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MEET the €45,000 Golf, the fastest Volkswagen known to man.

The Golf R has been the surprise package on my drive this year, and here's why.

If any Golf could ever come close to giving the GTI a run for its money, this is it. And yes, it's even faster, and might even be cooler than any model before it.

Almost 300bhp - 296, to be precise - make this one hell of a ride as the R leaves its predecessor sitting by almost 10pc more poke.

Despite all this extra power and thanks to the glory of modern motoring efficiencies, this sees a 34g/km drop in CO2 emissions.

All this glorious acceleration comes from a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox, though there is a manual available for those who prefer the hands-on approach.

Now, such pace and power come with one of the most exhilarating engine sounds on the road, and this produces almost sonic boom levels of smack once that enticing little pedal is kicked.


The surge is simply sublime, and the crackle from the engine gives you a real sense that this is fantasy driving at its best.

My first car was a VW Golf, and I've always had a soft spot for this hatch. But the R is a step beyond all else.

This is a 4Motion model and the all-wheel drive gives some of the best handling you can hope for from a car of this type, and allows for more aggressive cornering.

But the R is not only about power and performance, it is as much a style statement - and what a message it gives off.

There are smoked rear cluster lights, newly developed LED running lights up front, 19-inch alloys and the ultimate hot hatch wow factor, four chrome exhausts.

The R comes in five and three-door and, interestingly, there will be an estate offering.

Inside, the styling really sets the heart aflutter thanks to Alcantara and leather 'Sports Seats', which are surprisingly comfy and figure-hugging and the driving position is excellent.

The gorgeous leather 'straight-bottomed' R branded steering wheel is in a decent position without being spectacular.

There is plenty of kit too, including lots of cool blue lighting on the scuff plates, parking sensors, electric heated folding mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and automatic lights.

It's not all cosmetic, though, and - as you'd expect - the Gold R is packing some very clever gear to get that extra grunt.

The same 2.0 litre power plant manages to squeeze out 59bhp more than the performance-pack equipped GTI thanks mainly to the all-wheel-drive system.

At full pelt, most front-wheel-drive hot hatches (even with a limited slip-diff) will suffer from torque steer.

Not here, as all four corners dig in, giving unrivalled grip and rocket-like propulsion. It'll go from 0-100kph in a sprightly 5.2 seconds and has a governed top end of 250kph.

And you'd think all that high performance would come at a price, but you'll be pleasantly surprised at how frugal this beast actually is.

VW claims that on a combined cycle the R is returning almost 41mpg (6.9 litres/100km) but we reckon it's more like 35mpg - which isn't too far off the mark, and with emissions reduced to 159g/km road tax is only €570.

So, the question remains, would you pay €45,000 for a Golf?

The answer is an emphatic Yes.

The Golf R starts at €43,465.

A standard 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100bhp diesel engine in the Peugeot 208 has set a new long-distance fuel-consumption record of 2,152kms on a single tank of fuel, returning 141mpg.

on litres (9.45 gallons) of diesel, with an average fuel consumption of 2.0 l/100km (141.2 mpg). The new Peugeot 208, due for launch in Ireland this July, now takes its place as the world benchmark for a standard production model powered by an internal combustion engine. The new record confirms the technological excellence of the latest Euro6 BlueHDi Diesel engines from Peugeot and the company's contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions.