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Volkswagen Golf R32: The Next Big Thing

Six cylinders and strong pedigree make the VW Golf R32 a very choice hot hatch

With the Volkswagen Golf R currently sitting proud as king of the hot hatches, we thought a look back at previous R-badged Golfs could throw up some interesting prospects.

While the Mk6 R and Mk5 R32 have their places in history and the original Mk2 Rallye is already well on its way to collector status, it’s the original R32, the Mk4, that has the most potential right now. You might, however, look at the performance figures for this 237bhp hatch and wonder what all the fuss is about. Well, it’s all about context.

When the R32 arrived in 2003, we had been denied a decent performance Golf for some time. The standard Mk4 Golf was solid but devoid of any character, and the GTI badge was simply a trim level with absolutely no sporting pretence, except perhaps on the more acceptable Anniversary models. But now we were suddenly gifted this bodykitted, 3.2-litre V6-engined hot hatch with a clever four-wheel-drive system

Find a Volkswagen Golf R32 for sale in our classifieds

In an early group test in evo Magazine, the R32 faced off against some serious competition. Front-drive rivals such as the Alfa 147 GTA, SEAT Leon Cupra R and Mk1 Ford Focus RS were swept aside, and at the time we actually rated the Golf higher than the Audi S3 and, more surprisingly, the Impreza WRX. Fast-forward 11 years and the Mk7 Golf R once again defeated some serious competition.

The Mk4 R32 has gained quite a cult following in the meantime, and in a world where performance cars have four cylinders and a turbocharger by default, vehicles of this breed have become a precious commodity. Values remain strong for all but the leggiest examples and demand is high. With the modest numbers sold in the UK, values are unlikely to dip much further. If you’ve always wanted one, finding a nice low-mileage example now might not be a bad idea.

Or consider…

Audi TT 3.2 Quattro (Mk1)
Same engine and drivetrain as the Golf – the 3.2-litre V6 developing an identical 237bhp – but wrapped in a sexier coupe package. A similar budget will secure a nice example, which is rare sight on the roads today.

Alfa Romeo 147 GTA
Ultimately a compromised machine, but if you want a V6-engined hot hatch they don’t come with a much more epic soundtrack than this. Impressive looks, too.

Renault Clio V6
Another V6-powered hot hatch, although this one’s mid-engined and forgoes any kind of practicality. Ultimately a more rewarding car to drive, though…

Words: Matthew Hayward // Images: evo Magazine

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