Test drive: Volkswagen Golf TSI R-Line

By daryl, 07 November 2018

Kia once had a colour called Lemongrass in its paint catalogue. It was an amusing but apt label for the yellowish green hue reserved for the previous generation Picanto, one we did not expect to be matched in terms of name and visual impact. But here we are with a Volkswagen Golf in all its Turmeric Yellow glory. Someone at Wolfsburg must’ve gone overboard with the currywurst…

A guaranteed turnoff for resale value snobs, this daring shade does a splendid job of elevating the R-Line components – unique bumpers, grille and 17-inch ‘Singapore’ alloys plus a rear spoiler and full LED lighting – on this otherwise rudimentary Golf TSI. The colour is similar to BMW’s Austin Yellow that you may have seen on the M4. And it might have been that distant sporty relation at work in turning more heads than the proper Golf R, which we drove not too long ago, did.

The drive itself isn’t much to shout about. We say this with special reference to the 1.4 TSI engine carried over from the pre-facelift Mk7 model. The mill has proven to be highly competent on many occasions, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t expect it to make way for the 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine that debuted with the Mk7.5 on the global stage two years ago. The 1.4 has been updated to produce 10bhp more than the outgoing Mk7, but it’s a negligible difference in a segment now more populated than ever before by feisty force-inducted rivals.


Fortunately, the Golf’s dynamic talents are spread far beyond the spectrum of its straight-line prowess. It steers with the same urgency of any Golf variant above it and keeps its nose down like a professional through the most frenzied corners at that. These aren’t exactly new qualities, but you do sense an added whiff of refinement in the hatch that continues to lead its peers in ride and handling, and ultimately pure driving entertainment.

At the heart of the Mk7.5’s cultured mannerisms is yet another hand-me-down from the Mk7: the 7-speed DSG in dry clutch format. While it has received some flak due to reliability concerns over the years, this transmission is still one of the slickest dual clutch units in the mass market today. We’re not just referring to how telepathically it times its shifts when your right foot is buried on the throttle. The DSG’s efficient gear changes also make it possible for light-footed drivers to replicate the claimed 5.2-litre fuel consumption figure. We clocked 7-something without even trying.

While it’s difficult to ascertain how the transmission will hold up over the years, having spent just a week with the car, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) offers a five-year factory warranty to keep those sleepless nights away. What’s different from most other five-year warranties is that this is paired with three years of free service for more savings to go with the TSI’s stellar economy. You’ll certainly be spending a lot less on running costs than your average Japanese C-segment runabout, in the first three years of ownership at least.


However, you’ll need to up your hypermiling game if you plan to recover the hefty premium the Golf TSI R-Line commands over the usual suspects in its class. Forget rivals such as the Honda Civic Turbo and Mazda3 hatchback. At RM173k, after SST, the fully imported Golf is taking the fight upmarket, battling the likes of the BMW 118i and Volvo V40 T5 instead. That’s a RWD Bimmer and a Volvo endowed with GTI levels of performance in the same price bracket.

It’s a trifecta with no clear winner given how different the genetic makeup of each hatch is. But the Golf does have one trump card over the rest, which is its 44-year heritage, now embodied in one of the most handsome continental exteriors thanks in part to its sharp R-Line outfit. This doesn’t change the fact the Mk7.5 Golf TSI is far from being the last word in value for money, especially when it’s nearly mechanically identical to the Mk7. But its subtle improvements should be enough to prolong its appeal to buyers who value more intrinsic qualities until a new model materialises.


Volvo V40 T5
More powerful than a GTI but only marginally pricier than a TSI. Is an upset in the Swedes’ favour on the cards?


Not substantially better than the Mk7, but still a hoot to drive. Very efficient too. Visually striking R-Line kit is a positive bonus.


  Engine   1,395cc, 4-cylinder turbo, 148bhp, 250Nm
  Price   RM173,390
  Performance   0-100kph in 8.2 secs, 216kph
  Economy   5.2L/100km
  Weight   NA