The hot-hatch scene is alive and well. Despite the onset of electrification, it seems there’s still a significant appetite for compact, usable and driver-friendly models that can be used day in, day out.
The latest Honda Civic Type R has just arrived to challenge its rivals for hot-hatch supremacy, but what has the Volkswagen Golf R got to say about that? We’re going to take a look at how the two compare.
It might appear that things are quite similar between both cars here - they each use a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine - but they’re very different in the way they behave. The Type R adopts a six-speed manual gearbox, for example, while the Golf R utilises a DSG automatic instead. You get 325bhp and 420Nm in the Type R, driven through the front wheels, while the Golf R weighs in with 316bhp and 420Nm of torque sent through a wet-weather-friendly all-wheel-drive system.
Both offer excellent levels of performance, of course, but it’s the Golf R which might be the choice of those who want to get the best possible traction in all conditions.
The interior of both of these cars couldn’t be more different. The Golf R’s is just as refined and understated as you’d expect from this hatch; it’s well-made, with good quality materials combined with a comfortable driving position to make a car that’s easy to live with. You also get 380 litres of boot space which can be expanded by folding down the rear seats.
The Type R takes a slightly different angle. With its huge bucket seats it feels far more sporting than the Golf R, but there’s still plenty of headroom and legroom for all occupants. It also trumps the Golf when it comes to boot space, with its 410-litre load area providing plenty of room for luggage.
You’re not short of excitement with either of these cars. The Golf R delivers its power in an unflustered fashion, with its all-wheel-drive system ensuring maximum attack no matter the conditions. The smooth-shifting gearbox is great when you’re driving in a keen fashion, too, though it’s just as natural when on a cruise.
The Type R, meanwhile, is an altogether more aggressive thing. The six-speed manual means that it’s very engaging to drive, while the engine’s power delivery is impressively punchy. Needless to say, both cars here offer a very engrossing driving experience.
The previous Type R was an eye-catching thing, but Honda has definitely toned things down with this latest generation. There’s still a super-large wing, but the rest of the car has been smoothed out and made far more grown-up than before. That’s no bad thing, mind you, and it means that the Type R can fly a little further under the radar compared to before.
The Golf R, meanwhile, is a masterclass in understated design. Save for the quad exhaust pipes at the rear, you’d be hard-pressed to tell this apart from some of the ‘regular’ Golf models, and that’s not a bad thing if you want to drive a go-faster car which doesn’t scream about it.
Since both cars here top their respective ranges, you get loads of equipment for the money. One of the previous Type R’s biggest failings was its hard-to-use infotainment system, but this has been addressed with a far more pleasant unit which has all of the media and navigation functions you could want.
The Golf, meanwhile, comes loaded with equipment including a large central touchscreen and clear digital dials that replace the conventional ones ahead of the driver. Luxuries such as heated seats and adaptive cruise control also come as standard.