Is the 2019 VW Golf R the ultimate hot hatch? 

By Stephen Macharia

Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves, for today we embark on a thrilling motoring adventure – it is the 2019 VW Golf R, and trust me when I say, this is not your usual hatchback.

Lanchester Motors in Nairobi wants 5.5 million Kenyan shillings for this hot hatch, and before you clutch your pearls and gasp, let me give you the lowdown on why the price may be justified.

Underneath that sleek and assertive exterior lies the heart of a beast – an EA888 engine that is always eager to sprint. This turbocharged 2.0-litre powerhouse churns out a jaw-dropping 300 horsepower, channelled through a 7-speed DSG gearbox. If this car were a cup of coffee, it probably would be the double espresso of the automotive world –strong, quick, and guaranteed to stimulate your senses.

But wait, there is more! This Golf R is an all-wheel-drive wonder, thanks to the Haldex all-wheel (AWD) system with a power split that serves front and rear wheels. The front wheels bear the brunt of the action most of the time, propelling this car with finesse.

The DSG automatic transmission is smooth and shifts gears quickly. Well, it is like being launched out of a cannon – 0 to 100 kilometres/h in a blink, or about 4.9 seconds, to be precise. This Golf does not just shift gears; it shifts reality.

And when you decide it is time to bring this beast to a halt, the braking system has your back. With single-piston sliding callipers all around, the car stops almost instantly; it is like slamming the door on a bouncy castle – immediate and firm.

When I got behind the wheel of this car, I felt like I was in control of a racehorse on a mission. It gripped the road with the tenacity and remained balanced even when thrown into tight corners. 

Understeer? Not on this Golf’s watch. It is like a dancer who never misses a step, even on uneven floors. And yes, folks, the Golf R I used to write this story has been slightly used in Kenya.

But let us now turn attention to the elephant in the room – that price tag. Is it worth it? Well, if you are willing to splurge, you will be getting a car that not only roars on the road but also takes safety seriously. It comes fitted with forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic alert.

And what about practicality, you ask? Fear not. Even with the Haldex system raising the boot floor, you still get 380 litres of cargo space back there. Fold those seats down, and get enough room for a weekend’s worth of adventure gear or, if you are feeling audacious, the entire contents for hiking. It is stylish and versatile.


The rear seats are spacious with plenty of legroom and even a handy armrest for those who like to travel in style. Up front, the seats are like plush armchairs, providing comfort and reclining angles. And if you are one of those tech-savvy types, you will revel in the myriad of buttons at your disposal, controlling everything from cruise control to media playback. And do not forget the fully digital dashboard in newer models – which feels like having a personal DJ who changes the mood with the flick of a wrist.

The infotainment system is the cherry on top of this automotive marvel – a touchscreen display that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. 

But, alas, no car is perfect, and the Golf R’s Achilles heel is its ground clearance. For Kenyan roads, it is very low. Venturing into rural areas could turn your luxurious drive into an ordeal.

Now, when it comes to fuel economy, do not expect this Golf R to rival modern-day hybrid vehicles. By the time my team and I were done putting it through its paces, the trip computer scoffed at our efforts, displaying an average fuel consumption of around 9.8 kilometres per litre. But hey, you do not buy a car like this for frugality.

We conclude from where we began; the 2019 VW Golf R is not your everyday hatchback- it is a symphony of power. It might offset your bank account a great deal but if you are looking for a car that can thrill you on the open road, keep you safe in the city, and offer practicality, then the Golf R might just be what you have been searching for.

Lanchester Motors in Hurligham, Nairobi provided the car for review. 

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