The VW Golf R is back and better than ever.
Not since 2019 have we seen a Golf R, the ultimate expression in subcompact hatchback prowess from Volkswagen. This model along with the GTI is all that’s left of the Golf product line for the U.S. market as VW pivots to crossovers and electric vehicles. New for 2022, the GTI and R launch the Golf’s eighth-generation.
2022 Volkswagen Golf R Overview
Volkswagen offers the 2022 Golf, a four-door hatchback, in GTI and R configurations. The GTI is available in three trims and is priced from $29,545 to $37,995. The Golf R costs $43,645 and is offered in one well-equipped trim. With both models add $995 for the destination fee.
Our review covers the Golf R, but we’ll mention the GTI as necessary. Both models are powered by a turbocharged engine. The GTI is front-wheel drive, while the Golf R is all-wheel drive.
Highlights of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Like its predecessor, the 2022 Golf sits on a 103.5-inch wheelbase. But it sits longer, wider, and lower than before. The changes made are more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. That’s a solid approach as the previous model was and is well received.
Among the changes are updated lighting elements, new wheels, and ornamentation. The characteristic “R” on the grille and rear point to performance. The glowing blue light bar across the front end is a special touch. Other distinctions include the front bumper with twin intakes surrounded by gloss black accents. Body-colored side sill extensions, aluminum-alloy wheels, and summer tires are other features of note.
The Golf R’s interior is larger than it seems, thanks in part to its hatchback design that makes use of every cubic foot. The front seats are bolstered and supportive, but happily not overbearing. The rear seats are snug. We think most people will use that space for extra storage space. When folded, there is 34.5 cubic feet of storage capacity, up from the standard 19.9 cubic feet.
There are still enough hard plastics present in out-of-the-way places that run counter to this model’s high price. The rest of the cabin consists of soft-touch materials, carbon fiber or fiber-like trim pieces, and brightwork accents. Overall, the look is minimalist with most controls removed and located on the display. It takes getting used to the change, which also involves steering-wheel-mounted controls for some features.
As expected, the usual full cabin accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, and zoned climate control are present. The Nappa leather seating supplies a bit of extravagance we like, with blue stitching and matching seatback R emblems supplying a sporty look. The requisite metal pedals are present.
The driver’s seat offers a 12-way power adjustment. Both front seats are heated and ventilated. The rear outboard seats are heated. The thickly padded and leather-wrapped steering wheel is a welcome feature. Ample in-door storage pockets and small storage spaces between the front seats are almost perfect for storing small items.
Key Safety Features
You would expect a full suite of driver-assist safety features with the Golf R given its price. You will not be disappointed. They are bundled under the IQ.DRIVE umbrella.
The package utilizes front and rear radar, a front camera system, and multiple ultrasound sensors. The features include Travel Assist (with semi-autonomous driving assist), adaptive cruise control, front and side assist, rear traffic alert, and lane assist. Emergency Assist, which supplies automated vehicle assistance in an emergency, is included with the automatic transmission.
The Golf R comes with a 9-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system. It is a 480-watt system with a 12-channel amplifier and subwoofer. Satellite radio, HD Radio, smartphone compatibility, and four USB ports.
A 10.25-inch digital and fully customizable is standard. It includes full-screen navigation. The center stack is topped by an 8.3-inch touch-screen display.
With the Ford Focus RS gone, there is one less player in the segment. The Honda Civic Type R and the Nissan Veloster N are among the most noteworthy competitors as is the Subaru WRX STI. All three represent the ultimate expression of performance for their respective models or the types of vehicles enthusiasts who have track time in mind.
A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powers the 2022 Volkswagen Golf. With the GTI, the engine develops 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. In the Golf R, the engine is specially tuned to supply upwards of 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. With the GTI, power routes to the front wheels. Choose the Golf R and power travels to all four wheels.
Volkswagen equips both models with a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or an optional 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, the latter an $800 upgrade. Our test model came with the manual gearbox. Volkswagen says the Golf R supplies a 0-60 mph test time of 4.7 seconds with the DSG, slightly slower with the manual. Regardless of your choice, there is more than enough power present to thrill.
The Golf R’s powertrain is wonderful. The engine produces an excellent kick, more so once it gets going. The 6-speed manual transmission shifts seamlessly with flawless clutch uptake. We “lived” in third gear often, moving up to fourth and fifth gears with frequency. We nearly forgot sixth gear, although the upshift indicator reminded us to shift there when cruising at highway speeds. Otherwise, the high-revving fifth gear is ideal for spirited driving.
And that was our mission: finding places to go where we could let the Golf R prove itself. And proved itself it did. While the low-end grunt is not outstanding, in every other facet the powertrain was terrific. Matching it will all-wheel drive is a bonus, one that changes the driving dynamics dramatically.
For instance, up to half the power routes to the rear wheels under certain conditions. But up to 100 percent of the power shifts to either the left or the right, which immediately becomes apparent when making sharp turns or while cornering. Not once did we feel that the Golf R would lose control as power shifted to the appropriate wheel at the right time. This allowed us to make the sharpest turns with the summer tires holding tight. There is a drift mode present too, something to explore in wide-open places with no cars, pedestrians, or light poles to deal with.
The VW’s steering is light at low speeds but adds heft as your speed builds. It supplies a direct connection that responds quickly to driver inputs. The Golf R is a handling champ and its big brakes bring this pocket rocket to a swift and sure stop.
The Golf R is poised, balanced, and imbues driver confidence to tackle the most challenging courses. It supplies an exercise in driver acuity, lessons we repeated frequently and with joy.
We’re thrilled that Volkswagen did not abandon the Golf in the U.S. This model is still very popular in markets where people appreciate small cars, thus there is no threat that it will go away.
For the U.S., the Golf lives on with its two performance models – GTI and R. Although there are similarities, the extra power and all-wheel-drive capabilities of the Golf R set this model apart. No, it doesn’t come cheap, but we think the most rabid enthusiasts will be happy with the result and see the Golf R for what it is: a mean, diminutive thrill machine.
See Also — New Crossover: 2022 Volkswagen Taos
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