Road & Track Recommends 4 Other Cars Over the 2022 VW Golf R

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R has garnered a strong reputation as a premium hot hatch. It’s high-powered, fun to drive, and comes with lots of cool gadgets. However, not everybody is as crazy about the Golf R. See why this peppy hatchback didn’t impress as much as the Golf GTI, Hyundai Elantra N, Honda Civic Si, or Subaru WRX.

Volkswagen’s sporty hatchback delivered a frustrating experience

One of the biggest frustrations Road & Track‘s Kyle Kinard experienced in his 2022 Golf R review was Volkswagen’s Eco Tips. These helpful reminders give drivers tips on how to maximize their eco-friendliness and fuel economy—by being as boring as possible. Don’t drive with the windows down. Don’t accelerate too quickly. Drive in higher gear. Don’t open the sunroof.

“I asked nothing of the Golf R that morning, except that it allow a moment of intense clarity in an existence otherwise smothered by monotony. The VW couldn’t do me that courtesy for more than a block or two.”

What should have been a delightful ride up the highway turned into a Grade-A nagfest. You can turn the Eco Tips off, but that’s not the point.

2022 VW Golf R vs. Honda Civic Si, Hyundai Elantra N, Subaru WRX

2022 VW Golf R2022 Civic Si2022 Elantra N2022 WRX
Starting Price$44,090$27,300$32,150$29,105
Horsepower315 hp200 hp276 hp271 hp
Torque295 lb-ft192 lb-ft289 lb-ft258 lb-ft
Transmission6-sp manual / 7-sp auto6-sp manual6-sp manual / 8-sp auto6-sp manual / CVT

Kinard made the case that the nearly-$50,000 Golf R didn’t offer more overall than its main competitors. He reported that in his 2022 Golf R review, it was slower than a Hyundai Elantra N. It offered duller handling than a Civic Si in testing. It had worse all-wheel drive capabilities than a WRX over challenging roads.

He wasn’t alone in this opinion. Kinard claimed “nobody would’ve taken the Golf R’s keys to have and to hold if presented with the other two options.” The other options mentioned were the Elantra and Civic.  

The hatchback felt lifeless instead of luxuriant

Rear view of a blue 2022 VW Golf R hatchback
2022 VW Golf R hatchback | Volkswagen

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R starts at around $44,000 and offers 315 horsepower from a standard 2.0-liter turbo. All-wheel drive comes standard. With a spec sheet like this, you would expect the R to receive inspired acclaim.

Instead, the reviewer called it “as efficient and lifeless as a Terminator” (Kinard used the word “lifeless” four distinct times in his article). This has been noted as the Golf R’s kryptonite by more than one source.

Where the Golf R should have been bold and enthusiastic, it was cautious and reluctant. This hot hatch is practical, not passionate. It’s great as a commuter car that looks like a sports car, but it doesn’t check all the boxes.

High points of the 2022 Golf R review

It’s not all doom and gloom. There is still plenty to love about the 2022 Golf R, and Kinard provided some high points. The Golf R’s electronic dampers are without peer, providing excellent cushioning on poor roads. It also looks expensive, a true premium hot hatch option that you’ll never be embarrassed to drop at a valet stand.

And, we can’t forget that it does offer the most horsepower and torque of any of the cars mentioned in the review.

Kinard also complimented the seats and the headroom, but said these are “matters of practicality, rarely metrics that tug at heartstrings.”

Road & Track says just get the Golf GTI

If a Volkswagen is what you’re really looking for, Kinard recommends simply getting the cheaper, comparable 2022 Golf GTI

You’ll save around $14,000 if you buy the GTI, and you’ll still get 241 horsepower out of it. It’s a peppier commuter car than similar hatchbacks, but manageable for newer drivers. The Golf GTI also offers significantly better fuel economy than the higher-powered Golf R, though that’s no surprise.

Is the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R really worth the massive price tag? Road & Track doesn’t seem to think so.

RELATED: How Much Does a Fully Loaded 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Cost, and What Do You Get With It?