2013 VW Golf GTI vs Golf R Comparison and Review

VW-Golf-ComparisonIt’s official, I have the bug for a small, fun, 4 door (5 door if you count the rear door) hot hatchback that gets good gas mileage. I’ve already raved about the 2013 VW Golf TDI Diesel and after test driving the 2013 VW Golf GTI and Golf R back to back this evening, I’ve decided to put my 2009 BMW 335i sedan, 6 Speed manual up for sale which is no easy decision given how much I like this car.2009BMW335i6SP  My BMW 335i is sharp looking, amazingly fast and gets decent gas mileage, however I’m looking for something that provides better utility with a rear hatch, gets over 30 MPG on the freeway and looks good with roof racks on top for my surfboard.  The 335i gets about 27 MPG on the freeway and averages about 22/23 MPG overall.  In a perfect world, I would prefer a rear wheel drive BMW 1 Series 4 Door / 5 Door hatchback, however at the moment, it looks like the corporate folks at BMW have decided to keep their hot hatch from American shores.  BMW….bad decision!

2013 VW Golf GTI Autobahn Review (Sticker Price: $31,880)

The 2013 VW Golf GTI 4 door, 6 speed manual looks amazing inside and out.  It’s fun, sporty and gets 33 MPG on the freeway.  It handles well, feels very solid on the road, the cabin is quiet and given how smooth the engine idles, you would never know that it is a four cylinder engine.2013_Volkswagen_GTI_4-Door_Autobahn_Gray  The 6 Speed manual transmission is so easy and fun to shift.  The Volkswagon GTI has a laundry list of things that I like about it including red painted brake calibers, sporty looking aluminum pedals, red needles for the tachometer and speedometer, iPod/iPhone adapter, bluetooth streaming, keyless entry with Start/Stop button which means you don’t have to fumble around looking for the key in your pocket…just open the door, push the clutch in, and push Start!  2013_Volkswagen_Interior_300The interior design is really amazing with high quality materials, large crystal clear analog gauges, red stitched leather throughout, leather rapped sport steering wheel with thumb grips and a clean, handsome looking dashboard.  The premium stereo sounds great and and has controls on the steering wheel so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

The only downside that I can come up with for this amazing German machine, is the fact that it is front wheel drive, however I never really pushed it enough to feel any torque steer, and the lack of horse power (200 HP) compared to my BMW 335i with 300 HP.  With that said, it was still a blast to drive and the engine winds up so easily to redline that you look forward to the next shift.

2013 VW Golf R Review (Sticker Price: $35,655)

My main concern climbing into the Golf R was that the stiffer suspension was going to be harsh and uncomfortable, however I was pleasantly surprised to find the limited production R version to only be slightly stiffer then the GTI and plenty conformable and of course it had less body roll in the corners.

2013-VW-golf_r-4doorThe Golf R comes with 256 HP so it does feel a bit faster and makes a sportier, slightly louder sound from the dual “center mounted” exhaust pipes, however because the R comes with the heavier All Wheel Drive system the freeway gas mileage rating goes down to 27 MPG.  It also comes with different 18″ wheels then the GTI , however both wheel sets look great on the Golf.  The seats on both cars are well bolstered and possibly a bit snug for some larger front seat passengers.

2013-Volkswagen-Golf-R-interior300The VW Golf R interior comes with sharp looking blue needled tachometer and speedometer instead of the GTI red needles, and does not have the red leather stitching of the GTI.  Both the Golf GTI and Golf R come with heated leather seats however I’m sure the All Wheel Drive on the R will do a much better job of getting you around in bad weather conditions.  The R does not come with the Start/Stop push button so you do have to dig into your pockets to find the key to start it and hear the more aggressive exhaust note.


The VW Golf TDI diesel (Sticker Price about $27,500) is very tempting given the 42 MPG freeway rating, however it does not come with leather seats, has one exhaust pipe and just does not look as sporty as the other two choices.  The Golf R has more horsepower, all wheel drive and is a limited production, however the gas mileage is the same as my incredibly nice, fast 2009 BMW 335i Sedan.

While I would be happy with any one of the three VW Golf versions, I think the Golf GTI wins my vote given the 33 MPG, red leather stitching, start/stop push button and lower price.

– Mike McGovern