- Exterior – It’s quite a beauty
- Interior – What ergonomics?
- Space – Room for your mates and a long flat pack
- Performance – Unleash your inner Subang ‘frat’ boi
- Fuel economy – The R-Line’s shining moment
- Safety and features – It’s close to RM 170k…
- Conclusion – Do you really want an everyday Golf?
The is Europe’s and that is not meant to be offensive because the connection between Malaysia’s automotive royalty and the Teutonic hatchback is in sales. The Golf is one of the most popular cars in Europe for the past two decades and if you’ve travelled in the Old Continent, they are essentially everywhere.
|Overview: 2022 Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.4 TSI|
|Engine||1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cyl|
|Assembly||Locally-assembled (CKD), Pekan|
Despite being a best-seller, its survival is threatened by crossovers and electric vehicles (EVs) as Europe is cracking down hard on vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE). Hence, the current Mk8 generation could very well be the last ever generation of the Golf which if true is apt for the model’s history in Malaysia.
The Mk8 Golf is the first generation to be locally assembled (CKD) in Malaysia since the original Mk1 all the way back in the 1970s. Despite the “proudly made in Pekan” badge, it’s not exactly as affordable as you might think.
Golf GTI (above) and Golf R (bottom) before they are “pimped” out by most owners
Starting from RM 169,990, the Golf R-Line is the cheapest Volkswagen on sale in Malaysia and with this review, we essentially have reviewed the entire Malaysian Golf line-up. You can check out our reviews of the Golf GTI and Golf R by clicking on their respective blue links.
If you haven’t read our thoughts on the Mk8 GTI and Golf R, we have mixed feelings for them. Still, can the standard Golf R-Line convince us that it is a good hatchback even without the performance-enhancing badge or will its flaws stick out even more?
Exterior – It’s quite a beauty
Beauty can be very subjective but throughout the weekend that we got the car, the R-Line manages to attract a lot of stares. Maybe it’s the cool Moonstone Grey colour that was on our test unit but compared to the previous generation, the Mk8 Golf is certainly a looker.
While the differences between the Mk6 and the Mk7 can be a little bit subtle between the generations, VW has clearly put more effort into the Mk8’s design. It still has the bulbous-looking exterior with the massive C-pillar that was first seen on the Mk5 nearly 20 years ago but the Mk8 overall looks more distinctive than the previous generation.
We will revisit the large C-pillar later on in the review but if you’re just judging the Golf based on exterior looks, it feels like a winner. At night, nearly the entire front grille is illuminated which gives this sleek hatchback an added aggressive presence even without the GTI/R badge.
Interior – What ergonomics?
Though the Golf R-Line is locally assembled (CKD) in Malaysia, it starts from RM 169,990 which is RM 56,000 less than the also assembled-in-Pekan Golf GTI. The Volkswagen badge might be a premium one in Malaysia but it doesn’t really feel as premium in this base local-spec Golf.
Just like in our review of the GTI and the Golf R, the interior of the Golf R-Line is largely the same with a minimalist design and capacitive buttons in lieu of traditional knobs or buttons. It’s a futuristic and clean look but this interior is a textbook definition of “form over function”.
If you’d like to switch the settings of the headlights on the Golf, they’re located to the right of the driver information display
It seems like the “People’s Car” is trying its best to emulate the “Best or Nothing”. The touch-sensitive buttons remind one of a Mercedes-Benz with every button mimicking that of the whole three-pointed star experience.
You can access the climate control settings by pressing the snowflake button on the right…
…which only appears during the first minute or so after start-up but that shortcut is still there albeit hidden
Yet, as cool as they are, the execution is terrible. Controlling the climate through the 10-inch infotainment display feels so complicated and the infotainment system on our unit is a bit laggy sometimes. It makes us wish that they forgo modernity for tradition instead.
The capacitive buttons located on the middle of the dash are basically shortcuts to access some of the car’s functions including the climate control and drive modes. Given its location, however, it is cumbersome to load any of them up and next thing you’ll know you’ll be increasing the infotainment volume instead.
The only physical button found throughout the car is the start/stop button which is a rectangular button located directly above the P button of the same shape. This can get a bit confusing when you’re in the situation where instead of selecting ‘park’, you switch off the Golf entirely.
If the camera’s flash isn’t on, you might never see the row of buttons below the infotainment head unit
While we are on the subject of buttons, the row below the infotainment unit is unlit in the dark just like the more performance-driven variants of the Golf which is not entirely helpful at all.
Volkswagen is reported to be switching those cumbersome touch-sensitive buttons for physical buttons on the steering wheel in future updates but for now, the ergonomics on the Mk8 gets a D- for user-friendliness.
Space – Room for your mates and a long flat pack
The Golf R-Line comes standard with R-Line sports seats for the driver and front passenger and they give enough support for those vigorous driving moments which we’ll also explain later. As nice as those seats are, the headrests are fixed so you can’t exactly feel much comfort during long journeys or when commuting and it makes the rear a bit too claustrophobic.
Both front seats are only offered with manual adjustments which for a RM 170k car feels quite off. Still, there are some useful compartments in front including a few cupholders and a little compartment for the front passenger to put their smartphone.
As the most accessible variant of Golf, rear passengers get generous legroom and an average headroom though that big C-pillar combined with the front sports seats might make things a bit dark and claustrophobic in the rear.
Still though, there are some practical features for the rear occupants including a rear air-cond and a couple of USB-C charging ports. On top of that, there are some nifty pockets in the back for passengers to keep their phones or other small knick-knacks.
Boot space for the Golf is equally generous at 381 litres and the seats can be folded flat to free up some more room for extra gear. If you just so happened to visit Ikea with your mates and buy a long piece of furniture, the centre armrest can be folded down for access from the boot.
Performance – Unleash your inner Subang ‘frat’ boi
Being the base Golf model offered in Malaysia, the R-Line is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged TSI engine that makes 150 PS and 250 Nm. Paired with an Aisin-derived 8-speed automatic drive-by-wire transmission, you might think that it’s not going to be as exciting as a GTI or Golf R.
But you’re quite wrong in the sense that it is a capable car for terrorising other motorists on the fast lane. In our 0-100 km/h test, the R-Line did it in 8.66 seconds which isn’t quite that far from Volkswagen’s claimed time of 8.5 seconds.
Taking the R-Line out for a spin on regular Malaysian roads, you feel like a literal king on the road even if it’s not wearing a coveted VW performance badge. Put your foot down the accelerator and the response is immediate with the gear changes feeling so effortless.
The steering is responsive thanks to the progressive steering and in corners, you feel very well planted even at high speeds.
Switch to Sport mode and the R-Line feels…well not much of a difference compared to the regular mode but the gear changes are quicker and that’s about it. Overtaking and driving on the fast lane though makes me feel like putting on my best “Subang f-boy” impression. I just need a Kenzo T-shirt, a Louis Vuitton-patterned pouch, and some Birkenstocks to really match the look.
But my excitement for the R-Line’s performance is cut short when the hatchback approaches slowing traffic. The transmission changes almost effortlessly when it wants to go fast but when it downshifts, it feels jerky to the point that it felt noticeable at times.
Compared to the GTI and the Golf R, the R-Line doesn’t have much of a performance pedigree to maintain so honestly, the smoothness of the acceleration and the transmission is a good surprise overall. It has some of the hallmarks of its performance brethren but in a sort of sleeper way.
Fuel economy – The R-Line’s shining moment
If you’re seeking an everyday car, one of the things that you might consider is its fuel economy and the R-Line delivers close to what it promises in the real world.
In our fuel consumption test which combines roughly 60 percent highway and 40 percent urban commuting, it returned 5.9 L/100 km which is only 0.1 L/100 km more than the claimed figures. That is very impressive considering we did our 0-100 km/h test runs throughout our fuel consumption test.
Safety and features – It’s close to RM 170k…
Not to sound like a broken record but we really have to talk about the 6-figure sum one has to pay for this locally-assembled Golf by looking at what you’re not getting for that price.
None of these features is offered on the base variant of the Malaysian-spec Golf:
- Auto-folding mirrors
- Wireless charger
- 360-degree camera
- Powered front seats
- Auto-brake hold
- Adaptive cruise control
The purple shade seen the Golf’s screens can be replaced with other colours
At least you get wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and 30-colour ambient lighting which can be set to whatever colour you desire like the purple hue seen in most of the photos in the review.
When it comes to safety, you’re covered on the passive safety front with 6 airbags but there is no ADAS offered. Having ADAS absent might not be so forgivable but the greatest omission by far is the blind-spot monitors which we felt should be offered at the very least.
Remember that large C-pillar? As iconic as it is to the 21st-century generations of the Golf, it hampers your vision, especially when changing lanes. We all know how Malaysian road users, especially motorcyclists, drive on the road and the C-pillar presents a huge blind spot when you’re behind the wheel of the Golf.
The side mirrors felt too small as well though it comes with a heated function and yet there are no blind spot monitors which would be handier for tropical weather Malaysia.
Conclusion – Do you really want an everyday Golf?
Some of the ergonomic issues seen in the R-Line are also on the GTI and the Golf R but those variants have a performance pedigree from the outset. Remove all that and the Golf is like a or a Myvi – a regular, inoffensive mode of transport.
Due to the
biased protective policies of Malaysia’s car industry, the Golf would never be as affordable as in Europe even in CKD form. Yet, the base model Golf is priced higher than a fully imported from Japan (CBU) which tops at RM 160,000 for the 2.0-litre High Plus variant.
Never mind the Mazda lacks the turbo torque (213 Nm) of the Golf but it has a higher power output (164 PS) and larger engine capacity for nearly RM 10k less. It’s also prettier and more liveable as an everyday car.
So, if you really want to get a C-segment hatchback for less than RM 200k, it’s the Mazda but if you insist on a Golf, skip the R-Line and get the GTI instead.