2022 Volkswagen Golf R Review

Flawed, but still great.

By Kunal Dsouza

Apr 22, 2022 6 min. read

Article was updated a month ago

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The Golf R has had the enviable position of being the yardstick by which all other extra hot hatches are measured ever since it was first introduced. It hasn’t always been the most powerful, the best looking, or even the most exciting but it has always offered that rare package of sportiness, refinement, and livability sprinkled with a healthy dose of driving excitement that few others have been able to match.

You would have very likely been reading and watching more glowing reviews but talking points on this latest top Golf have focused on the new infotainment system, and the general hate for it. This latest entry from Wolfsburg loses enough points on that one section alone that it’s fallen sharply in rank. It’s no longer the automotive media darling it once was mainly because of a difficult to use OS.

2022 VW Golf R

Things don’t get much better when you realize that there are no real buttons inside. The stereo volume, climate, headlight controls, and even the sunroof are operated with capacitive touch buttons and sliders. The steering wheel buttons aren’t really buttons either, they just masquerade as buttons that are harder to use. And the main temperature control and volume slider are not backlit, so at night you have no idea what you’re doing. That last one’s unforgivable, and it really should be addressed in an update.

I suggest, that when you first get into a new GTI or Golf R spend 10-20 minutes, or even an hour, and go through the owner’s manual and set all your presets and sound settings and everything else up just the way you like it. Familiarize yourself with the infotainment system and all the drive modes, and get over the fact that there’s no volume knob (yeah that’s a tough one).

2022 VW Golf R interior

Now that you’re less distracted, push that start button, forget the dashboard, and just drive. You’ll find that what you remember from the last Golf R hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s just been sharpened and given stronger lungs. The EA888 2-litre turbo 4 cylinder now makes 315 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque from 1900 rpm (DSG equipped cars get 295 lb-ft of twist).

The steering wheel is the perfect size and thickness and the perforated inserts offer a great tactile feel. The 6-speed manual gearbox (if you’ve ticked that box) is satisfying to row with a comfortably weighted and easy to modulate clutch. If you’d rather have shifting duties taken away, the available dual-clutch 7-speed automatic gearbox is one of the best in the biz.

On the face of it, the Golf really hasn’t changed much. And since we don’t get the cheaper base models, the GTI and Golf R are feature-rich out of the box.

2022 VW Golf R

The Golf R starts at $45,995 and includes everything, making the order form a simple one. The DSG Automatic is an extra $1400 and the only option is a sunroof for $1250. There are three colours: white, black, and the best one, Lapiz Blue which also happened to be the colour my tester was painted in.

The infotainment system accessed through a bright and sharp 10-inch touchscreen really isn’t that bad once you get used to it and set everything up as I mentioned earlier. And VW’s digital gauge cluster gives you up to 21 different viewing options within three main themes, including R mode that pushes the rev counter into the middle and introduces racy shift lights as you approach the rev limiter.

Carplay and Android auto is wireless, a convenient wireless phone charger resides in a bin ahead of the shifter, a head-up display is standard equipment, and VW’s Car-net brings the connected car experience with unlocking and locking of doors, light flashing, and honking done remotely via a smartphone app. You can even get a status update of your fuel level, location, and more.

On the safety front, you’ll find the usual mix of blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping assist, forward collision alerts and mitigation, automatic high beams and adaptive cruise control.

2022 VW Golf R

The drive modes are accessed through a capacitive button on the dash and can be configured further on the main screen, including a custom mode where you can tweak all the settings to suit your driving style. And there are a lot of settings from fake engine sound control, to dynamic chassis control, steering heft, and engine response.

There’s also a new Drift mode that engages the new torque-vectoring rear axle to kick 100 per cent of available rear-axle torque to the outside wheel to help set the stage for a drift. Nurburgring mode sets everything to its sharpest settings but leaves the dampers soft to help shrug off the rougher sections of the famed German racetrack but it ends up working just as nicely on broken Toronto roads, which are famously bad this time of year. Adaptive dampers can go from super soft in comfort mode to rock hard nearly instantly truly offering the best of both worlds making this a great driving experience no matter what the road surface is.

With all-wheel drive and the Golf’s relatively short wheelbase, there’s no shortage of fun to be had on a nice back road and that doesn’t end when it starts to rain or even snow as it did during my time with it. You can feel the rear axle diff do its thing sending power to the outside rear wheel when you turn hard into a corner, in effect vacuuming the Golf towards the apex and erasing most of the understeer.

2022 VW Golf R

There’s also a good amount of exhaust noise and even a few pops from the rear pipes when lifting off the throttle for a bit of entertainment ‘cause this is a hot hatch after all.

Driving the R is a fulfilling experience. It’s basically an Audi S3 under the skin for a lot less money and brings with it all the refinement that luxury marque is known for. The EA888 motor is strong, eager, and loves to rev, the steering is nicely weighted, and the brakes are reassuringly strong. It hits all the right hot hatch buttons and inspires more confidence behind the wheel than anything else in its class. Is it as exciting or edgy as the Honda Civic Type R? Probably not, but in the Golf I don’t look like I’m up to something illegal just parked at Walmart.

It can be hard to design a vehicle that suits everybody, and for as many people that aren’t fans of the new interior, there will be an equal amount that are going to love it because it's new and shiny and everyone else is doing it. For the rest of us that just want genuine fun and performance out of a fizzy little 5-door box, the Golf R still greatly satisfies.


The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R 6MT

BODY STYLE: 5-door, 5-passenger compact hatchback

CONFIGURATION: Front-engine/All-wheel drive

ENGINE: 2.0-L turbocharged inline-4; Power: 315 hp @ 6000 rpm; Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 19000 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual

CARGO CAPACITY: 564-977 litres

FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline in L/100 km)  11.8 city; 8.3 highway; 10.2 combined

PRICE:  $45,995 (MT base) ; $47,245 (as-tested)