2021 Volkswagen Golf R-Line review: Lighter Shade of Grey

Ben Chia

The Volkswagen Golf R-Line gets the usual sporting enhancements, but also throws in a secret weapon to make it a compelling driver’s choice


Whenever a car brand offers up some sort of ‘sports’ package (think Audi’s S Line or BMW’s M Sport), it’ll usually consist of a sporty-looking body kit, with a subtle spoiler here and side skirts there. Sometimes they’ll also throw in bigger wheels and a sports suspension setup, which generally results in a harsher ride quality in the name of ‘sportiness’.

On the surface, the R-Line kit fitted to the latest Volkswagen Golf looks to follow the same formula. There are some styling enhancements, such as the unique front and rear bumpers and side skirts, and a fancy grille design that incorporates a cool-looking LED strip across the top, a feature shared with the GTI hot hatch. There’s also the larger 18-inch alloy rims, and the prerequisite lowered sports suspension, so no major surprises here.

Inside, the Golf R-Line gets a larger 10-inch infotainment screen (the regular cars are 8.25-inches), that also incorporates navigation, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That alone raises the convenience factor significantly, and the cabin ambience is further enhanced by the sports seats, the stainless steel pedals and the R-Line design steering wheel.

Whether those additions are worth the additional 10 grand over the regular Golf Life Plus model is certainly up for discussion. But for keen drivers, the R-Line also gets what Volkswagen calls ‘Progressive Steering’, which might tip the balance towards the R-Line’s way.

Check out our video of the regular Golf Life Plus, or read our full review here

The system is essentially similar to BMW’s Active Steering system, which varies the steering ratio depending on the driving situation. On the highway, the steering feels heavier and less responsive, and the theory here is that while cruising at higher speeds, you don’t want the steering to react too quickly to every little input, and instead want it to be more progressive.

It’s a different story when manoeuvring through corners though, or in tight parking situations. In those situations, the steering lightens up significantly, and requires less turns to move the wheel from lock to lock. Aside from making parking a cinch, the effect on the car’s handling is pretty dramatic.

It makes the car feel sharp as a tack, and the directness of the steering makes slicing through corners a remarkably enjoyable experience. Personally, having not driven the regular Golf, it’s hard to make a direct comparison, but from an objective standpoint, the steering does make the R-Line feel like a mini-GTI to drive, in a certain sense. The lowered sports suspension does result in a slightly firm ride, but it’s not dramatically jarring to the point of ruination, and you can still live with it on a daily basis.

The rest of the car is pretty much regular Golf though. The engine remains the 1.5-litre mild hybrid turbo four-pot with 150hp and 250Nm of torque, and it works just as well here as in the standard cars. There’s enough punch to get you going in the city without much fuss, and the mild hybrid system, with its engine-off coasting capability and cylinder deactivation tech, proves effective in helping the car sip fuel.

All in all, whether the R-Line is worth the extra outlay really does depend on what you’re seeking in a Golf. By and large, the standard model should be good enough for most folks. But Volkswagen has done well to make the R-Line go beyond cosmetic enhancements, and in effect make it into a sorta GTI-lite. It strikes a decent compromise between sportiness and everyday usability, and if that’s what you’re going for, then it’s good to know that the R-Line’s here for you.

Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI R-Line

Engine1,498cc, inline four, turbocharged
Power150hp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque250Nm at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h8.5 seconds
Top Speed224km/h
VES BandingA2 / -S$15,000
Fuel Efficiency4.8L/100km
AgentVolkswagen Centre Singapore
PriceS$146,900 with COE
VerdictR-Line package for the Golf adds more than just cosmetic enhancements, and injects genuine sportiness for an entertaining drive


1.5 eTSI R-Line 5 seat 5-door golf hatchback petrol volkswagen

About the Author

Ben Chia

CarBuyer's print editor went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world. Follow Ben on Instagram @carbuyer.ben

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