Open Road

How a 2015 Volkswagen Golf R kick-started my hot hatch life

Have you ever wondered what it might be like to own a hot hatch? Ever looked at a high spoiler with envy? Does the fantastic sound of a popping exhaust turn your head? Seriously, who hasn't? Having all of that in something unassuming (for the most part) and practical? Could be perfect. You can do your 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds while still carrying four other adults, car seats, a full load of groceries, or even an air conditioner. Obviously, not all at once. But the fact of the matter is if you want horsepower, maneuverability and a daily driver then this may be the type of car for you.

I've been a fan of hot hatches for many years and two years ago I decided to take the plunge. I bought a Volkswagen Golf R. It's one of the 500 preorders from 2015. Number 117, to be exact, but that is really neither here nor there for this article. What I want to talk about are the realities of life, I've experienced so far, while owning a hot hatch.

Number 1: It is fun.

Driving my Golf R is always fun. Except when I'm stuck in traffic. Or when I have to go slow because of road conditions, weather, or people. When there is a bit of open road, it is fantastic. Four-wheel drive, about three hundred horsepower, and a chassis that stays planted through the bends.

These cars are meant to be driven. They are not designed to be garage queens; they are powerful, reasonably affordable vehicles. So, you won't feel bad taking them out in the rain or down a dirt road and covering it in mud. These cars will make you want to get out on the road and experience what they can do.

Number 2: It has problems.

Another one of those "unfun" times came when there were issues. In the time that I have owned the car, I have busted a rim, worn through the first set of tires, had a blow out in the second set of tires, replaced the head unit and antenna, replaced both key fob batteries, and had to top off the coolant. Despite all that "German engineering," or perhaps because of, there have been more maintenance issues than I would have thought this early on. That also means those repairs aren't exactly cheap. Go onto any Volkswagen/ Audi groups or forums and you will see people that have a love, hate relationship with their cars.

Those problems came about without modifications. When you start adding those in, there is potential for a whole other set of issues. And these problems won't be covered under warranty, therefore, they are also very expensive.

Anytime you have a more technically advanced vehicle, there is a higher chance of problems. I knew there would be issues, but there were definitely more at the start than I expected.

Number 3: Sometimes I think it's like The Fast and Furious franchise. It's not.

Person: "Oh, you drive one of those cars like in the Fast and Furious movies?"
You: "Yes, that is exactly how it is."

Truth: Most of these cars and their drivers are not nearly that exciting. A lot of them are daily drivers for people with desk jobs. Although, there are times when I'm going to work super early in the morning and I'm acting like the road is a race track.

Number 4: There are rivalries.

Once I decided on the Golf R, that meant I rejected buying every other option. This meant I made some "enemies." I'm not saying that I no longer appreciate other hot hatches. I'm saying we all develop superiority complexes about the ones we've bought. It's okay, we all do. My brother-in-law has a Focus RS. We of course send each other insults, memes, and videos. It's part of the fun. You will enjoy going back and forth condemning each other for your "wrong choices.

Number 5: There will be support.

Picking up my Volkswagen, I already was part of some Facebook groups devoted to the car. At that time, however, I didn't realize how helpful this would be. Any problems, concerns, questions, jokes, basically anything about the car is open to discuss. Once you join, you will feel like you are a part of the family. You'll have a whole network of people to connect with and I've found out so many useful things. The rims I chose, most of my cleaning supplies, a lubricant to solve a squeaking problem, and more came from recommendations from the group. It's also great to have a place where you can talk with other people that understand your triumphs and frustrations. People that appreciate the car for what is, just like you do.

There's also the comradery you feel on the road. The people that wave as you go by. That moment when you come out of a store and you see a friend parked next to you (the only time you smile at someone parking right next to you). Going to meet ups, car shows, or finding people you work with or live around that are also owners. It's a fun thing to experience that you don't get from every car. I don't know, maybe Prius drivers have groups and secret hybrid owner handshakes, but I seriously doubt it.

In two years, I have experienced some of the pros and cons of hot hatch ownership. There are definitely days that I look at my car and dwell on the money sunken into it. There are times when I hear something rattle or break and wonder how it could be worth so much. When the low profile tires slam into a pothole I dream of a luxurious ride. All of that said, there is not a day that I ever regret having it. There isn't a time when I take it out for a drive that there isn't a smile on my face. So, here's to the next two years and years to come. It's a lifestyle and I highly recommend it.

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