2021 Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI Mild Hybrid Review - Raising the bar
Singapore - Most of you would know that the Golf is to Volkswagen what the 911 is to Porsche. It is an icon, admired by many, and a benchmark for other manufacturers. In many cases, it has also become an aspirational car for the average car owner.
There are three trim levels for the bread and butter Golf, beginning with the base car, which is the ‘Life’, followed by the better-equipped ‘Life Plus’, and then there is the full-fat R-Line. With the R-Line badge, you get the GTI’s front bumper, but sans the cool honeycomb fog lights, while at the rear, there are a pair of chrome exhaust tips. You also get a set of 18-inch rims, one size smaller than the GTI.
The previous Golf 7 was powered by a 1.4 litre TSI engine, which produced 125hp and 200Nm. There were some rumours that the non-high performance range-topping R-Line, would get a more potent 150hp engine late in its lifetime. Since this would have made the compact hatchback even more expensive than it already was, the Category A COE friendly power rating was retained.
2021 Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI Mild Hybrid - A gem of an engine
But now, whichever model you choose, the new Golf 8 though, is a Category B only car.
And while the GTI retains the proven EA888 (and so does this red coloured Czech performance compact), the bread-and-butter-ish ones are now powered by an upgraded version of the previous EA211 1.4 TSI. The new EA211 evo 1.5 litre engine produces 150hp and 250Nm, and while the engine still uses the same aluminium head and block, the latter with cast iron sleeves, the crankcase is now made of aluminium, which shaves a substantial amount of weight.
While B-Segment group cars (like the Skoda Scala and Kamiq) also receive this same 1.5 litre engine, the Golf (and this Audi A3, and this Skoda Octavia too) benefits from a 48V mild-hybrid system. This powers a belt-driven starter-alternator, which adds an additional boost where needed. But what is also important here is that the MHEV system, paired with the engine tech and a 7-speed DSG are a remarkably efficient combination.
2021 Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI Mild Hybrid - The drive
Maximum torque happens 100rpm later than the previous 1.4 litre engine giving a sense that the Mk.8 feels slightly more relaxed when taking off. While the torque band is narrower here, acceleration, once the needle reaches 1400rpm is brisk. It is quicker to 100km/h than the car it replaces; and if you are sensitive enough, you can even catch the mild hybrid-system pushing the car.
Lift off the throttle once you have brought the hatchback to cruise, the transmission will disengage, while the engine shuts-off. If done right, you can actually coast over considerable distances at highway speeds, or even glide across a junction or two. Cylinder deactivation technology, where both cylinders two and three shut off during light loads, further reduces fuel consumption. Volkswagen claims a combined fuel consumption of 20.8km/L. But we found ourselves averaging 23km/L. If done right, you might be able to cover 700km on a single tank. Good work here VW…. I would dare say that this is possibly one of the best non-high performance engines out there.
Beyond that improved engine, the Mk.8 feels familiar around the bends, since both the Golf 7 and 8 share the same architecture. It sits flat as you enter, and stays pointed in the direction you steer. The independent rear suspension keeps things tidy, even over uneven surfaces, and any stepping out of the rear is easily managed. While the R-Line does not benefit from the GTI’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), with cool fifteen-stage adjustable dampers, it is fitted with a lowered sports suspension, with two-stage dampers. It also gets the same sporty progressive steering, seen in the GTI. I do have a gripe about the brakes though, as I find that they are not boosted enough.
Clearly from the first sharp corner, you can tell that Volkswagen has engineered the Golf 8 with the GTI in-mind. With 150hp and 250Nm, the Golf powers out effortlessly, and where needed, you also get that additional boost from the MHEV system. It is no GTI, but you could say GTI-lite.
2021 Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI Mild Hybrid - inside
All Golf 8 models are fitted with digitised instrument clusters, but the R-Line version also gets the same premium 10-inch Discover Pro infotainment system, found on the GTI. The infotainment system wirelessly supports both Apple and Android devices. A wireless mobile phone charger is also standard equipment on all Golf models.
Volkswagen has also done away with the mechanical gear shift lever to free up some real estate over the centre console. In its place, you get a nubby-nubby shift-by-wire switch, similar to the ones found on the Octavia, Leon and A3.
There are however, a few things which could be improved (actually in this case brought back), the glove box should have flocking, so that loose items do not shift around; and the frameless rear-view mirror should have been retained. But overall, the interior is neater, and filled with more tech and it feels overall better-built. You actually win more than you lose here.
Yes it is the most expensive Golf under the GTI, at $10,000* more than the middle-of-pack Life Plus, the latter which retails for $169,900*. But if improved handling, and wireless mobile connectivity are important to you, the R-Line is quite a remarkable offering. Remember, the GTI costs about $70,000* more!
*all prices accurate at time of publication
PHOTOS Clifford Chow
Volkswagen Golf R-Line 1.5 eTSI Mild Hybrid
Engine 1498cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch DSG
Top Speed 224km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.8l/100km (combined)