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  1. A Day of Three Golfs 
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    How different can three petrol Volkswagen Golfs really be? When they range from a 310PS Golf R with DSG, to a 150PS 6-speed manual using VWs new 1.5 TSI EVO engine the answer is, quite a lot.

    We spent the day with Volkswagen testing some of their newest cars, including the Arteon, but they were keen to remind us just how versatile the current Golf line-up really is.

    Golf Estate R 2.0 TSI 310PS DSG
    First up, for what was probably the wettest day of the year, we took out the fastest, fast Golf to see how it handled one of our favourite roads in Central Scotland, the B7086 Strathaven to Muirkirk Road.

    DSC_0010_16.jpgDSC_0012_16.jpg

    The first thing you notice with the latest iteration of the Golf R is just how loud it is on start-up. Despite this car having the upgraded Vienna leather upholstery, which does elevate the interior, you could still mistake it for a lesser model – but not after you’ve pressed the starter button.

    It only takes the first blip of the throttle to confirm that you’re in something pretty special. Pull out onto a quiet bit of road with the car in Race Mode (we kept it in that for the full drive), press the throttle and feel it grip and go.

    For those of you who don’t know the B7086, it starts off quite wide and flowing but quickly changes to slower, tight second gear corners with lots of elevation changes and negative camber bends. As such, power and grip are key here and with actual rivers flowing over parts of the road, four-wheel drive is a big bonus.

    With 310PS and 380Nm of torque, a reasonably compact body and 4MOTION, there are few cars that would have better suited this road on a day like today. Round a blind bend and straight into deep standing water, the Golf shrugged off conditions that would make any super or sports car driver pack up and go home.

    Having recently tacked this road in a Ford Focus RS, the Golf R seemed the much better option for these type of conditions. Where the Focus was hyperactive and like to battle with the road, the Golf seemed much happier to work with the road to help you make progress. Less fun when the sun comes out, maybe, but the Golf showed far superior levels of comfort, refinement and without shouting that you’re in a fast car.

    (Basic)OTR Price 34,545

    Golf GTI Performance 2.0 TSI 245PS DSG
    Stepping from the Golf R Estate to the five-door Golf GTI feels like a bigger change than you would imagine. The GTI instantly feels like the more funloving choice and less sensible, despite this probably being the choice for the MORE sensible buyers, with its red flourishes on the interior and GTI badges dotted around.

    DSC_0015_14.jpgDSC_0020_15.jpgDSC_0018_14.jpg

    As you might expect, when you first start driving the GTI after the R, it feels obviously slower and, more subjectively, less special. This creates a few miles of disappointment, especially when you’re on the motorway, but things get more interesting when you get onto a bit of B road.

    Where the R instantly blows you away with power and traction, the GTI feels light on its feet and playful. This won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but for those who want their kicks without going way over the speed limit, it might be just the ticket.

    Our GTI came with a DSG setup, something we’d avoid if wanting to spec the GTI as an out and out fun car. Still, it’s mightily effective and makes the Golf a much easier car to live with compared to rivals like the Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R.

    (Basic)OTR Price 31,505

    Golf R-Line 1.5l TSI EVO 150PS Manual
    Next up was a Golf with an engine that you’re going to be seeing in EVERYTHING VW related over the next few years. Replacing the old 1.4 TSI, this new 1.5 EVO promises to be more powerful, more efficient and less polluting, without the need to dabble with hybrids and the like (although that will be coming soon).

    DSC_0030_13.jpg

    With 150PS and 250NM it’s not going to be bothering either of the cars mentioned above, but like the old 1.4 engine, it’s very effective in a small car like the Golf. It’s knocking on the doors of being a warm hatch but needs a few more horses for overtaking duties to qualify (look out for the aftermarket tuners getting a hold of it).

    Away from overtaking pace, the 1.5 EVO can hustle down a B road with enough composure to still have a lot of fun with. 8.3 seconds to 62 and a top speed of 134 don’t sound like much, but if your driving is 95% commuting then you’ll probably appreciate a combined MPG of 55.4.

    (Basic)OTR Price 25,095

    Which Golf should you choose?
    Whilst the price difference of the three Golfs, in basic trim, was 3000 (R to GTI) and 6400 (GTI to R-Line) it only takes a couple of ticks of the options boxes to exceed the next car up the speed ladder. Take into account attractive PCH deals and it’s sometimes possible to get a GTI or an R for the price of a more basic car.

    Taking price out of the equation, and keeping things very simple, you’ve got to decide whether you want ultimate pace without much fuss, a quick car that’s fun as soon as you get it out of traffic or off the motorway, or a sensible commuting car that you can have a little fun in when the opportunity arises.

    If we were to be fussy, it would be nice if Volkswagen gave the GTI close to 300PS like SEAT does with the Leon Cupra R. This would allow you to have all the fun of the current GTI with most of the pace of the R. Sure, you wouldn’t have the ultimate cross-country pace of the 4MOTION R, but how often do you really need that?

    Whatever your situation, it’s still amazing how far Volkswagen can stretch the appeal of one model of car. Outside the premium manufacturers, there’s still nobody who comes close to the quality of a Golf in a package that’s quite so versatile and classless.
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    Last edited by stuart; 05-01-2018 at 04:55 PM.
     
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