The new Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R represent two different schools of thought in the world of compact sports cars, which the less informed might confuse with 'ordinary' family hatches.

In fact, both the Golf and the Civic, the historic and best-selling representatives of the five-door hatchback category, have a version in their range so powerful and fast that it can be driven on the racetrack without a problem.

These are the Golf R and Civic Type R, which divide enthusiasts between the all-wheel-drive German and the front-wheel-drive Japanese. Let's see how they compare on paper and what qualities make them so similar yet so different.

The exterior

The Volkswagen Golf R is the more compact of the two competitors at 4.29 metres long. It remains true to its historic five-door hatchback configuration, with sporty exterior details that set it apart from all other Golfs. The Black Edition's 19-inch wheels, black brake callipers, VW and R logos and exhaust tips are the most visible, but the new black Matrix LED headlamps and front air intakes don't go unnoticed either.

Volkswagen Golf R, front three-quarter view

Volkswagen Golf R, three-quarter front view

Honda Civic Type R, front three-quarter view

Honda Civic Type R, three-quarter front view

The Honda Civic Type R, on the other hand, has the shape of a long saloon with a hatchback, a length of no less than 4.59 metres that puts it 30 cm ahead of the Golf (thanks also to an 11 cm longer wheelbase). At 1.89 metres, its width is greater than that of the German car, while its height is less. The 19-inch wheels in matt black also stand out on the Honda, as do the lowered stance, the numerous air intakes and the wing at the rear.

Model Length Width Height Wheelbase
Volkswagen Golf R 4.29 1.78 1.45 2.62
Honda Civic Type R 4.59 1.89 1.40 2.73

The interior

Both five-door sports cars have a fairly classic interior design, with the Golf R relying on larger screens and more touch-sensitive controls.

The Volkswagen stands out in particular for its 10.2-inch Digital Cockpit Pro screen with Laptimer GPS and accelerometer for tracking lap times on the circuit. The central infotainment screen is 12.9 inches wide and features wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as new menu management.

Volkswagen Golf R, gli interni

Volkswagen Golf R, interior

The luggage compartment of the sportiest Golf has a minimum capacity of 273 litres and can be increased to 1,129 litres when the rear seats are folded down.

On the Honda Civic, the digital instrumentation has a diagonal of 10.2 inches as on the Golf, while the 9-inch central screen is slightly smaller, while retaining Android Auto and Apple CarPlay wireless connectivity.

Honda Civic Type R, the interior

Honda Civic Type R, interior

The Honda's luggage compartment is more generous than the Volkswagen's, with a minimum of 410 litres and a maximum of 1,212 litres.

Model Digital instrumentation Central monitor Luggage compartment (min/max)
Volkswagen Golf R 10.2-inch 12.9-inch 273/1,129 litres
Honda Civic Type R 10.2-inch 9-inch 410/1,212 litres

Engines

The design difference between the two sporty compacts is not evident in the engine - both are 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinders, but in the transmission, which is all-wheel drive for the Golf R and front-wheel drive for the Civic Type R.

The Golf R has a slight advantage in terms of power, as its 2.0 TSI engine develops 333 PS over a wider rev range of 5,600 to 6,500 rpm than the Civic. Maximum torque is 420 Nm, again transmitted to the wheels by the 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

The top speed of 168 mph is very similar to that of the Japanese car, while for acceleration from 0 to 62 mph, it has a best time of 4.6 seconds.

Volkswagen Golf R, the 2.0 TSI engine detail

Volkswagen Golf R, the 2.0 TSI engine in detail

Honda Civic Type R, the 2.0 VTEC engine detail

Honda Civic Type R, the 2.0 VTEC engine in detail

For its part, the Honda Civic Type R is equipped with the latest and most powerful version of the 4-cylinder 2.0 VTEC Turbo with 329 PS and 420 Nm, mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox with improved rev-matching. As is traditional for this model, front-wheel drive is the norm, with a top speed of 171 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 5.4 seconds.

  Volkswagen Golf R Honda Civic Type R
Engine 2.0 TSI 4-cylinder turbo petrol 2.0 VTEC 4-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 333 PS
(@ 5,600-6,500 rpm)
329 PS
(@ 6,500 rpm)
Torque 420 Nm
(@ 2,100-5,500 rpm)
420 Nm
(@ 2,200-4,000 rpm)
Gearbox 7-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic 6-speed manual
Traction 4MOTION all-wheel drive Front
Top speed 168 mph 171 mph
Acceleration 0-62 mph 4.6 seconds 5.4 seconds

Price

Prices for the new Volkswagen Golf R have yet to be announced, but we do know that in Germany it will be cheaper than the outgoing model. If this decision to keep prices down is also confirmed in the UK, we expect the new Golf R to start at a lower price than the £45,490 of the model currently on sale.

Volkswagen Golf R, the three-quarter view from the rear

Volkswagen Golf R, three-quarter rear view

Honda Civic Type R, rear three-quarter view

Honda Civic Type R, three-quarter rear view

The Honda Civic Type R, meanwhile, has a base price of £50,050, which is currently higher than the pre-updated Golf R.

Model Base price
Volkswagen Golf R £45,490 (estimate)
Honda Civic Type R £50,050

Gallery: Volkswagen Golf R vs Honda Civic Type R