When we went to the launch of the 2022 Mk8 Golf R, we were impressed by the performance and handling of the car at Pukekohe Park Raceway

But laps on a track aren’t the same as Daily Driving on the road. Come with us as we find what it’s like to spend a week and 1,000Km living behind the wheel of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R.

Could the new Golf R could be the answer to the hot-hatch question?

What We Like and Dislike About The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Fantastic track credentials
Performance in Race mode
Matrix LED headlights
Refinement over its competition
Seat comfort
Relative fuel economy
Torque vectoring diff
Haptic controls
Tyre noise
Lack of info on heads-up display
No traffic sign recognition
Not enough exhaust noise in Sport mode

What’s In The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R Range?

At the moment, there are two Golf R models to choose from. There’s the standard $77,990 Golf R, then the limited-run $82,990 Golf R First Edition. Both have the same 2-litre, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine that develops a healthy 235kW of power and 400Nm of torque.

Either car gets to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and fuel economy is listed at 8.6L/100Km, not that we expect fuel economy is highly weighted when buying the Golf R.

The transmission is a 7-speed DSG unit and either model comes with Launch Control capability. Both are all-wheel drive.

The main difference between the two is that the First Edition has two extra drive modes; Drift, and Special – Nurburgring. The First Edition also has an exclusive rear roof spoiler and a panoramic sunroof is standard – it’s a $2,500 option on the standard Golf R. Upgrading to the First Edition also gives you an 8-speaker (7+bass) Harman Kardon sound system with a 12-channel digital amplifier for 480-watts output. The standard Golf R has a 7-speaker (6+bass) audio system. 

Nineteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on both models, with an optional design 19” wheel (‘Adelaide’) available only on the standard Golf R, at $1,000.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R Standard Equipment Highlights

  • ISOFIX mounting points on outer rear seats (x2) and front passenger seat (x1)
  • Top tether anchorage points on outer rear seats (x2) and front passenger seat (x1)
  • Anti-theft ‘Plus’ alarm system
  • Front Assist incl. City Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning
  • Pedestrian & Cyclist Monitoring
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Travel Assist and Emergency Assist
  • ‘Lane Assist’ (Lane Keeping System)
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator
  • Electromechanical parking brake with Auto-Hold function
  • Rearview camera with dynamic guideline
  • Park Distance Control (front and rear parking sensors)
  • Park Assist
  • Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) – Electrically controlled dampers
  • Driving Profile Selection (Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual)
  • IQ. Matrix LED Headlights:
  • – Dynamic Light Assist (Advanced High-Beam Control)
  • – Dynamic Cornering Light
  • – Dynamic Indicators (front and rear)
  • – Low light sensor with automatic headlight function
  • – LED daytime running lights (DRL)
  • – Coming Home and Leaving home feature
  • Exterior Ambient Lighting:
  • – LED light strip across front grill
  • – LED lighting in door handle recesses (puddle lights)
  • Front & rear fog lights
  • LED combination tail lamps
  • Matt chrome exterior side mirrors (power-folding, adjustable & heated)
  • – ‘R’ design front & rear bumpers and front air intake
  • – Blue brake calipers with ‘R’ logo
  • – Sports side skirts
  • – Body-coloured rear spoiler
  • ‘R’ Performance exclusive rear spoiler –
  • Privacy glass – rear window and rear side windows
  • Keyless entry and start
  • Climatronic 3-zone automatic air conditioning system
  • Height and reach adjustable steering wheel
  • ‘R’ exclusive Leather-covered multifunction sports steering wheel with ‘R’ gearshift paddles
  • Heated steering wheel function
  • Automatic dimming interior rear-view mirror
  • ‘Carbon Grey’ decorative inserts (Dashboard & front door trims)
  • Brushed stainless steel pedals
  • 30-Colour Ambient Lighting
  • Variable boot floor with bag hooks in luggage compartment
  • R’ exclusive ‘Nappa’ Leather appointed# front sports seats:
  • – Power adjustable driver’s seat with memory function and power adjustable lumbar support
  • – Front passenger seat with manual height adjustment and lumbar support
  • Leather-appointed seats have a combination of genuine and artificial leather, but are not wholly leather
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Discover Media Navigation Infotainment System:
  • – 10″ colour touch-screen
  • – Satellite Navigation
  • – Wireless App-Connect (Wireless Apple CarPlay)
  • – Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming
  • – Voice Control
  • 2 x USB-C ports in the front, 2 x USB-C charging ports in the rear
  • Inductive wireless phone charging (for Qi-enabled devices only)
  • 6+1 speakers
  • Active Info Display ‘Pro’ (10.25″ High-resolution full TFT-LCD instrument cluster)
  • Heads-up Display (HUD)

Golf R First Edition adds:

Additional Driving Modes (‘Drift’ and ‘Special – Nürburgring’)

Panoramic sliding/tilting sunroof

Harman/Kardon premium sound system:

– 8 speakers plus centre speaker and subwoofer

– 12-channel digital amplifier, 480 watts output

There are just 3 colours to pick from for your 2022 Volkswagen Golf R, all at no cost:

Pure White

Lapiz Blue Metallic

Deep Black Pearlescent

For a full list of specs and options available for the  2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition head on over to the Volkswagen New Zealand website.

How Does The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition Compare To Its Competition?

All prices below exclude the refund or additional cost of the New Zealand Clean Car Programme (*CCP)

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
Price (excl CCP)
Mercedes-AMG A35 (AWD)2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol225/4004.77.4405$92,718
Audi S3 Sportback (AWD)2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol228/4004.87.4325$89,500
VW Golf R First Edition (AWD)2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol235/4004.88.6343$82,990
MINI Clubman JCW Yours (AWD)2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol225/4504.77.7360$80,300
Hyundai i30N DCT (FWD)2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol203/3536.18.0436$69,990
Renault Megane (FWD)1.8-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol221/4205.78.0434$68,990
Honda Civic Type R (FWD) – manual only2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol228/4005.78.8420$62,990

First Impressions Of The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition

While the MK8 Golf R isn’t a huge departure from the MK7 in terms of design, the tweaks that Volkswagen has made have certainly modernised the car, while absolutely retaining that instant recognition that it’s a Golf. 

Sequential indicators front and rear make an appearance, and admittedly they look very cool when you are parked next to a mirrored building and have them on. Our test car was finished in Lapiz Blue Metallic, complete with blue brake callipers. This is a Golf R-only colour, and for me, it’s the only colour to get. Every time I returned to the car, I got excited for the shape and the colour. It’s simply excellent.

The front of the car is a lot sharper than before, with crisp, cutting lines – especially around the headlights. Side-on there aren’t too many obvious changes, and ditto for the rear. The First Edition models have a unique roof spoiler, and it’s almost worth going for the First Edition just for this; I know it’s only a roof spoiler, but the design and its execution are a stand-out. 

Those four polished oval exhaust tips at the rear differentiate the car from a GTi, and I think this was hammered home to me by the number of drivers who wanted to race me. Regularly on the motorway, I’d see a car in the right lane next to me, revving its engine and trying to have a go. Time and place, and the motorway is never the place.

Opening the doors at night will see the ‘R’ logo projected onto the footpath, something that my passengers were very impressed by. It’s a fairly common sort of a feature at this price point, but simply having an “R” projected was a nice touch.

As far as first impressions go, the end result for the MK8 Golf R is that it still looks like a Golf, and it still looks great. 

What’s The Interior Like In The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition?

I’d already driven this Golf R at Pukekohe at the launch, and had checked out the interior before. Still, a week behind the wheel was going to show how good, bad or bland it really is to live with.

Blue is the order of the day in our test car, with blue piping on the seats along with some blue leather trim. The blue continues even to the perforations in the seats (that are both heated and ventilated for the front). The seats have some fake carbon-fibre-looking material on the sides for both the front and back seats, and I have to say it looks a little naff. One step too far, for me.

The flat-bottom steering wheel has blue stitching and feels great to the touch – a lot better than the leather steering wheel in the i30N we recently tested. The steering wheel controls are all haptic, and we’ll cover this in the Drive section.

That carbon-fibre look is on the doors and this flows nicely onto the dashboard. The 10” centre screen is mostly integrated, and moving down to the centre console, there are two USB-C ports up front and another two for your rear passengers. There’s a 12-volt socket in front of the smallish centre cubby, but no other 12-volt sockets anywhere near the front windscreen for your dashcam or radar detector.

The glove box is an average size, and the Golf R has Qi wireless phone charging at the base of the centre console – and it works very well. It’s slanted forward so your phone never moves around, even on the race track. It has a cover too, to reduce the temptation to look at the screen.

Like many other Audi/Skoda/VW models, the door pockets are felt-lined, and I love this. No more rattling of your drink bottle when on the move! Such a simple and cheap fix, and it looks good too.

Rear seat passengers have a reasonable amount of legroom, and headroom isn’t too bad. That headroom is aided by some heavily dished rear seat cushions. Since the one-piece front seats are high-backed and have fixed headrests, your rear-seat passengers are going to be looking straight into the back of the front seats, whenever looking forward. Not ideal, but the Golf R wasn’t meant to be a long-distance tourer.

The tilt/slide electric sunroof is controlled by a haptic slide switch on the roof, while the mesh blind is manually operated.

The boot is standard Golf, but there is no spare tyre; you get a pump and in the place of the spare wheel is a Harman-Kardon bass speaker.

What’s The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition Like To Drive?

My time and 1,000Km with the 2022 Golf R would be split into two memories; Daily Driving, and track time at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon. While we went to the launch of the model at Pukekohe Park Raceway, our photo session for the review would be at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, and very generously we were allowed a few laps to test the Golf R out there.

But that track time would be near the end of the review, so what about the Daily Drive? I had some good and not-so-good moments with the 2022 Golf R, as far as using it every day goes. In no particular order here’s how it fared.

For most of my time with the Golf R, it rained. This was a repeat of when I reviewed the Hyundai i30N DCT last month – consistent rain. And that’s where the Golf R shines over its competition like the i30N, Megane RS 300 Trophy or Honda Civic Type R. Even in Launch Mode, the Golf R gets the power down with no fuss and no wheelspin. Compare this to its front-wheel drive competition, and well, there’s no competition. For me, this is probably the biggest selling point of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R: there is no drama getting that 235kW of power down, wet or dry. 

This car can make you out to be a better driver than you are, as it hangs on to the last before letting go. Any sort of above-normal acceleration in the i30N etc will see wheelspin and if you use more than a little throttle, lots of axle tramp. The Golf R wipes the floor clean of its competition in this respect.

But as I always do with a performance car, I start my first few days with the car in Comfort mode (or whatever name it might have for that model) to get a feel for it. But after the first day, I stuck the Golf R in Sport mode and left it there. It’s not lethargic, but in Comfort mode performance is quite subdued, and you have to either stab the gas pedal or use a lot more of it to get moving at the pace you’d expect. The accelerator pedal seems to have a lot of travel, so this compounds the feeling.

On the plus side of things, the Golf R remembers what drive mode you left it in, so once in  Sport mode, there was no need to do anything again. When in Comfort or Sport mode, the transmission – which is excellent – is very quick to change up a gear, almost making the car feel like it’s running in Eco mode. So if you want it to do better, stick it in Sport and then pull back on the gear ‘lever’ and that will put the transmission into Sport mode. This is a much better scenario and feels just right for what the Golf R is all about.

Hitting the ‘R’ button on the steering wheel will put the drive mode into Race and the transmission into Sport, so no dramas there. But the ride quality (understandably) in Race mode is pretty bloody firm; it’s a mode for the track or very smooth roads. The ride quality itself in Comfort or Sport is more than acceptable and definitely better than the jiggly ride in the Megane RS. The Megane RS doesn’t have adjustable dampers, so this is a big plus for the Golf R over that hot hatch.

I can’t leave it any longer, I have to talk about the haptic steering wheel controls. We know many Euro brands are moving to haptic steering wheel controls, but most of the world wishes they didn’t. They just don’t work. I don’t recall in my 1,000Km with the Golf R not looking down at the steering wheel to see what button I was pushing. That’s not how it should be. Then there are times you simply slide your finger over the wheel for whatever reason, and you change something. 

While the 2022 VW Golf R has adaptive cruise control – and it works very well – it’s all operated by haptic controls on the steering wheel. Sometimes I would want to adjust my speed up or down by 1km/h but I’d push the + button just that little bit too hard and my speed would jump by 10km/h. Or I’d want to adjust my speed by 10km/h and I’d only get it to go up or down by 1km/h. It’s all fairly frustrating. You get the picture.

Other ergonomic features to note include the heated front and rear windscreen buttons. They’re not anywhere near the centre console where you’d expect to find them, and are instead up by the headlight button on the right-hand side of the dashboard.

The centre screen itself has good resolution, and is reasonable in size at 10”. There can be some lag between screens, and the startup time is pretty long, as virtual buttons slowly appear when you start the car. You can adjust the “Mood themes” for the screen and this changes the colours on the dashboard and LED ambient lighting too. You can pick from things like Desire (blue), Euphoria (red) Vitality, Individual, or Auto which is tied to the drive mode you have selected.

I did have some audio issues with our test car, where quite randomly the car would stop playing tracks in order and switch to shuffle mode. Audio quality is very good, with that Harman Kardon system giving excellent separation, although the bass is a little light for me.

Earlier on I said that the Golf R remembers your drive mode, but it also remembers the seat heat settings you had on, as well brake auto-hold being turned on (or off). This is one of the few cars that does all this the right way, so credit to VW for nailing it. The seats themselves are fantastic; even on my day trip to Manfeild to return, no aches or pains of any sort. As you’d expect, the side bolsters are pretty big and do an excellent job of holding you in place in all driving conditions.

It was a little disappointing to see that VW still hasn’t got traffic sign recognition (TSR). I’m hoping to see this on the next updates, as they’re falling behind compared to nearly all other brands in not having TSR.

The dashboard on the car is mostly very, very good. Excellent clarity, and a load of different options for displays. There’s the normal “View” button which changes the screen to show a multitude of different types, including almost a full-screen for a map. Hitting the left or right option button on the steering wheel will allow you to pick from one of many options for either the left or right side of the screen. There are over a dozen to pick from, some trip-related, or fuel, torque, power, etc. Something for everyone here. It’s a minor point, but to show what drive mode you are in, you must have one of those screens showing your current gear. Otherwise, the only other way to see your current drive mode is to hit the drive mode button, and it will pop up on the centre screen.

But there are other benefits of the screen’s customisations. One of the options is to show the amount of drive going to each individual wheel. The 2022 Golf R has a torque vectoring diff, allowing the car to send all of its rearward drive to one rear wheel if it’s needed. The screen on the dashboard shows this, and it also shows when you go around (for example) a left-hand bend, how the car will send more drive to the right-hand wheels to give you better acceleration through that corner. It’s extremely cool, techy, and it really works, giving the car better performance when exiting a corner.

Time for part two; a trip to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for photos, and hopefully a few laps. The open road brings out one of the aspects of very low-profile tyres; tyre noise. It’s pretty loud in the Golf R, and doesn’t go away unless you are on very smooth asphalt.

We used SatNav on that trip, and it works well with the instructions shown on the heads-up display (HUD). A pity though that the HUD only shows your current speed, SatNav directions and driver assist. When in Sport or even Race mode, you don’t get a rev counter, gear indicator or even a drive mode setting. This is such a shame, as it makes the drive less special, and not having the rev counter showing in the HUD for such a performance car is a real downer.

The new Golf has a few options for altering the car’s aircon. You can select “Classic Climate” on the central screen, or Smart Climate, which allows you to choose from options like “Warm my feet”, or “Warm my hands”. All very easy and when you simply want to keep your attention on the road, this is a great way of achieving that.

Once at Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, we were allowed to do a few laps in the Golf R, in order to find the best photo location. Memories of the launch at Pukekohe hit me, but the red mist also hit me and I did not drive the car well. The Golf R is an awesome track car – one of the best – but my cornering was sloppy and most definitely not smooth. After photos, it was out for a few more laps, and I restrained my right foot and managed to drive a whole lot better. That torque vectoring diff came into play here, and the brakes worked brilliantly, with great pedal feel. 

In normal driving on normal roads, you can’t feel that torque vectoring diff at all. The car just gets on with it, and even on a twisty road, there’s no real feeling that the rear of the car is any different. But get it on a track, and all that changes. At speed coming out of a corner, the rear end will sometimes twitch a little, but it’s all part of the plan and the torque vectoring diff does make the car handle better, getting the power down smoothly and giving you extra drive out of the corners. 

Another highlight in Race mode is the exhaust noise; it’s hugely better (louder) than in Comfort or Sport, but weirdly you only get rev-matching in Race mode. We did switch on Drift mode in the Golf R for the last lap, but without going crazy on it all I could feel was more drive at the back end of the car on a corner, and that was it. Drift mode needs time and patience, as well as the right location. Keep in mind that only the Golf R First Edition has Drift mode. The steering is nicely direct, although the feel can be a little lacking – even Race mode. 

The way home meant a drive over the Paihiatua Track, the same route as I took with the 2022 Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy. While lots of traffic meant we couldn’t give the Golf R its head (to the speed limit only, of course), the car still did well and while it does feel like a better track car than a road car, it still nails the corners with ease. The ride quality in Sport mode is still pretty compliant overall, and liveable for a Daily Driver.

After Paihiatua Track, it was on boring SH2 to Masterton, but the occasional need to overtake reminded me just how good midrange acceleration is in this car. Having 235kW at your disposal in a car the size of the Golf R means passing is a breeze (keeping in mind I still had the car in Sport mode). It’s the same scenario on the motorway, just punch that right foot when needed and you will accelerate very quickly. Full-on acceleration from a stop in Comfort or even Sport mode will reveal some turbo lag. It’s not horrendous, but there’s a half-second where nothing happens. In Race mode, that lag has gone, and the car’s performance is boosted considerably. 

Cruising back home, some other highlights of the new Golf R. Adaptive cruise control is now fully stop/go, so if the engine hasn’t turned itself off the car will move forward with other traffic all on its own. If the engine automatic stop has engaged, you’ll need to stab the gas pedal and then the adaptive cruise will take over again.

The headlights deserve a mention. They are now LED and adaptive so will automatically adjust themselves around other cars in front of you or coming towards you. I can’t wait for the day when all cars have adaptive headlights. Being able to drive on high beams when following other cars makes driving that much safer. The headlights themselves are excellent, with a long and wide beam. Nailed it, Volkswagen.

A common complaint of the Mk7 Golf R was that the steering wheel paddles were too short, as they barely came up over the top of the steering wheel spokes. VW has listened and the MK8 Golf R’s paddles are now a decent size, and easy to flick with a finger. I’m happy to report they turn with the steering wheel, unlike those in the Megane R.S.

You would think with this much power and a 2-litre turbo motor that fuel consumption would suck. Actually, it was far better than I thought it would be. After 1,000Km of very mixed driving conditions, I averaged 8.6L/100Km which is exactly what VW suggests. Compared to the 9.0 we got for the 1.8-litre Megane RS and 9.5 for the Hyundai i30N DCT (both only front-wheel drive) and the 2022 Golf R is looking very efficient.  

Many thanks to Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon for allowing us to take photos on their track.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition – Specifications

Vehicle Type5-door, all-wheel-drive performance hatchback
Starting Price$82,990
Price as Tested$82,990
Engine4-Cylinder inline Turbo Petrol
Power, Torque
Transmission7 Speed DSG (with Launch Control)
Spare WheelPump only
Kerb Weight, Kg1,520
Length x Width x Height
Boot Space / Cargo Capacity,
(seats up/seats down)
Fuel tank capacity,
Fuel Economy,
Advertised Spec – Combined – 8.6
Real-World Test – Combined – 8.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Fuel Type Required98 RON
Turning circle
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 year / 150,000 km (whichever occurs first) mechanical warranty
5 year VW roadside assistance and 12-year anti-corrosion warranty
Volkswagen Service Plan:
Scheduled Servicing for 3 years or up to 45,000km (whichever occurs first) $1,645
Volkswagen Service Plan – Scheduled Servicing for 5 years or up to 75,000km (whichever occurs first) $3,145
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – VW R NZ

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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.
2022-volkswagen-golf-r-first-edition-car-review<!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R First Edition is a civilised hot hatch that has amazing track abilities, leading the pack of Korean, Japanese and French hot hatches nipping at its heels. Four-wheel-drive and that torque vectoring “diff” give the car a huge edge over its lower-priced competition. </p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>But are buyers in this segment looking for civilised? The axle tramp in the i30N, Type R and Megane R.S. is harsh but it’s also quite exciting and adds to the hot hatch experience - for me at least. But then you stick these cars on a track, and the 2022 Golf R will be out in front and that’s what some buyers want.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Yes, the haptic steering wheel controls are terrible, but you can switch to using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to lessen having to use them (except adaptive cruise control).</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph --> <!-- wp:paragraph --> <p>Overall, it’s a great result - the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is a huge achievement.</p> <!-- /wp:paragraph -->


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