It's cheaper than a brand-new GTI.
Americans clearly prefer sedans and SUVs but this hasn't stopped Volkswagen from continuing to offer hatchbacks.While the next-generation Golf won't be sold as a base model in the US, there is still plenty of demand for the hotter versions like the Golf GTI and Golf R. It will still be a few more years before the eighth-generation Golf arrives in the US and sadly, VW has already announced the Golf R will take a brief hiatus before the new model arrives.
Once the current stock of 2019 models runs out, the only way to buy a Golf R in the US will be to get it used. But is that such a bad thing? We took a look at used Golf R prices and after doing some digging, we discovered why a used example is a great buy.
The R model is the hottest version of the Golf we've ever been able to buy. VW first applied the Golf R name to the sixth-generation Golf after dropping the V6-powered R32 model in favor of a turbocharged four-cylinder. What was lost in engine note, the Golf R made up for in performance. The VR6 engine found in the fourth and fifth-generation Golf R32 models was one of the best-sounding V6 engines in recent history but VW knew it could produce a faster and more efficient car with turbocharging and thus, the Golf R was born. Thanks to turbocharging, the Golf R is also a tuner's dream and can be made much faster than VW originally intended.
Volkswagen simplified the Golf R configurations in the US for the seventh-generation because it is a low-volume model. This means the only way you could get one in the US is pretty much fully-loaded with leather seats and most of the Golf's optional features. VW also stopped selling the three-door Golf R in the US after the Mk6 generation so the only Mk7 Golf R you could get was the more practical five-door body style.
A brand-new 2019 Golf R is priced at $40,395 but you can now get a used one for less than half that. The Mk7 Golf R was sold in the US from 2015 to 2019 and early examples nearing 100,000 miles can be found for less than $20,000. Prices go up from there based on the year and mileage but you can still find a certified pre-owned example with a warranty for around $25,000. For a 2017 model or older, VW's CPO warranty will offer two years and 24,000 miles of coverage.
Whereas the GTI transmits its 228 horsepower to the front wheels only, the R bumps the 2.0-liter turbo-four's output to 291 hp and throws in an extra set of driven wheels. With the six-speed dual-clutch transmission (which later was changed to a seven-speed), the Golf R can sprint to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. Opting for the manual will push the 0-60 time up to 5.2 seconds, though some people will make the sacrifice for the pleasure of rowing their own gears.
It is worth noting that the manual transmission didn't arrive in the US until the 2016 model year and the DCT is the better option if you plan to tune the car. VW's manual transmission will require a new clutch if you plan to drastically increase the power with an aftermarket tune. The DSG can handle much more power and will yield a faster car.
The Mk7 has always had a nice interior and even though it has reached the end of its life cycle, the cabin does not feel dated. VW added some minor updates like a larger infotainment screen and Virtual Cockpit but the Golf R's interior mostly feels the same as when it debuted in 2015. This means you will get premium leather, soft-touch surfaces, and excellent build quality. The Golf R's seats are nicely bolstered for spirited driving without being too aggressive for everyday use.
Americans may hate hatchbacks but we recognize them for their SUV-rivaling versatility. The Golf R offers 22.8 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seats which opens up to 52.7 cubic feet when the seats are folded. It isn't even particularly thirsty with its four-cylinder engine yielding 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
The Golf R is one of the best hot hatchbacks ever built but its $40,000 price tag meant that when it arrived we recommended the cheaper Golf GTI. Now that the Golf R has had time to depreciate, a used example is cheaper than a brand-new GTI and should be worth your consideration. The Golf R has recently been challenged by new entrants like the Hyundai Veloster N and Honda Civic Type R but neither of those cars offers AWD grip. If you are looking for a used hot hatch with nearly endless tuning potential, you should be shopping for a Golf R.