Last Sunday started just like any other. I spent a couple of hours in the office taking care of some paperwork, got a few jobs done at home, saw the family, and with my list of jobs to do steadily shrinking I decided to venture down the local to take in the afternoons footy, and the darts final from Lakeside.
The day ended though somewhat strangely. After the sport had come to a head, I was chatting with a mate about cars (nothing unusual there, we often do). Heâ€™s a petrol head, and as a man who likes small sports cars, recently bought himself a new Boxster S Manual â€“ I approved. Whatâ€™s not to a like about a small mid-engined rear wheel drive six-cylinder Porsche with a manual box? We chatted away, and then he came out with itâ€¦ (Referring to my Golf R)â€¦ â€œThe problem with your car is that it isnâ€™t a hot hatch, itâ€™s a sports car.â€
I jumped on the defensive, â€œof course itâ€™s a hot hatch, itâ€™s got five doors!â€ But I know what he was getting at, and itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve given thought to. When does a hot hatch stop being a hot hatch, and become instead an out and out sports car?
You see, that Boxster S, with its 3.4 litre six-cylinder engine, only musters up 315bhp. Compare that with the 296bhp in the Golf R which is two cylinders and 1400cc down, thatâ€™s not a lot in this day and age. The Golf weighs around 60kg more, but has the benefit of 4-MOTION, all of which means their 0-62 time is identical at 5.1 seconds â€“ comparing like-for-like, manual with manual.
BMW has a go at sticking up a fight for the sports car â€“ the current flagship Z4, the sDrive 35iS M-Sport can scamper to 62 in 4.8 seconds, but itâ€™s only available with the double clutch gearbox, so isn't far ahead of a DSG Golf R at 4.9.
Surely Audi with their all new TT can edge the sports car sector into a clear lead? Well yes, they can. Thanks largely to it using the same MQB platform as the Golf, a 310PS version of the Golf R engine, and elements of aluminium in the body means it weighs 100kg less than a Golf R, the result is 4.9 seconds to 62mph for the manual car â€“ a 0.2s advantage over the Golf.
Hardly a massive margin is there?
Things are going to get harder for the Sports Car too. With the new RS3 confirmed to arrive this summer with a 367bhp five-cylinder engine under the bonnet and a 0-62 acceleration time of 4.3 seconds, the current breed of Sports Cars wonâ€™t see which way it went.
There are more too. Although unconfirmed Mercedes are working on a hotter version of the A45 AMG with nearer 400bhp (think of it as a mini â€˜Black Seriesâ€™) but of course thatâ€™s only in response to the fact that VW are umming and ahing over putting the Golf R400/R420 into production.
So, in an age when you can buy a 5-door hatchback thatâ€™s as fast as, or even faster than a Sports Car, where is the line drawn? Is the Sports Car a dying breed, and are these super-Hot Hatches the new Sports Cars?
Well no. The truth is itâ€™s always been that way, well since the early 80s at least. Thatâ€™s how I should have answered the man in the pub. There have always been quick little cars that can take on the proper sports cars. As a classic car fan, Iâ€™ve watched countless battles between small nimble Austin A40s and Minis, with larger sports cars struggling to keep up.
Hot hatches are the â€˜pocket rocketsâ€™. They are cars that are reasonable to buy and run, and yet deliver a turn of speed that punches well above their weight.
Take the original GTi, the Mk1. Its power to weight ratio of around 135bhp/tonne far eclipsed the Porsche of the day, the 944 with its 2.5L engine, and 127bhp/tonne. Of course, given a long enough runway, the Porsche would win hands down. Autocar back in the day wound one up to 137mph, whereas the Golf would have been out of puff at 110mph. But, stick both cars on a B-Road, and the driver of the Porsche would seriously have his work cut out, and wondering why theyâ€™d paid the extra.
Fast forward to 2015 and the story is the same. The current breed of Hot Hatches, like our Golf R with 296bhp, and the newly face lifted M135i with 326bhp both cost around the same at Â£30/31k, and both share very similar performance figures. Yes, given a long runway, the Porsche Boxster S will stretch out a lead over both, but stick them all on a twisty B-Road, and just like it was back in the 80s, the Porsche driver will wonder why his machine cost Â£16/17k more.
Looking to the future then, what about this new breed of Hot Hatches, the Ãœber Hatches? Well, theyâ€™ll simply compete with the next level of Sports Car.
The new RS3 will show a clean pair of heels to an entry level 911, and instead of a Â£30k Golf R embarrassing a Â£47k Boxster S, we hope to see a Â£40k Golf R400 taking on cars double its price tag.
The Hot Hatch is growing up; the hot hatch is punching further above its weight than ever before.
Welcome everyone to the new hot hatch Golf, and it's electric! Well partly electric because unlike the e-Golf we drove recently, this is a plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV).
Up front you have a 1.4 TSI petrol engine producing 150PS and built into the gearbox housing lives a 102PS electric motor. Together, they will produce a maximum output of 204PS and 350Nm of torque (258 lbs ft) - that's some 70Nm more than the Golf R. A six-speed DSG box developed specifically for hybrid vehicles is standard, there's no manual option.
With both power plants running, the GTE can sprint to 62 mph in 7.6 seconds, and head on to a top speed of 138mph - for comparison that's just 0.1s behind the GTD in the dash to '62.
Despite those impressive performance figures, the GTE boasts a combined consumption figure of 166 mpg and CO2 emissions of just 39 g/km. It'll run for 31 miles on pure electric power up to a top speed of 81mph, and with the petrol tank in use as well, a theoretical range of 580 miles should be possible. Like the e-Golf, the GTE is expected to be exempt from VED and the Congestion Charge.
The Golf GTE's battery is much smaller than the e-Golf at 8.8 kWh, so will charge in 3.75 hours from a domestic socket, or 2.25 hours if you have a wallbox.
It looks pretty good too! Available in just the 5-door bodystyle and in one trim level, it combines elements of the e-Golf with elements of GTI. For instance it gets the C-shaped LED running lights from the e-Golf, and where the GTI has red colour accents, the GTE has blue - that includes the stitching on the steering wheel, gear lever gaiter and seats. 18 inch 'Serron' alloys are standard.
The familiar touch screen system is standard with DAB radio and Bluetooth, and if you spec nav it includes bespoke EV features such as the ability to identify known charging points and destinations on your electric range.
The GTE also has an e-manager which allows the driver to preset vehicle charging, as well as interior cooling or heating and these functions can be operated remotely using the Car-Net app on a smartphone; a three-year subscription is standard in the UK. The speedometer and tachometer are familiar, and the latter is supplemented by a power meter in the central display, which shows the status of the battery, whether or not power is being used and the intensity of any regeneration.
So, the big question then? How much is it?
Well the UK RRP is Â£28,035.00 with the Â£5,000 Government grant factored in, which makes it around Â£2000 more than the GTD and Â£1500 more than the GTI.
If you're a regular city dweller however, with the congestion charge and fuel savings that won't take long to balance out, and with a minimal performance sacrifice, I can see the GTE being a popular choice.
I guess the big question is what is it like to drive? Well I can't wait to find out.
The two inventions of the century, the car and the computer, are gradually converging.
This is why Volkswagen is demonstrating â€“ with an entire fleet of vehicles at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just how much the car and computer are already becoming intertwined today and will continue to grow together in the future.
The main focus is on four aspects. First, computer-driven drive systems. Second, app and smartphone integration. Third, intuitive vehicle operation. Fourth, autonomous and semi-autonomous driving.
Golf R Touch: cockpit concept solves future challenges
Connected Golf: perfect compatibility with MirrorLink, Apple and Google
Intelligent Charge: e-Golf automatically docks above inductive charging plate
Trained Parking: future Park Assist drives into garage semi-automatically
These four cars demonstrate what we can expect in our cars both in the near future, and in years to come. Here's some more information on each car...
Golf R Touch
Volkswagen is equipping its show car in Las Vegas with the controls of tomorrow. The high-performance of its computers, the brilliance of today's displays and the recognition of precise human gestures are merging into a new interface generation here.
In the Golf R Touch concept vehicle, Volkswagen is presenting, for the first time, an infotainment system that incorporates gesture control as a consistent next development step that is based on current thinking in the area of intuitive control. All it takes is a hand movement in the space in front of the infotainment display of the Golf to make human and machine interact as one. Volkswagen is thereby extending touchscreen operation into a third dimension.
Beyond the applications of Volkswagen Car-Net, the Connected Golf is equipped with many other innovations which further connect the Golf with the latest array of portable devices. The press release states that Volkswagen will introduce MirrorLinkâ„¢, CarPlay (Apple) and Android Auto (Google) into vehicles in 2015 - whether that's for US customers or us in Europe we don't yet know.
A new feature, Regular Routes is the name of a function by which the navigation system automatically detects (without needing to be activated by the driver) traffic disturbances on the daily commute to work, and it autonomously suggests an available alternative route.
Parking Guide is another ingenious navigation feature. It embodies a technology that finds parking sites that have a high probability of available parking spaces.
e-Golf Intelligent Charge
You read recently how much we enjoyed driving the e-Golf, well in Las Vegas, Volkswagen is now presenting Intelligent Charge in the e-Golf It illustrates how electric cars will be used even more conveniently in the future. Over the mid-term VW say it will be possible to offer inductive charging as an alternative to cable-based charging. In this type of charging, the car is parked over a charging plate.
In the future, it will be possible to see in just seconds whether the battery is still being charged, or whether it is already fully charged just by looking at the vehicle's exterior lights.
The e-Station Guide will not only assist the electric car drivers in finding a charging station. They will also be informed about their location and charging equipment as well as payment options.
e-Golf Perfect Parking
We're all familiar with Park Assist, well at CES, Volkswagen is now introducing an advanced evolutionary stage of Park Assist known as Trained Parking.
Here the car (an e-Golf) uses a camera â€“ mounted in the base of the rear-view mirror â€“ to scan a frequently used path into a parking space, and from then on the parking process is executed semi-automatically and highly precisely by sensors and computer.
In the future, it will of course also be possible to semi-automatically park above a station for inductive charging. In another evolutionary stage, plans call for the driver no longer needing to stay in the car during parking. The driver would just monitor the operation of parking or exiting a parking space with a smartphone as a "remote control" device.
The history of the internal combustion engine is a complicated and convoluted affair. Karl Benz is largely attributed as the inventor of the â€˜carâ€™, but many of his early engines were gas powered. For me, Edward Butler, an Englishman, is the one who gave us the engine as we know it. His engine developed between 1884 and 1888 was powered by petroleum, and featured liquid cooling, valves, a radiator and even a carburettor. Butler was also credited as the inventor of the spark plug. All this some five years before Maybach managed to create the same.
In reality, little has changed in the last 126 years. Our cars today feature internal combustion engines that run on petroleum, using valves, liquid cooling and spark plugs. Yes, the fuels we use now are more advanced, the production techniques have been massively refined, and the carburettor is a distant memory, but our cars still use the same basic principal.
The problem with that is the world is running out of oil. It might not happen in our lifetime, it might not happen in our childrenâ€™s lifetime, but it is going to happen. Oil will get harder to source, and the more difficult it gets to produce petrol, the price at the pump will increase eventually to a point where it becomes uneconomical to use. I know at this present time oil prices are slumping, but Iâ€™m not talking now, Iâ€™m talking in 10, 20, 30, or even 40 yearsâ€™ time â€“ nobody knows.
All I know is the way we fuel our cars will have to change. So why not start now?
Alternative fuel vehicles and electric vehicles (or EVs) are becoming an increasingly popular sight on our roads. Most manufacturers now have one, Nissans Leaf, BMWs i3, Renaults slightly bonkers Twizzy, right the way through to the top line Tesla. Volkswagen now has the e-Golf.
For those not up on EV terminology, the e-Golf is a plug-in electric vehicle. Basically, plug it in to the mains, charge it up, jump in and drive, and when itâ€™s low on juice, charge it again. Official range is 118 miles, but realistically youâ€™re looking at 80-100 miles. Charging to full on a fast charge point can take as little as 35 minutes, or up to 13 hours on a home 13 Amp socket.
The e-Golf is an intriguing thing, on paper is has nearly as much torque as the Golf R (270Nm plays 280Nm in the Golf R), and its 115PS rating is only slightly down on the 1.4TSI, and slightly up on the 110PS 1.6TDi Bluemotion.
So whatâ€™s it actually like?
Well, the good news is that itâ€™s just like a Golf. Jump in, turn the key, and instead of a starter motor and engine firing, you get a â€˜bongâ€™ and a little lamp saying itâ€™s ready to go. Move the gear lever to drive, release the e-Brake, press the pedal on the right and marvel as the e-Golf moves you in an eerie silence.
Okay, silence is slightly extreme, you do get an electronic â€˜whirrâ€™ from the direct drive system, but it is very quiet. Performance is brisk with 0-60 coming up in around 10 seconds dead, even though we were two up on a cold morning. Donâ€™t try that too often though, or the range will soon take a hammering. Handling is pretty adequate for most needs, although the eco green tyres break traction pretty easily forcing a fair bit of under steer â€“ but for pottering about town, itâ€™s very good indeed.
Out on the road, the ride is very good â€“ those bouncy tyres with big side walls definitely help. They donâ€™t produce much road noise, and coupled with the lack of an engine thrum, the result is a very relaxing, quiet and comfortable cabin. The e-Golf is like reading a book in the country, thereâ€™s nothing to distract you from the task in hand â€“ no noise, no gears to worry about, and the auto-hold brakes even take care of holding the car for you at traffic lights. Itâ€™s blissfully serene.
On the dashboard in place of a rev counter youâ€™ll find a charge meter. The needle swings to show you whether the charge is being taken from the battery, or whether youâ€™re putting charge back in through brake regeneration. You can also adjust the level of energy regeneration using the gear lever from a level that recharges with a gentle brake application when coasting, through to a more extreme level where you really notice the car slowing down as soon as you lift off the throttle. With careful use, and setting selection, you can help to eek those extra few miles out of the batteries.
The e-Golf is really well equipped with air-conditioning, Discover Pro navigation, LED lights front and rear, and LED daytime running lights. The 16â€ Tilleve alloys are a love or hate design - Iâ€™d personally be tempted to swap them for another style OEM wheel, but as you canâ€™t spec any other, youâ€™d need to order those separately.
The e-Golf also takes advantage of the Car-Net e-Remote app technology. This smartphone app allows you to check battery levels remotely and charging times, adjust air-conditioning settings, lock or unlock the doors, and even see where it is parked, all from the remoteness of your mobile phone - Useful if youâ€™re frequently forgetting where youâ€™ve parked your car. In an age where even your kettle can be controlled from your iPhone, the appsâ€™ abilities will please a large number of potential customers.
Do the numbers stack up? Well, the e-Golf comes in at Â£26,145 with the Government grant factored in, which seems like a big chunk of cash. In reality though, itâ€™s only around Â£3k more than the equivalent 1.6TDi Bluemotion once the diesel has navigation and 16â€ wheels added. Yes, itâ€™s true that Â£3k will buy you an awful lot of diesel, probably enough for 35,000 miles at todayâ€™s money. But, diesels might soon be harder hit with proposals to charge for taking them into London over and above the congestion charge, while drivers of the e-Golf can make the trip daily without incurring any costs at all.
Compared with other EVs out there, itâ€™s pretty competitively priced and sits between the top spec Leaf which comes in at just under Â£24k and just undercuts the BMW i3 once the i3 is specced to the same level as the e-Golf.
Whether this car is for you, only you can decide. Perhaps itâ€™d fit in to your life as the school run car, or station car? Whatever your needs, if your daily routine rarely exceeds 80 miles, then why not take a look at the e-Golf? The charging network is constantly expanding, and the reasons for not owning an EV get fewer every year.
What a nice little lift to the January blues the town of Wolfsburg has given the nation of stars and stripes. Welcome to our American cousins!
We hope you find some solace on VWROC.COM while you wait for your orders. Remember our members have been out road testing these little beauties for nearly a year, so we're sure theyâ€™d be delighted to help answer any questions you may have.
So far, over in Europe, this little car has been taken more scalps against the competition than the Crow Creek Massacre, and for good reason.
Hereâ€™s what Chris Harris thought of it when he put it up against a race prepped BMW M235i.
So letâ€™s have look at what youâ€™re getting over there.
The first 500 buyers who sign up on VWâ€™s website and put down a $500 deposit will allegedly get a certificate based on the cars production number. Nice! What would be nicer would be a numbered plaque on the dash somewhere, like the limited edition BMWs of old, but hey weâ€™re not complaining, itâ€™s better than what we got over here (unless you count a long wait as a badge of honour). Youâ€™ll also get an R wristwatch and a carbon fibre/stainless-steel keychain!
A "nearly" full blown 292hp engine also makes its way across the pond, only slightly down on the EU 296hp, which must be a relief as some parts of the world, Australia and South Africa, have a massively detuned version to deal with the hot climate. So thatâ€™s a good start.
Leather seats look like standard fit, as does the DSG gearbox. The manual, stick shift wonâ€™t be available for a while but will cost $1100 less. Also standard on the launch model are Dynamic Chassis Control, 19â€ Cadiz wheels, parking sensors and the small 5.8in â€œDiscoverâ€ navigation. But it will set you back more the base model, coming in at $39,090.
We have no idea how long you early adopters will have to wait to take delivery, but if itâ€™s anything like over here in the UK, you may be looking at 5 to 6 months!
Part of the fun is in the waiting. In the meantime come over and join the debate on the worldâ€™s largest specialist site, the Volkswagen R Owners Club.
Audi has its S-Line, BMW has M-Sport, Mercedes has AMG Line, and now Volkswagen has R-Line.
The question is, are the new breed of R-Line cars simply styling exercises, or does the R-Line badge add some substance to the package? Weâ€™ve driven the Scirocco and Touareg R-Line models to find out.
First impressions count, and the visual improvements to both these cars over lesser trim lines are superb. The Scirocco gains wide sculpted sill extensions and meatier bumpers, with familiar Volkswagen R features such as the horizontal grilles where the fog lights would normally sit. Having recently benefitted from a facelift, this Scirocco we drove with its Ultra Violet Metallic paint looks fantastic. The lines have all been sharpened up, and with just a few small tweaks, the whole appearance has been visually chiselled.
Across the car park, the Touareg, sat resplendent in Pure White and with its big chrome front end looked very imposing. Every line exudes robustness, ruggedness and durability. There are some great design points, like the way the bonnet creases line up perfectly with the outer limits of the grille, and the large chrome strip in the bumper continues its way rearwards along both flanks, further enhancing the masculine lines.
But enough about the looks, these are R-Line cars, how do they drive?
Well fortunately the talents of the R-Lines arenâ€™t just skin deep. The Touareg benefits from sports suspension with a 25mm drop all round, and it certainly feels good out on the road. For such a big truck you really can hustle it along. Itâ€™s no super stiff sports car, and itâ€™ll still cruise comfortably on a motorway, but the way it takes a lateral weight shift really does defy its size.
Our test car was fitted with the 262PS version of the 3.0 V6 TDi mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic Auto box. The engine pulls strongly and delivers nigh on hot hatch levels of performance, and being a V6 it makes a lovely noise while it goes about it. Performance wise, whilst on test in a straight line it could just about hang on to the Scirocco, not when the going got twisty however.
On the twisty sections, the Scirocco was just in a different league. But then it would be, itâ€™s a light, nimble, two-wheel drive Coupe fitted here with the 184PS 2.0TDi unit, hooked up to a 6-speed DSG box. Our test car also had the optional XDS electronic differential lock, which nigh on eliminates torque steer, and really gives you confidence to plant your foot and go, especially through tighter corners.
Weirdly, for a diesel, the Scirocco also has a Golf R style soundakator fitted to improve the aural experience within the cabin. Thrashing a diesel and hearing the five-cylinder style howl is a strange experience, but a pleasurable one nonetheless. The pleasure doesnâ€™t just come from the driving either, both these cars have beautifully crafted interiors from the sports seats in the Scirocco to the LCD screen in the Touareg that wraps around the dials. Top notch all round.
So, these cars have substance and style, where better place to take them too than Goodwood? Nestled in Lord Marchâ€™s fabulous estate, we parked outside Goodwoods Kennels in the winter sun to stand back and reflect on the two cars.
The R-Line is not a substitute for an R; letâ€™s get that one out there. The R-Line is the top trim level with aesthetic, handling and interior upgrades that give a luxurious yet sporting feel that apes the R cars.
So think of these cars as a way of bridging the gap between the R car and the rest of the range. They offer sportiness, refinement and high class interiors whilst retaining normal running costs. The official figures for the Touareg state 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and 58.9mpg for the Scirocco with the DSG â€˜box.
Should you buy one? Well, theyâ€™re fast, frugal, fun, and supremely well furnished, but not too frivolous. The Touareg as tested here has an OTR price of Â£48,215 but if you talk nicely to your dealer, youâ€™d be looking at closer to Â£43â€¦ That is great value for such a huge machine, with a gorgeous plush interior. Besides, the Touareg is worth it for the heated steering wheel alone.
Unexpectedly, I found the Scirocco a really pleasurable thing to pilot. Being based on the previous generation Golf underpinnings, I wasnâ€™t expecting it to feel quite so up to date. I liked the FWD only chassisâ€¦ it felt edgier than my Mk7 Golf, and slightly more alive. The DSG box really works well even couple with the diesel motor, and the whole package strikes a great balance of comfort and handling.
You can probably tell that I am impressed, so letâ€™s go back to that opening questionâ€¦
Does the R-Line badge add some substance to the package? Yes, it does.
Article: Jon Spriggs
Photography: Dan Sellar
Weâ€™d like to thank Andy Gray at Peter Cooper Volkswagen (Portsmouth) for the loan of their two R-Line Cars for our test, and the warm welcome they offered us. Peter Cooper has been an independent Volkswagen retailer since 1981, and has dealerships located in Southampton, Hedge End, Portsmouth and Chichester.
Their Portsmouth showroom has just undergone a Â£250,000 refurbishment which gives them a fresh new look and ensures they give their customers best possible service, from the moment they come into contact with them, all the way through their ownership of a Volkswagen.
You can contact Andy directly by email, or locate your nearest Peter Cooper showroom and their contact details using this link.
Oh, and here's a little bonus video! There's a lot of wind noise, but the footage is good...
Volkswagen might have nailed the coffin shut on the Polo R with the recent news that it won't make production, but the new Polo GTI has just gone on sale. First seen at the Paris Motor Show earlier in the year, we now have the full facts and figures on the Golfs junior hot hatch cousin.
The Polo GTI enters a very crowded market place though, so can it match its rivals?
Well, offering 192PS and weighing in at 1272kgs (1280kgs with the DSG 'box) the Polo GTI has a power to weight ratio of 149bhp/tonne. To put that into perspective, that's 14 more than the MkI Golf GTI, and just six bhp/tonne short of the original MkIV Golf R32. So this should be a rapid little car.
The other stats look good too... with a 0-62 time of 6.7 seconds, it beats the Fiesta ST, and is level pegging with the Clio RS. Buyers get the choice of manual and DSG gearboxes, and the XDS electronic differential lock, as was fitted to the Scirocco we recently drove, is included as standard.
We can't wait to have a go in one! In the meantime, here's the full press release...
New range-topping Polo GTI launches with 1.8-litre turbocharged 192 PS engine
Available with choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox
Polo takes GTI design cues from larger Golf sibling; high-tech infotainment system
Available to order now with first UK deliveries due March 2015
The latest generation of Volkswagenâ€™s Polo GTI made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in October and is now available to order from Retailers across the UK, with first customer deliveries due in March 2015. It will cost Â£18,850 RRP OTR for the three door manual with a Â£630 premium for five doors and Â£1,245 for the DSG gearbox.
The new Polo GTI is powered by a 1.8-litre (1,798 cc) turbocharged petrol engine delivering 192 PS between 4,200 and 6,200 rpm (5,400-6,200 DSG), marking an increase of 12 PS over the outgoing model. And unlike the previous Polo GTI, this latest generation is available with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
With a manual gearbox, the Polo has a maximum torque of 320 Nm (236 lbs ft) available between 1,450 and 4,200 rpm. For the DSG these figures are 250 Nm (184 lbs ft) between 1,250 and 5,300 rpm due to technical differences in the design parameters of the gearboxes.
The Polo GTI lives up to its performance badge, reaching 62 mph from standstill in 6.7 seconds and has a top speed of 146 mph. But the Polo GTIâ€™s power does not come at the expense of efficiency, with a combined fuel consumption figure of 50.4 mpg and corresponding carbon dioxide emissions of 129 g/km for the DSG (47.1 mpg and 139 g/km for the manual).
The Polo GTI follows the design cues of its â€˜big brotherâ€™, the Golf GTI. Compared with the standard Polo, new bumpers, GTI insignia, distinctive 17-inch â€˜Parabolicaâ€™ alloy wheels and red radiator grille strips and honeycomb grille distinguish it from the rest of the range, along with standard sports suspension (lowered by 10 mm at the front and 15 mm at the back).
At the front, LED lights are standard for the first time, while at the rear a GTI roof spoiler, taillight clusters in Dark Red, the black grained diffuser and chrome dual exhaust pipes continue the sporty theme.
On the inside, the Polo GTI features a leather sports steering wheel with logo and red stitching harking back to the Golf GTI, as do the gear and handbrake levers and floor mats with red beading. The check design â€˜Clarkâ€™ cloth seats with black bolsters have been a GTI emblem since the first GTI in 1976.
The Polo GTI has ESC Sport (electronic stability control). Like on the Golf GTI this enables the ESC to be adapted for use on a track. It works in two stages: first the traction control is switched off, then ESC Sport is activated which raises the ESC threshold and delays intervention (without ESC being completely deactivated). XDS+ is also standard: another Golf GTI â€˜importâ€™, XDS compensates for the understeer which is typical of front-wheel drive cars, meaning driving characteristics are more precise and neutral.
Available as an option on the new Polo GTI is a Sport Performance Pack with Dynamic Chassis Control which offers sportier steering, accelerator response and engine noise inside the car.
History and legacy are cards often played by motor manufacturers, but does it work in their favour? Peugeot mention the 205 every time a new GTi is launched, but the end result typically is journalists disappointed that the new car canâ€™t match the character of the original â€“ predictable. Every time a new Golf GTi is launched, it is inevitably referenced back to the Mk1, and as good as the new car is, people long for the thrill and excitement of yesteryear.
What we need is a brand that doesnâ€™t look back, but just looks forward. Enter Volkswagen R, a brand that is currently brimming with confidence. The R brand has delivered some great cars already, the R32â€™s, and the MK6 R all held in high estimation. But was anyone prepared for the success of the Mk7?
Ever since the first information hit the press in August last year, tongues were wagging about the new â€˜300 horse power Golfâ€™. The typical comments were thrown out there about under steer, torque-steer, and would there be over-steer? Then it was driven on Ice, and reports were good, if a little reserved. No one wanted to commit to how good the car was until theyâ€™d driven it on tarmac.
Then March came, the cars finally hit the road and the reviews started to flood onto the internet. They liked the power, the noise, and the handling. Plus there were the usual comments on fit and finish and interior quality that the Golf has become renowned for.
Sure, there were criticisms, but these were largely outweighed by positive press. The rave reviews kept coming in, the order books swelled, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Except itâ€™s not.
VW clearly arenâ€™t about to rest on their laurels, people canâ€™t get enough of the Golf R, and theyâ€™re are set to ensure thereâ€™s a version for everyone. Hot on the heels of the Golf R Hatchback, we have the new SportWagon (or Variant) version announced, so from early next year weâ€™ll be able to choose from the 3-dr, 5-dr and Estate. Surely, absence of a Mk7 convertible aside, if youâ€™re after a quick practical car, thereâ€™s a Golf R for everyone. A true peopleâ€™s car?
VW is clearly after world domination too. The MK7 Golf is a truly global car, and having already conquered far reaching markets of Australia and the Far East, we now have the impending launch in the United States to look forward to. The Mk7 Golf has already been well received in the States, with Motor Trend recently naming the Golf family their Car of the Year 2014, beating off competition from the 2-Series, A3, and home grown talent in the form of the highly acclaimed new Mustang. Iâ€™m sure that once US Golf R deliveries start, those awards will carry on rolling in.
Then thereâ€™s the big one. Why stop at 300hp when you can have 400? The Golf R400 continues the will they, wonâ€™t they argument over production, but with the latest news being positive, Iâ€™m going to stick my neck out and say that I canâ€™t wait to try a 400hp Golf next year.
Thereâ€™s great confidence too within Volkswagen Motorsport. Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala finished 1st and 2nd in this yearâ€™s FIA World Rally Championship both driving VWs, while here in the UK, Volkswagen Racing are enjoying great success with the VWR Cup, and their Golf R has been chosen as the MSA British GT Championship safety car.
That rally success has surely been the reason for Volkswagen continuing to develop the Polo R. With the prototypes tested earlier this year running 250hp and all-wheel drive, that too is an exciting prospect, and again one I hope makes it onto a production line.
With all the success of 2014, and with so much coming in the next twelve months, itâ€™s an exciting time to launch this, the all new VW R Owners Club website. This is a place for Volkswagen R owners across the globe to come together to discuss one of the most exciting and forward thinking brands of the moment.
The website administrators have been busy behind the scenes for the past months to make this a reality, and Iâ€™d like to thank them, as Iâ€™m sure you will, for all their hard work.
Thatâ€™s all from me. Now, enjoy the site, and all things VW R. Thereâ€™s plenty to look forward to.
Volkswagen has been busying itself planning newer and more ridiculous versions of its Uber-Golf, focussing on the R400 and the rumoured R420, but unfortunately all this attention has come at cost.
If conversations picked up from â€œAutovisieâ€ at the launch of the new Polo GTI are to be believed, Volkswagen insiders have confirmed that they will not be producing the much talked about Polo R, a 4WD DSG, Golf-bothering, mini-monster. VW briefly offered a limited edition homologation run of Polo WRC Street, which had 220 BHP, but has no further plans to build any more.
Itâ€™s likely that VW have followed the common move made by many car manufactures these days, which is to retain brand positioning (Yawn!). A Polo R which could embarrass the Golf GTI and worry a Manual Golf R could be considered confusing.
Personally we would have loved to have been â€œconfusedâ€.
The Polo R would have harked back to the glory days of the Hot Hatch; small, light and with the ability to make your old arthritic bones feel 17 again.
Weâ€™ll postpone mourning the Polo R for now, and we just pray this is just a vicious rumour made up by the Dutch!
The rules for inclusion are very simple insofar as there are no rules. We didnâ€™t divide the cars into categories or price points or make sure that every major manufacturer was represented.
Instead, we wrote down every possible candidate based simply on the cars that the senior editorial staff and road test team liked most, and weâ€™ll say now that if this had been a list of our top 87 cars, weâ€™d have saved ourselves a whole lot of time and effort.
What actually happened is that we disappeared into a large room with big chairs, poured ourselves a lot of coffee and discussed, debated, argued and just occasionally shouted at each other until weâ€™d whittled it down to 50 cars.
We then all named our individual top fives to find the cars that would take part in our final shootout and placed the remaining 45 in order of preference. Then all we had to do was decamp to Wales for two days of driving with our five favourite cars to find the best of the best.
(VWROC haven't listed them all but here's a sample...)
36, BMW 235i - There are lots of BMWs on this list but, shockingly, not one M car. This is the nearest we came to choosing one â€” a car Â£22k cheaper than an M4 and nicer to drive.
17, Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy - If you donâ€™t know why a front-drive Renault hatch with a rear beam axle is this far up this list, get to your nearest dealer. Drive one and youâ€™ll never ask again.
1, VW Golf R - Itâ€™s a Golf. How could we? Itâ€™s like having the worldâ€™s greatest haute couturiers at your feet and asking if anyone has seen the Boden catalogue. But you can see our thinking. We like good cars and we like quick cars. The Golf is good and the R is quick; QED, we have our winner.
Actually, itâ€™s not like that at all. For the purposes of this exercise, it would be really quite handy if you could somehow forget that it was a Golf at all. If you do not, youâ€™ll think that itâ€™s another fast and fluent Golf, in the finest traditions of all those fast and fluent Golfs since the original GTI let the world believe that VW invented the hot hatchback almost 40 years ago.
Worse, you might believe that itâ€™s like the previous Golf R, only a bit quicker, and then youâ€™ll be struggling to see how it even made it into the top 50, let alone won the whole contest outright.
Think of it, then, as another car, a breed apart, and take our word that whatever it may look like, whatever it may be based upon, this is a whole new level of hot hatchery. And because hot hatches are what people who need a practical car but love to drive actually go out and buy, that makes it quite an important car, too.
It is no exaggeration to say that when you dial up Race mode and fire it at a tricky road, it doesnâ€™t feel like any kind of Golf at all.
Indeed, and in the same way as Nascar racers have superficially familiar road car bodies draped over race car muscle and bone, so this R feels almost like a silhouette Golf. It offers not just raw speed but also far more valuable gifts such as grip, composure and feel.
How do we know how good this car is? Because the tougher the test you set it, the better it feels; thatâ€™s the test that cannot be ducked. There are lots of cars that might feel good when hunkered down in a quick, smooth, constant-radius curve. But what about one thatâ€™s narrow, treacherous and teeming with crafty changes to camber and surface? A decent British B-road, in other words. Thatâ€™s a challenge of a different magnitude and one that the Golf R tackles with indecent relish.
Of course, being merely capable in such conditions is only half the battle. It is the most important quality, because without the confidence thatâ€™s a natural byproduct of such excellence, you never want to drive it like that in the first place.
But then comes the other stuff: the throttle response that youâ€™d simply not ascribe to a small, four-cylinder engine through which a great deal of turbo boost is being blown. Youâ€™d expect it to sound as interesting as a digital radio in a tunnel. In fact, it sounds fabulous.
Then thereâ€™s the balance. This car has four-wheel drive, so you expect it to understeer, but it doesnâ€™t. It just steers, jabbing into the apex with its quick, accurate steering, swivelling its hips into neutrality or better if you lift off the throttle. Itâ€™s not just capable; itâ€™s massively, implausibly involving, too.
Sooner or later the road will end, youâ€™ll take a deep breath, press a couple of buttons and the car will go back to being an everyday, common-or-garden, quiet, comfortable, well built and spacious Volkswagen Golf.
Doubtless there have been other hatchbacks as incisive as this and some, perhaps, as easy to live with. But these talents have never been combined in the same car until now.
This may just look like a Golf in running gear with a sharper set of spikes, but itâ€™s not: itâ€™s a landmark in real-world performance car design. And in its very best form â€“ with three doors and a manual gearbox, just like the one you see here â€“ itâ€™s yours for less than Â£30,000.