2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Class: Sporty/Performance Car
Miles driven: 449
Fuel used: 22.2 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 20.2 mpg
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 20/287/23 (mpg city/highway/combined)
Fuel type: Premium gas
Base price: $43,645 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: None
Price as tested: $44,640
The great: Thrilling drive experience, excellent driving position, standard AWD
The good: Cabin fit and finish, plenty of cabin storage space
The not so good: Complicated digital interface, expensive for a Golf, requires pricey premium-grade gasoline
Volkswagen brings back the high-performance R version of its Golf compact hatchback in redesigned form for 2022, with more power and race-inspired features. The Golf R had been on hiatus since the 2019 model year. Volkswagen has discontinued the regular Golf models in the U.S., leaving only the R and sporty GTI versions available here. The Golf GTI is covered in a separate review.
The Golf R is sold in just one well-equipped version, with the only substantial choice being automatic or manual transmission. The sole engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder that makes 315 horsepower—27 hp more than the previous Golf R’s powerplant. This engine pairs with either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. As before, all Rs have all-wheel drive. For 2022, the drive-mode system includes a “drift mode” that adjusts the AWD and stability-control settings to enable rear-wheel-drive driving dynamics.
The interior is equipped with a 10.2-inch configurable digital gauge cluster and several capacitive touch-sensitive controls in place of physical buttons and switches—an arrangement not all drivers are fond of. Leather upholstery, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, and Wi-Fi are all standard features. Also standard are a number of safety-tech features, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring.
With copious power, terrific handling, and a highly effective all-wheel-drive system, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is well suited for drivers who want thrilling performance in a small hatchback package. Also a plus is the Type R’s sophisticated, upscale feel, which helps it stand out from other high-performance mainstream-brand compact cars. That said, there is no “budget” version, and the R’s sticker prices nudge into premium-brand territory, pitting it against some similarly exciting cars that have tonier nameplates. Given that fact, the Golf R will probably find its strongest audience among those who are already sold on Volkswagen’s unique flavor of high performance.
In a nutshell, the Golf R is a thrill to drive. Though not quite Mazda/Honda slick, the 6-speed manual transmission rows through the gears with firm precision. Likewise, the clutch engages with predictable crispness, helping to smooth around town driving and keeping things plenty sporty.
In grand Volkswagen tradition, the Golf R leans a little more in hard corners than some drivers might expect, but the movement is consistent and predictable, and does not inhibit aggressive driving. Like Golfs of the past, outward visibility is excellent to all corners, a reassuring condition when speeds climb on on ramps and when merging. We wish the bottom-line price of our test car had come in under $40,000. We’re torn between thinking the Golf R is a hot hatch, or a high-tech Ford Mustang killer. Thinking the latter helps us justify the price.
Volkswagen will add a 20th Anniversary Edition of the Golf R to the lineup for 2023. More on that as its introduction nears.
Golf R Gallery
Click below for enlarged images.