With its Golf R looks and sweet 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol, the Golf R-Line is a fine family hatch. But is it really worth more than £25k?

What is it?

It’s essentially a Golf GT with a £995 styling package to look more like a Golf R. Golf aficionados will instantly spot the 17in wheels, instead of the R’s more purposeful 18in rims, body coloured rather than chrome door mirrors, and of course, just two, not four exhaust tailpipes at the rear.

So, what do you get? To start with, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, plus extended side sills, a boot spoiler and naturally, a rear diffuser - well that's de rigueur these days.

Inside you get a set of very smart sports seats trimmed in contrasting cloth with Alcantara inserts. There’s also an R-line multifunction steering wheel and neon-like illuminated strips in the door cards to make your mates go ‘wow’ after dark.

What's it like?

The R-Line comes with a choice of two engines: either a 2.0 TDI 150 diesel or this sweet 1.4 TSI 150 petrol. It might lack the low-down torque of the oil burner, but it’s gutsy enough for day-to-day pootling and encourages you to use the slick six-speed manual gearbox more often, and that’s no drag.

Actually, the fact you have to work it a little harder combined with its free-revving disposition quite suits the car’s sporty pretentions. It’s only a shame that the tone doesn’t; it’s very smooth-sounding but wholly unexciting. Surprisingly, for a petrol at least, what you do get is a fair amount of buzz through the steering wheel and pedals the minute the rev-needle hits 3000rpm.

This is a ‘clever’ engine, because it uses Active Cylinder Technology to make it cleaner and more economical. On part-throttle between 1000-4000rpm, and at speeds of up to 80mph, it shuts down the middle-two cylinders by switching off their injectors and using actuators to shift the camshaft lobes away from the valves so they remain closed. VW reckons it saves up to 10% in fuel, and reduces CO2 emissions by around 9g/km.

You would never know it’s going on, though. The switch from two- to four-pot power is totally seamless, the only tell-tale being an indicator on the multifunction display between the instruments.

All R-Line’s come with a Driver Profile selector that allows you to alter the engine’s throttle response and steering weight between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. Because our test car had the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, this changes the suspension’s stiffness, as well.

In Comfort the steering is light and the suspension takes the edge off general bumps. However, because the R-Line gets sports suspension - which is stiffer and lowered by 10mm – there’s still a residual firmness to it which means you feel the odd thud over deeper ruts.

Switch to Sport and the setup is noticeably stiffer. The immediate decrease in body roll means the Golf settles quicker in bends, and the steering weights up to give more feedback at speed - albeit with no more feel.

As with all sporty Golfs, it makes for very tidy handling car that’s easy to drive on its door handles. However, if you’re the kind of person that needs something more edgy, then a tail-happy Focus ST is around the same money and is a lot quicker, too.

Mind you, a Focus can’t live with the Golf when it comes to interior look and feel. To some the Golf might be rather stayed, but the gloss-black fascia, aluminium pedals and fancy seat trim of the R-Line do make it swish in a retrained kind of way. Of course, the important surfaces are all made of soft-touch materials and every switch and knob operates like it’s from a premium exec.

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This five-door version is very practical as well. The spacious cabin is big enough to fit four six-foot adults without too much of an issue, and the boot is big enough to deal with their luggage needs, too.

You also get an infotainment system with a DAB radio, Bluetooth and sat-nav, which includes a three-year subscription to VW’s Car-Net service. This offers online features such as traffic and weather reports, tells you the availability of parking spaces and where to find the cheapest petrol in the area. Adaptive cruise control with emergency city braking city braking, plus front and rear parking sensors are standard too.

Should I buy one?

The Golf R-Line is a funny car becasue it creates a dichotomy.

On one side there’s the Focus ST that I mentioned earlier, which is a proper hot-hatch, more fun to drive and cheaper. Or, if you’re excited by the Golf’s quality, then can I tempt you with an Audi A3 Sportback instead?  You can have an S Line Navigation with the same 1.4-litre engine, but for £80 less.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the Golf R-Line, because it's a damn fine car. But do think very carefully about your options before you do.

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 150 R-Line

Price £24,845; Engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm; Torque 184b ft at 1500-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1270kg; Top speed 134mph; 0-62mph 8.2sec; Economy 58.9mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 112g/km, 17%



John Howell

John Howell
Title: Senior reviewer

John is a freelance automotive journalist with more than a decade of experience in the game. He’s written for most of the big car mags, not least as a road tester for Autocar and as deputy reviews editor for our sister brand, What Car?. He was also the features editor at PistonHeads and headed its YouTube channel.

Cars, driving and machines are in his blood. When he was barely a teenager he was creating race-bale racetracks on his family’s farm – to thrash an old Humber Sceptre around. It broke regularly, of course, which meant he got a taste (and love) for repairing cars. That’s why he eschewed university, choosing instead to do an apprenticeship with a Jaguar dealer. That’s where he built up his technical understanding.  

After that he moved into high-end car sales, selling Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis through the franchised network. But it was a love of writing and appraising cars that, eventually, led him to use his industry experience to prise open the door of motoring journalism. He loves cars that exceed their brief in some way. So he finds as much pleasure in testing a great, but humble, hatchback as he does sampling the latest Ferrari on track. Honest.

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Ski Kid 9 December 2015

58.9mpg if you see pigs fly

My son has the same engine in a Seat ibiza and official mpg 60 and gets about 40mpg the guy before him got 43mpg according to the trip but he gets 37 to 42.
Bristolbluemanc 8 December 2015


I have an Audi Q3 with this engine and it's fine in town but rather noisy on the Mway. Certainly noisier than the car I traded in (Merc C220 CDI) and nowhere near as economical. Before you buy any car with this engine I'd recommend you include a short Mway trip on your test drive.
Adrian987 8 December 2015

Most interesting

Bristolbluemanc wrote:

I have an Audi Q3 with this engine and it's fine in town but rather noisy on the Mway. Certainly noisier than the car I traded in (Merc C220 CDI) and nowhere near as economical. Before you buy any car with this engine I'd recommend you include a short Mway trip on your test drive.

That's interesting. I test drove the Golf with that engine, and did not like it, and ended up with the effortless 2.0 TDI which suited me better. Economy was one of my concerns (with the petrol), I had this vision of only getting around 40mpg in my real world, when I have been accustomed to 50+ with with ease on Golf diesels.

NY_69 6 November 2015

Forget it...

If VW can go to such lengths to deceive with emissions then who knows whatelse they've got up to...ineffective airbags that don't deploy, failed brakes (the latest), just forget it and move on.

Get yourself a nice Ford or something....a year old BMW perhaps.