The Golf R is not the favoured car of pirates everywhere. Rather, it's the flagship trim of Volkswagen's popular Golf hatchback and a legitimate performance car that can keep pace with some surprising company.
For 2019, the Golf R is unchanged but for the addition of a new black styling package that brings carbon fibre mirror housings and 19-inch black wheels.
That leaves this car's formidable fundamentals as-is. A 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engine cranks out 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, making this the people's car for people who are in a big hurry. That power goes to all four wheels through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Volkswagen's obvious competition comes from the Subaru WRX STI, but also the Audi S3 and TTS (whose mechanical bits are nearly identical) and, if you are willing to give up the Golf's handy hatchback body, a base Porsche 718 Cayman or Boxster offers similar performance.
Among our favourite features is Volkswagen's dynamic chassis control (DCC) system, which is tied into selectable drive modes that also let the driver tailor steering and throttle response to road conditions or their mood. What we like about DCC is it allows you to create a custom setup: you can dial in the softest ride with quick powertrain responses, or vice versa.
Standard kit includes a digital cockpit LCD gauge cluster, LED headlights and taillights and daytime running lights. Leather seats are also included, reinforcing the upscale aesthetic next to the GTI's plaid cloth upholstery, and big brakes that are optional in the GTI are standard here, stopping the car with authority and nicely filling the 19-inch wheels.
VW also throws in Apple and Android smartphone integration, 12-way power driver's seat, eight-speaker Fender audio system, passive keyless entry, heated front seats, backup camera and rear spoiler.
Options include a driver assistance package that adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection with rear traffic alert, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, lane assist, automatic high beams and park distance control. The black styling package mentioned above is the only other extra.
Fuel consumption estimates for the six-speed manual are 11.1/8.1 L/100 km (city/highway), and the seven-speed auto is rated at 10.6/8.0 L/100 km.