined, the name has been changed, it's grown to offer a 4-door body style and you can now get it with a dual-clutch automatic. The original R32 had 237 horsepower; today's Golf R now has 292.

That figure isn't especially impressive when you compare it with the major rivals: The aforementioned Focus RS (350 hp), the Subaru WRX STI (300 hp) and the Honda Civic Type R (300 hp). And it's especially not impressive when you consider pricing: The Golf R starts around $41,000 with shipping, to the Focus RS's $42,000, the STI's $37,500 and the Civic Type R's $36,000. That makes the Golf R the worst value when you look at it purely from a horsepower standpoint. I figured I'd drive the Golf R and come to the conclusion that it's just another overpriced German car that can't beat out the Japanese and American rivals.

Wrong.

As it turns out, the Golf R offers very nearly the same performance as the Civic Type R and the WRX STI, touting a 0-to-60 time of something like 4.9 seconds, which is actually faster than those rivals -- largely due to its quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission. Moreover, the Golf R feels tremendously less skittish on the road: While the WRX STI, Civic Type R and Focus RS feel like the angry, aggressive hot hatchbacks they are, the Golf R almost seems as though it's part luxury car and part hot hatchback, with an upscale interior and a smooth driving experience until you start pushing it.

And when you start pushing it, you discover the Golf R doesn't actually give up much to its rivals. Handling is fantastic, with direct, responsive steering and surprisingly minimal body roll. Acceleration is strong -- yes, not as strong as the Focus RS, but still strong -- and coming out of corners in a Golf R really feels one step behind actual, purpose-built sports cars. All-wheel drive grips, the transmission does what it needs to -- very quickly -- and power is plentiful, even at lower RPMs where the 200-hp GTI might miss a beat.

In other words, the Golf R is really fun to drive. But as I alluded to earlier, that isn't all it is. The Golf R is also a nice car, with a nice interior that features top-quality materials on practically every surface. While the Focus RS might be a better car for all-out, high-performance, back-road driving or for track use, the Golf R is the one you'll actually want to get in after work and cruise along in as you drive down the highway. Ride comfort is better than rivals, cabin noise is quieter than rivals and the Golf R just simply feels nicer overall than its rivals.

Which leads me to this conclusion: In the Golf R's biggest rivals, you're paying for performance above all else. In the Golf R, you give up a little performance -- really, just a little; basically an undetectable amount versus the Civic Type R and WRX STI -- but you add the ability to have a respectable daily driver, a vehicle free of massive wings and cheap interiors, a car that can be both subtle and luxurious when you want it to be and fun and exciting when you want it to be.

It's a great combination -- and unless you're actually carving up canyons every weekend or using your hot hatchback on the race track (in which case you should get a Focus RS), the Golf R is the best hot hatchback simply because it's best at doing it all: Being a hatchback, and being hot. I came away pleasantly surprised from my day with the Golf R, and I highly suspect you'll feel the same way if you test drive one.

MORE FROM OVERSTEER:
Here's Why This Porsche Speedster Isn't Worth $200,000 -- Because It's a Volkswagen
Yes, I Really Do Need That Many Cup Holders
Here's Everything That's Broken on My Cheap V12 Mercedes SL600

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE
New 2018 Volkswagen Golf
MSRP $24,925
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Atlas FWD SEL V6 w/ Technology
New 2018 Volkswagen Atlas
MSRP $45,155
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SE
New 2018 Volkswagen Passat
MSRP $27,465
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
New 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 4Motion SEL Premium
New 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan
MSRP $40,675
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Video | The Volkswagen Golf R Is the Best Hot Hatchback - Autotrader