Volkswagen Golf R

You don’t have to look far to find a good hot hatch car these days- Mercedes, Audi and Ford are all at it. But there’s one brand with history and pedigree on its side when it comes to hot hatchbacks.

Volkswagen basically invented the hot hatch with the Golf GTI back in the 1970s and today VW still rules the roost- only in 2016 the car has a different name: Golf R.

It may not be the quickest, the lightest or the most visually exciting hot hatch on the market, but look beyond the raw numbers and you have one of the best all-round cars money can buy. Think of it as the Swiss army knife of the car world.

On a practical level, it can accommodate five people and plenty of luggage, while also transporting everyone and everything in relative comfort.

But when it comes to performance, this is a car which will have you grinning from ear to ear, mile after mile. It’s powered by a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, and uses a clever four-wheel drive system to ensure all of that power can be used. From a standstill the Golf R will hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds and won’t run out of steam until 155mph.

What makes it so rewarding and enjoyable to drive is how beautifully balanced and well engineered everything you press, prod and throw feels. The steering is super accurate, the gear-change nice and weighty, while the power delivery smooth and addictive.

The Golf R covers ground with the grace of a ballet dancer but with the force and fury of a heavyweight boxer. VW has over 40 years of developing hot hatches, it’s no wonder the Golf R is as good as it is.

Jonathan Burn

Jonathan Burn is a world renowned automotive journalist, and Ape's resident car expert with a deep appreciation for anything that drives fast.