Nahila Bibi tests the Golf

Low-slung, with alloy wheels and rally-car seats, the new R32 is the ultimate Saturday-night cruiser. James Daley discovers his inner boy racer

Price: £25,570
Engine: 3.2-litre petrol
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds, 21.4mpg
CO2: 235g/km
Worth considering: Audi A3 V6 sport quattro, BMW 130i M Sport, Subaru Impreza WRX Sti

Next time you're driving down the motorway, and someone cuts across three lanes before overtaking you on the inside at 120mph, take a close look out of your left window to see what they're driving. Chances are, it'll be a Volkswagen Golf R32, the ultimate boy-racer machine.

From a distance, it looks deceptively like a normal Golf. But get a bit closer and you'll discover a whole range of features designed to appeal to the kind of person who cruises around their home town on a Saturday night with fluorescent blue lights shining from underneath their car. (OK, so the R32 doesn't actually come with these as standard, but I'm sure they get fitted on to a fair few of them.)

Lower suspension (some 20mm closer to the ground than the regular Golf), alloy wheels, and front seats that look like they are from a rally car all play their part in creating a vehicle that cries out to be driven irresponsibly. The only thing missing is a really big spoiler.

Even if you get into the driver's seat with good intentions, its over-responsive throttle makes it very difficult to keep the car within the speed limit in town.

Once you explore the vehicle's so-called "Electronic Stabilisation Programme" (a computer that automatically adjusts the power in each wheel to prevent skidding), it becomes impossible to resist throwing the car around every corner as fast as you can.

I always knew there was a bit of the boy racer in me, but in the R32, I felt like Dr Robert Bruce Banner turning into the Incredible Hulk. Before I knew it, I was cutting people up, revving my engine at the traffic lights (an impressive sound), and shouting at anyone who dared get in my way.

Don't get me wrong, the R32 is a lot of fun. Its acceleration is incredible, and its 4Motion transmission system ensures that there is no loss of power or traction as the car changes gear.

Inside, the design is simple but stylish, and includes most of the essentials but not all of the latest mod-cons. An eight-speaker, six-CD sound system, leather seats and plenty of space all help to create a comfortable environment. Strangely, the car also comes with heated seats - a feature that struck me as a bit OAP.

Satnav doesn't come fitted as standard, but then, it probably wouldn't be necessary if all you were planning to do was drive the car to your nearest empty car park and pull doughnuts.

I'm pretty certain I'd never buy one - I wouldn't trust myself. But if you reckon you can handle it and you've got £26,000 (plus several thousand pounds a year for insurance), then go for it. But beware - it's a beast.

Guy Bryan-Brown, 39, research scientist, Worcester


This model was a world apart from the old diesel Golf that I used to own. It has a lot of extra external trim and low-profile tyres, but still managed to get up my uneven driveway without bottoming out. The automatic transmission was the smoothest I have ever experienced and there was no loss of power during gear changes, even at full throttle. In town, the automatic transmission tended to go for higher gears to save fuel, but the "sports " setting can be used to drive the revs higher. My favourite was the manual mode, which allowed gear shift via paddles on the steering wheel. I found this a very fun and safe car. My boys enjoyed the emergency stops.

Nahila Bibi, 27, assistant picture editor, Luton


At first glance it looks like an ordinary Golf. Then you notice the alloys with the blue callipers, twin exhausts and colour-coded handles. Look a little closer, and you see the R32 badge. I have always been an admirer of the sportier VW-badged vehicles. The auto/Triptronic box is smooth - put into sport mode, with a slight touch of the throttle, and the car turns into an animal. It was excellent on motorways and local streets, with the four-wheel drive ensuring it stayed glued to the road. The interior is as expected: plush leather seats with deep bolsters that hug you in all the right places. With the car turning many heads, I'd sum it up in one word: awesome.

Matt Watkins, 28, analyst, London


This thing is seriously fast. I don't think I've driven anything with acceleration like it. Even if you don't have the electric-blue colour of the test model, the G-force and the roar from twin exhausts as you leave everything else choking in your dust will make you feel like Michael Schumacher. It's no easy matter to get passengers into the back seats; it tends to drink petrol when you pull that foot-to-the-floor manoeuvre and the visibility isn't the best, but then again you'll know where everything else will be anyway - behind you. Plus it's great fun to drive and all your friends will be desperate for a go, which are two extremely grown-up factors to take into account.


If you would like to take part, e-mail or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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