Volkswagen Golf R vs. BMW M135i: Has VW Really Made a Better Hot Hatch?

BMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf R 9 photos
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BMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf RBMW M135i Vs Volkswagen Golf R
A few years ago, a question like this would have been met with scoffs, raised eyebrows, and maybe even turned backs. The reason behind it isn't necessarily the gap in performance between the Golf R and the M135i, but more the fact they were just so completely different.
On the one hand, you had the fastest Golf with its two-liter turbocharged engine and all-wheel-drive system (based on a front-wheel-drive platform). On the other, you had the Bavarian hot hatch with a three-liter straight-six turbo, rear-wheel-drive (all-wheel-drive was also available), and a manual transmission (again, with the option of replacing it with an automatic).

Those two felt like worlds apart, and if you think about it, they were. Volkswagen cars may have this weird quality that puts them just below the admission line into the premium segment, but they haven't crossed it and probably never will. That means you have to add a financial wall to the different powertrain architectures on the list of things that set them apart.

With one swift (and controversial) move, BMW has leveled the playing field by switching to a front-wheel-drive platform for its latest 1 Series hatchback. Not only that, but the new M135i also loses two of its six cylinders (together with some power), having to make do with a mere four-cylinder turbo, albeit one that puts out 302 hp (306 PS).

Meanwhile, the Golf R has had a massive head start in the development of a similar engine, so it can easily squeeze 316 hp (320 PS) out of the same displacement. However, it's not this tiny power gap that tilts the scales one way or another, but actually something BMW used to get perfectly right in the past.

Two things make very little sense in this comparison. One is the fact the Golf is actually more expensive than the BMW, and the other is the Volkswagen's steering and handling, which are superior to the M135i's. It seems that the Bimmer gained more trunk and cabin space with the move to an FWD platform, but it lost the thing that previously made BMWs stand out, which was their flawless dynamics.

Choosing between the two isn't going to be easy since they both trump the other in certain aspects. Still, at the end of the day, these are supposed to be hot hatches, so performance and handling should be the deciding criteria. Neither runs away with the victory, but we do get a winner, and it's arguably a surprise.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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