4.5 out of 5 4.5
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Six-cylinder hot hatch is now an all-time classic

Volkswagen Golf R32 (05-08) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £22,485 - £24,275
Used price £4,240 - £9,690
Used monthly cost From £106 per month
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Road tax cost £360 - £630
Insurance group 36 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Discreet performance
  • Grippy four-wheel drive handling
  • Six-cylinder soundtrack

CONS

  • Offers little more than the outstanding Golf GTI
  • Thirsty engine
  • Costly to run

Volkswagen Golf R32 rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

Is the Volkswagen Golf R32 any good?

If the thought of a GTI is just a little too everyday for you, then this could be the performance Volkswagen Golf for you. It does without the lurid colours and loud bodykits that you’ll see in so many other places in the hot hatch world – the only visual difference between this range-topper and a standard Golf are a few subtle styling tweaks and a redesigned front end.

What you do get is one of the fastest and most powerful Golfs ever produced with a 250hp 3.2-litre V6 and four-wheel-drive for excellent grip in all conditions. It’s the gentleman’s, rather than the boy racer’s, hot hatch, and even today, it stacks up as a performance car.

Volkswagen Golf R32 Mk5: Top 10 buying tips

  • The 3.2-litre V6 is strong and reliable, and any rough running can be down to failing coil packs. Chain-driven camshaft means no belt to worry about. Any rattles can be down to the plastic tensioner failing – a less-than £100 fix.
  • If you’re looking at buying, look for a car that’s had an oil and filter change at least every 10,000 miles.
  • Rear differential and Haldex coupling need an oil service every 40,000 miles. Change the spark plugs at the same time. DSG fluid needs changing at the same time. Make sure it shifts smoothly and that any recall work has been undertaken.
  • Brake fluid change required every two years or 24,000 miles, make sure there’s documentary evidence this has happened.
  • Check for rust. They can go on the front wheelarches due to the plastic arch liner rubbing away paint.
  • Xenon headlight fail the MoT test because they stop self-levelling. The height adjustment mechanism is controlled by electric motors can commonly pack up – make sure they work.
  • Grinding noises and random creaks from the front-end could be down to a worn steering rack, which is an expensive fix.
  • Front and rear suspension top mounts can begin to rattle and need replacing – the part costs less than £50 each, but mounts up to an expensive job.
  • It’s four-wheel drive, so make sure that the tyres are wearing evenly – if they’re not, it will place strain on the Haldex four-wheel drive system. Also closely check the inner as well as the outer edges of the front tyres.
  • Rear brakes can bind due to being less loaded than the fronts, so listen for any rubbing or grinding noises on your test drive.

Practicality and safety

The R32 hasn’t lost any of the practicality that made Golf Mk5 one of the best family hatches around. The boot is big enough for considerable shopping trip and, if you need to carry larger objects, the tailgate has a wide opening and the seats have a 60/40 split. Five-door models have plenty of rear legroom and make a better choice for larger families, although the three-door is still capacious and easy to get in-and-out of.

In addition to a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, there’s ABS with brake assist, an electronic stability programme, twin front, side and curtain airbags, five three-point seatbelts, Isofix child seat preparation and traction control. Security is taken care of with an alarm and immobiliser.

Interior

The driving position is comfortable, thanks to a highly adjustable seat and steering wheel. The instruments are clear to read and easy to use (unique to the R32 are blue needles on the dials), although the multifunction trip computer, controlled by a button on the dashboard can take a little time to master. The steering wheel is similar to that on the GTI, with a flat bottom while DSG gearbox models add gearshift paddles.

Like the standard Golf, the buttons and switches are easy to find and simple to use, but the chunky windscreen pillars can restrict the view when pulling out of junctions.

The cabin styling is as restrained as that of the exterior. It’s sober, but sophisticated, well proportioned and comfortable. But there are a few clues to show that this is a special Golf, with aluminium trim and small ‘R32’ badges. The front sports seats are highly adjustable and give good support and there’s plenty of room for the front passenger.

Excellent sound insulation means that motorway trips are refined and relaxed, although it does mean that the engine note is suppressed at times when it deserves to be heard.

Running costs and MPG

Strong demand means that prices remain firm. Numbers in the UK were restricted (there was an allocation of approximately 1450 a year), and there aren’t many to choose from today, so don’t expect bargains.

While fuel consumption is a little high for a family hatchback – expect and mpg figure in the high 20s in everyday driving – it’s not excessive and comparable to rivals. Volkswagen dealers can be pricey when it comes to parts and servicing though, but there are plenty of good independent specialists out there who will undercut the franchised dealers.

The R32 is a polluting model with an average of 243g/km CO2. It’s also pretty thirsty, averaging 28mpg, so you are looking at a high level of annual Vehicle Excise Duty (VED car tax).

What’s it like to drive?

The R32 gets a 3.2-litre V6 that produces 250hp, making it the flagship of the Golf range. It’s an engine that’s found in many other Volkswagen Group cars including the Passat and Audi TT, A3 and A4. Although its performance figures are strong and acceleration is effortless – 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 155mph – it’s only half a second quicker than the cheaper 200hp 2.0T GTI.

Where it does show its strength is its effortless acceleration from 50mph upwards, which makes overtaking – even in otherwise tight situations – a breeze. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a DSG semi-automatic gearbox. The DSG provides lightning quick gearchanges. It uses two clutches – one is in gear, the other has the next gear pre-selected.

It’s a very capable driving machine with little bodyroll, precise steering and rapid throttle response. Suspension has been lowered by 20mm compared to the standard Golf and there are stiffer springs and dampers plus thicker anti-roll bars for better cornering. This has only a negligible effect on the ride, which remains smooth over most surfaces. The 4Motion four-wheel-drive and chunky 18-inch alloy wheels means that there’s plenty of grip and assured handling in all weather conditions.

To cope with the extra power, the brakes have been uprated and offer extra bite, with bigger discs. But the R32 isn’t a brute to live with. In the town and city, the steering lightens up, making parking and nipping in-and-out of traffic easy.

Volkswagen Golf R32 rivals

Other Volkswagen Golf (2004 - 2009) models: