THE Golf has always been a fine all-rounder. The legendary GTI was the first car to demonstrate the practical advantages of a hot hatchback over a dedicated sports car (more room, a bigger boot, doesn’t breakdown if the day has a ‘y’ in it etc.) and the Golf-R took everything that was great about the GTI and made it even better.

Packing a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, the latest Golf-R is a genuine junior supercar botherer with a top speed of nearly 170mph if you opt for the R performance pack (or a mere 155mph if you don’t).

That figure, of course, is just for bar room bores and track day fans but the 0-60mph time of just over four seconds is more relevant. This not only makes the Golf R the fastest accelerating Golf ever but gives it fantastic throttle response. In the first four gears the merest flex of your right foot is all that’s needed to rocket past slow moving traffic.

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What's truly surprising is how successfully Volkswagen has married stunning performance with everyday usability.

For a start, it doesn't suffer the bone-crunching ride that compromises so many hyper hatches. The Golf R glides over minor road imperfections that would send bangs and crashes shuddering through other hyper hatchback’s cabins.

You don’t get quite the same steering feedback as in a Honda Civic Type R but the difference isn’t huge and more drivers will value the Golf’s cosseting day-to-day ride over the Honda’s harsh suspension.

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Unleash the Golf on a favourite B-road and it feels alive in the corners. There’s a huge amount of grip (more than you’d ever need at legal speeds in dry conditions on the road) and it feels supremely agile. Pitch the Golf into a series of corners and it just pulls through courtesy of four-wheel drive which pushes power to the rear when the fronts start to lose grip. There's precious little dive when you drop the anchors and the clever steering rack (which varies the number of turns lock-to-lock from 2.75 to 2.1) responds to the merest flick.

The Type R is a beast - especially on a smooth circuit - but the Golf-R has it beat in the real world because it has a broader range of abilities.

If you go easy on the accelerator the Golf R feels as smooth and easy-going as any other family hatch. There's no hint of histrionics from the highly-tuned engine - it just gets on with the job of doing what's asked of it - and the ride makes life comfortable for everyone aboard.

The engine may be more efficient than its predecessor, but don't expect low running costs - around town I was averaging less than 25mpg, although my 29mpg overall average probably reflected my, er, enthusiastic driving. With a more cautious right foot it should be possible to nudge the mpg over 30mpg.

Externally the Golf R is surprisingly restrained (just like it's GTI little brother) with only the massive alloys and multiple exhausts giving the game away.

It’s equally subtle inside where there's some cool blue mood lighting and hip-hugging one-piece sports seats but, otherwise, feels a lot like the GTI.

It has the same virtual instrument pack as other Golfs and the same touch-sensitive infotainment set-up. The buttons on the steering wheel are a bit too touch-sensitive; it’s easy to operate them by mistake when you are feeding the wheel through your hands.

My kids appreciated the four-door bodyshell and had no complaints about legroom or the view out of the windows. The Golf R will easily accommodate four adults.

The boot isn’t huge at 374-litres but it is well shaped so you can get half-a-dozen bags for life in it without needing to remove the parcel shelf or fold the back seats down. The load lip is a modest affair so hauling heavy items into the back shouldn’t pose a problem. Those seats split 60/40 - useful, but some rivals have three-way split/fold seating arrangements.