13 September 2022

Canberra's in-demand Volkswagen Golf is worth the wait (just make it an R wagon)

| James Coleman
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Volkswagen Golf R wagon

The Volkswagen Golf R wagon posing by the Mount Majura Winery. Photo: James Coleman.

The Volkswagen Golf was the fourth best-selling car in Canberra two years ago. As far as I can make out, there’s only one reason it hasn’t made it into the list since then.

You’re all still waiting.

There is, of course, a microchip shortage raging. This has blighted the new car industry since early 2020, with eye-wateringly long wait times and high prices. Not to mention the brands pulling touchscreens and other features because they simply cannot source the ‘electrickery’ to make them work.

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But the situation has been even worse for VW.

As a European manufacturer, it looks to the continent’s biggest supplier of car parts and wiring – Ukraine. The trouble is, the Ukrainians have been a little preoccupied in recent months.

Many of the workers have had to move to factories elsewhere, but because these factories are smaller, they’re not able to churn out as many cars.

For instance, Dallas Massen, the general manager at Gerald Slaven VW in Belconnen says they’ve completely exhausted this year’s stock allocation.

“If you order a new Golf now, you’re waiting until next year before it arrives.”

On this front, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) released some good news in the national sales figures for August – they’re the best we’ve seen since 2017.

FCAI CEO Tony Weber says it gives hope the supply of vehicles to the Australian market is finally beginning to show signs of improvement.

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The eighth-generation of the Golf actually came to market last year – in the thick of the disaster. So far, the most popular model is the $38,490 R-Line hatchback, but for now, I can only get my hands on the R wagon, in white, which arrived earlier this year. Oh, the pain.

It has all the things we’ve come to expect from previous R models: all-wheel drive, dual-clutch automatic gearbox and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. And a lot of blue bits.

When pictures first started surfacing online, mean comparisons were made with the Toyota Corolla. But 20 mm closer to the ground than the standard Golf and set off with eye-catching 19-inch wheels spray-painted with rubber – not to mention the meaty (and blue) brake callipers, there’s no doubt it scrubs up.

Besides, all is right with the world, because the Golf R’s piece de resistance has always been in how little it stands out. It’s a master of understatement, or as petrolheads would say, a ‘sleeper’. The Honda Civic Type-R and Subaru WRX are there if you want the person next to you at the traffic lights to know exactly what they’re in for.

Taking on the Golf R, the other guy will win. And not because 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds isn’t quick enough. It’s because you will still be getting your head around the infotainment system.

Everything is buried in confusing layers. And the adjustments for the air-conditioning and volume might have their own separate touchscreen, but it’s not lit at night, so some stabbing in the dark later and you’ve got the heating on low and Christian O’Connell up to 11. Not what you envisioned.

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I imagine you would get used to it, after a few months. Fortunately, everything else about the Golf R is there to sweeten the learning curve.

At the wheel, it’s very easy to forget there are another three seats and 611 litres of boot behind you. Although maybe this isn’t surprising for a family wagon that did most of its training at Germany’s world-famous Nurburgring racetrack.

It’s sharp, light and nimble but also solid, refined and utterly unflappable.

The exhaust note I might have deemed a little too anaemic comes to life in the ‘Race’ drive mode too, with cracks and pops that send a shiver down the spine.

Not even the lane-keeping assistance annoyed me. Normally, this is the third button I look for, after starting the engine and turning the stop-start system off, but I left it on in the Golf R, because there was nothing more than a faint ‘ahem’ when I went a bit wayward.

Am I gushing?

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Let’s get down to reality. In wagon form, without a sunroof or premium Harman Kardon speaker set, the Golf R costs $68,990. That’s $3000 more than the hatchback and $11,000 more than the last model.

But then again, look at it another way. You’re getting three cars for the price of one – the thrill of a sports car, the city-friendly size of a hatch and the extra space of a wagon. And even after all these years, no one concocts this elixir quite as well as VW.

The new Golf R wagon costs $11,000 more than the last model. Photo: James Coleman.

2022 Volkswagen Golf R wagon (Mk 8)

  • $68,990 (plus driveaway costs)
  • 8- to 15-month wait time (depending on options)
  • 2.0-litre turbo petrol, 235 kW / 420 Nm
  • 7-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT), all-wheel drive (AWD)
  • 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds
  • 7.3 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

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