The catchment area for the already ill-defined category beyond ‘standard’ hot hatches has become even more hazy recently.
The Seat Leon Cupra, blessed with 296bhp in its most powerful format, arguably earns a place at one end of it – despite costing only very marginally more than a regular Volkswagen Golf GTI, while that aforementioned Golf has been given more power under the latest facelift, with the GTI Performance puts out 242bhp - the same inadvertently as the latest Skoda Octavia vRS.
At the opposite extreme, Mercedes-AMG has almost left the reservation entirely with the outrageous and very pricey 375bhp A45. That leaves a Sudetenland-sized tract of real estate available in between, which the new Golf R – appears well qualified to annex. Although, the middle ground is there for its taking Volkswagen is wary of the potent, four-wheel drive Ford Focus RS which took the segment by the scruff of its neck. But don't think for one moment that Volkswagen are resting on its laurels, as the Golf's recent facelift saw the Golf R's wick turned up slightly to produce 306bhp.
Volkswagen has a long and well regarded history in this niche. Aside from the previous Golf R, this car’s other obvious antecedents are two generations of R32 – models that cemented the range-topper’s use of all-wheel drive.