Apr 11, 2016
Reviewed By Jim Pickering
Price as Tested $36,470: 2.0L TSI DOHC 16-valve turbocharged engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 4Motion AWD, vented disc brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels w/summer tires, adaptive headlights, LED running lights and turn signals, rain-sensing wipers, back-up camera, leather interior, heated seats

292-hp 2.0L Turbo from the Audi S3 scoots this tiny VW along with authority, and the versatile AWD system (called 4Motion here and Quattro in Audi products) gives plenty of grip. Fantastic suspension with great steering feel and stiff (but not too stiff) ride. Smooth-shifting 6-speed is geared low enough for 3-mph traffic crawls and a 4.5-second blast to 60 mph. Clean exterior design, high-quality interior materials. Several dynamic driving modes change the nature of the car.


Custom driving mode settings include an interior engine sound adjustment, piped in through the stereo system. Why fake it? Interior is really nice, but there are fit and finish issues with our tester, including stereo knobs that feel gritty in the morning and smooth in the afternoon.


This little VW is the ultimate sleeper of its segment, going up against the winged WRX STI, the stiff Focus RS, and the hard-core Evo MR. Sure, it may have understated looks, but there’s an angry little beast under those R badges, and it’s a lot of fun to flog that turbo 4 whenever space opens up in front of you. I’d also call this the most livable option of the group, with nice materials inside and a softer daily feel — you can actually use this thing regularly without apologizing for its jerky power delivery or harsh ride characteristics. A great driver for an edgy but still comfortable daily commute.

Fun to Drive
5.0 rating
Fun to Look at
3.0 rating
Overall Experience
4.0 rating
Horsepower 292
EPA Mileage 22/31

For more about this car, please visit the manufacturer's website.