The Golf R is a multi-time 10Best Cars winner, along with the rest of the Golf family. However, this rapid yet eminently livable hatchback can be eclipsed by the fast and furious facades of the Honda Civic Type R and the Ford Focus RS. The hot VW’s lesser sibling, the Golf GTI, also represents a stronger performance value for those less concerned with maximum thrust. But the R remains the pinnacle of the Golf lineup, a distinction it flexes with a 292-hp turbocharged inline-four, 4Motion all-wheel drive, and impressive levels of refinement—as well as the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It is the high-powered hatchback that can slip under the radar, a seriously capable sport-compact car well suited to the toils of adult life.
the near-perfect GTI, which starts at $26,415. But buyers who want the ultimate Golf will prefer the $36,475 R-rated version with its standard all-wheel traction and a bunch more horses under the hood. Purists will be pleased with the standard six-speed manual transmission, but the optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic ($1100) is both quicker and a better alternative for commuting. Our ideal pick would pair the automatic with the upscale DCC and Navigation trim level, which features as standard:
• Sport-suspension tuning, adaptive dampers, and 19-inch wheels
• 6.5-inch touchscreen interface with navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto
• Heated front sport seats with 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
• Adaptive xenon headlights
At $41,295, our loaded R is certainly no budget buy. But with its potent combination of near-luxury sophistication and effortless performance, this Volkswagen is by far the classiest choice among serious sport compacts.