If hunting for a hardcore hot hatchback, would you prefer a modern, fire-spitting tech-fest ora gracefully ageing modern classic? This week, we’re making a claim for the latter option. Having looked at the family- friendly but ultra-rare Volkswagen Passat R36 in last week’s Used Buying Guide, it’s time to consider that car’s more popular sibling: the second-generation Golf R32.
Packing Volkswagen’s charismatic and much-missed 3.2-litre V6 motor, the R32 one-upped the Golf GTI with an impressive 247bhp and 236lb ft. As with its modern-day Golf R descendant, top speed was capped at an autobahn-friendly 155mph, while its grippy 4Motion four-wheeldrive system helped to dispatch the 0-62mph sprint in 6.2sec or 6.5sec, depending on whether you went for the six-speed manual or dual- clutch automatic (DSG) gearbox.
A launch price close to £31,000 represented a £4000 premium over the GTI, but the performance benefits were tangible and clearly well worth the money, and the number of R32s you still see on the road is testament to their durability. The inherent practicality of the roomy three- and five-door bodies isn’t to be ignored, either.
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Many see the R32 as a bellwether for mega-powered yet uncompromising usable hot hatches, and indeed you could still drive one daily today. It sat 20mm lower than regular Mk5 Golfs, featuring the requisite stiffer dampers and springs and larger anti-roll bars. Aggressive new bumper designs accommodated revised air intakes for improved cooling, plus there was a twin-exit chrome exhaust, the R sub-brand’s now-traditional blue brake calipers, 18in wheels, a chrome front grille and bi-xenon headlights to further distinguish the car.
In a bid for further exclusivity, the R32 lost the Golf bootlid badges, while inside it gained a multifunction steering wheel (with shift paddles on DSG models) and aluminium trim inserts decorating the dashboard, centre console, door panels, pedals and instrument dials.Climate control was also fitted as standard, as was Volkswagen’s new intelligent window-wiper system. Sat-nav, parking sensors and a six- CD multichanger were all optional extras, so keep an eye out for these on any used R32s that you find.