The original Golf R32, based on the Mk4 version of Wolfsburg’s ubiquitous shopping trolley, was the first production car recipient of a dual-clutch gearbox, aka DSG – at least in the case of the German-market model.
But it’s also notable for saving the idea of a performance Golf: by the time the Golf Mk4 came around, the GTI was a baggy, unexciting plum pudding of a car in dynamic terms, so the 3.2-litre, 240hp narrow-angle V6 feeding power via that clever gearbox to a Haldex four-wheel-drive system was quite the tonic. VW only sold 500 in the UK between 2002 and 2004, so they’re not exactly common, and the butch bodykit makes them look rather racy.
By the time the Mk5 came along, the Golf GTI had recovered its mojo, so the second iteration of the R32, launched in March 2005, played more of a GT-type role than out-and-out hot hatch. Along with a chrome grille surround, the Mk5 R32 had grown to 250hp and developed a more composed, comfortable and competent chassis than the slightly more raw Mk4. Think of it as a more grown-up alternative to a contemporary Impreza WRX and you won’t be far wrong.