Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 86%

The Volkswagen Golf R32 is the car for when the Golf GTi just isn’t enough. It might be a little faster, a little more comfortable and a little more exclusive, but for performance junkies, these little bits add up to a lot.

Powered by a big 3.2-litre V6 engine, the Golf R32 features Volkswagen’s acclaimed 4Motion four-wheel drive system making it a stunning cross country cruiser. We spent several hundred miles behind the wheel to find out if it’s just a posh GTi or something entirely different.

1. Looks 9/10

The standard Volkswagen Golf is an elegant car, with its classless lines and is instantly recognisable. The range-topping R32 sets itself out from the rest of the range with a silver grille and big grille surround – rather than the conventional racy black of the GTi – big 18-inch wheels and a deep rear bumper with two centrally-mounted exhausts. The Golf R32 also sits lower than the GTi and is 42mm longer than other models.

2. Looks inside 9/10

The Volkswagen Golf is still the hatchback to which the interior of all others are judged. High quality plastics are fitted flawlessly with a premium feel other manufacturers can only attempt to match. The Golf R32 comes with patterned chrome inserts across the dash and doors and aluminium pedals engraved with the squiggle pattern from the R32 logo. The R32 also features sports seats with integrated headrests which are extremely supportive and a racy flat-bottomed steering wheel with R32 branding. Even the speedo is exclusive to this model, with clear markings from 0 to 180mph.

3. Practicality 7/10

The latest generation Golf is the biggest yet, meaning plenty of space for all occupants front and rear. The R32’s boot measures 245 litres; which is almost 100 smaller than the standard car due to the four-wheel drive system. That means space is on par with the much smaller Polo.

4. Ride and Handling 10/10

The heart of the Golf R32’s handling excellence it down to Volkswagen’s excellent 4Motion four-wheel drive system which employs a Haldex clutch to split power between the front and rear wheels. As this Haldex coupling is electronic, it links with other safety systems, such as ABS and traction control. On the road this means the R32 can get all 247bhp down on the tarmac with minimal wheelspin, and through bends with the kind of pace few other hot hatches can manage. But it’s not all grip and no involvement. Its electro-mechanical power steering varies the level of assistance depending on speed, can compensate for driving conditions and has the side effect of improving economy by avoiding the need for an energy-sapping hydraulic set-up. Some drivers may find the low profile tyres cause a little too much road noise.

5. Performance 9/10

The 3.2-litre V6 engine in the Golf R32 makes it noticeably faster than the GTi. It’ll reach 62mph from rest in 6.5 seconds in manual guise and 6.2 when fitted with VW’s excellent semi-auto DSG gearbox. The speed of both models is limited to 155mph. The big capacity engine has lots of pulling power at low engine speeds, which makes for searing acceleration in all of its six gears. It also makes a nice boomy exhaust note with a racecar-like buzz when the car is pushed, but its all very quiet at a steady motorway pace.

View more pictures of the Volkswagen Golf R32

6. Running Costs 7/10

The Volkswagen Golf R32 is expensive to buy, especially when compared to the brilliant Golf GTi, but it many will regard it as a small price to pay for exclusivity. And constant demand for used examples keeps used values high. But that big engine will cause a dent in the wallet. It’ll cover 26.4mpg in manual guise and 29.1mpg with the DSG ‘box – about 8mpg less than the GTi. Emissions of 257g/km place it in tax band G, which costs £400 a year, and insurance group 18 will sting too.

7. Reliability 8/10

Everything is built with the quality you’d expect from Volkswagen. The engine has been around for a while, as have the gearboxes so most problems should be ironed out. The Golf performs well in the Reliability Index for the cost and frequency of repairs.

8. Safety 10/10

The Volkswagen Golf scored a full five star rating in the EuroNCAP crash test programme. The R32 features driver, passenger, front side and curtain airbags, whiplash-reducing headrests, ABS with brake assist, ESP with electronic differential lock and traction control as standard.

9. Equipment 8/10

Away from the go faster bits, the Volkswagen R32 has the equipment you’d expect from a £25,000 hatchback. Two-zone climate control, automatic headlights, electric window, electric and heated mirrors, trip computer, rain-sensing wipers, bright bi-xenon headlights and tinted glass all come as standard. Options away from this standard kit are generally expensive. Common specified options include heated leather Recaro seats (£2,395) and touch-screen sat-nav with 30GB hard drive which is compatible with several data formats (£1,845).

10. X-Factor 9/10

The R32 is the hottest Volkswagen Golf, and as such will always be a very important car for performance fans. And this car is more than worthy of sitting above the excellent GTi in the range.

Key facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Golf R32 V6 4Motion 3dr 6sp manual
On the road price: £24,950
Price range: £24,950 – £25,345
Date tested: May 2008
Road tester: Stuart Milne