2024 Hot Hatchback Shootout – 2024 Acura Integra Type-S vs Volkswagen Golf R


The popularity of hot hatches, or sporty hatchbacks has been steadily increasing in North America for a good reason. People want affordable one-car solutions to do everything, and hot hatches are the most affordable fun compact vehicles for the masses. Compared to a few decades ago, the modern hot hatches have to do everything better, as a grocery getter, a weekend warrior, or even a track toy.

This week, we have two of the most capable hot hatches ever made, and they are still available to buy brand-new. On one side, we have the Volkswagen Golf R, probably the most refined hot hatch available with an all-wheel drive and an available manual transmission until the end of this year. On the other side, we have one of the most anticipated entries for 2023 and 2024, the Acura Integra Type-S. Both entries are meant to be track-capable daily drivers for car enthusiasts, perfect candidates for “one car to do it all”.

The Looks – Exterior and Interior

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it is really hard to choose which one looks better. The Volkswagen Golf R is clearly the subtle choice, which is a better fit for older demographics. The 8th-generation Golf has a controversial look, but it still carries the traditional design language, making it recognizable from a mile away. The Golf R is the sportiest Golf, therefore it has the bigger 19″ wheels, front bumper, quad exhaust tips and a bigger spoiler. The Golf has the traditional hatchback design with European flare, it is significantly smaller than the Integra.

If you are a car enthusiast in your 30s or older, you should know what the Integra nameplate means. Acura decided to resurrect the Integra model after two decades, as a premium version of the Honda Civic. They have done a terrific job with the new design. Even though it shares its platform, there is not a single body panel that it shares with the Civic. The Integra Type-S comes with a wider fenders and quarter panels, giving it a sportier and more aggressive stance compared to regular Integras, and even the Golf R.

Unlike the Golf, the Integra is designed for the North American audience. Both entries are technically compact hatchbacks for North Americans, but the Integra’s stretched rear end would have been described as a liftback anywhere in the world, except North America. If you are looking for the most aggressive design language, the Integra Type-S clearly delivers that. The base Integra already looks good to begin with, but the Type-S takes it to the next level. It does not have the big spoiler that you would find in the Civic Type-R, but it still has unique triple exhaust tips located in the middle. The Integra Type-S is not just wider, it also sits significantly lower than the Golf R and the sloping roofline gives it a much sportier look in general.

Like the exterior design language, there is a big difference when it comes to the interior design. Volkswagen took the controversial approach and decided to eliminate all physical controls as much as possible. It’s not news by any stretch, Volkswagen has been doing this for the last few years with the other models including the Atlas. The only physical controls are the hazards and the window switches, and the rest of the features can be accessed either through the infotainment system or haptic feedback buttons located on the dashboard. Touch-sensitive steering wheel controls and slider controls are the two most annoying features that Volkswagen should update with the refreshed Golf for next year.

Just like the latest Honda and Acura products, you get a much more traditional experience inside the Integra Type-S. It offers a great balance of physical controls and screens, which takes less time to get used to the layout in the interior. The build quality is very similar to the Golf R, but the Integra’s interior looks less monochromatic mainly due to the red accents throughout the dashboard.

Even though Volkswagen has been heavily criticized for the controversial infotainment system, it has a better digital gauge cluster than the Integra Type-S. It not only offers better resolution, but has more customizable layouts, shows more information, and you can move your navigation screen to the cluster. The Integra uses the same digital cluster you would find in other Honda and Acura models, and it has limited options and looks less premium when you compare both entries side by side.

The Integra Type-S is the premium version of the Honda Civic Type-R, and you feel the difference as soon as you get behind the wheel. You get more features like leather seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and power seats with two-way adjustable lumbar support, which makes the Integra Type-S a better daily driver. However, the Golf R has more supportive front seats with more aggressive side bolsters, and it is undoubtedly a better choice when you compare the standard features, including ventilated front seats with a memory feature for the driver.

Both entries are meant to be family-friendly, no matter how sporty they are, it is the fundamental feature that makes hothatches appealing to car enthusiasts and younger families. The Golf R is clearly the smaller entry designed for European buyers, therefore it has less interior space. It feels less claustrophobic and has more range of adjustment for the driver, but it has significantly less legroom, especially for rear-seat occupants. Getting in and out is easier and you get more headroom due to the traditional hatchback profile, rear seat occupants also get third-zone climate control along with heated seats, which is not available with the Integra Type-S.

The rear seats of the Integra Type-S feel much more premium than its corporate sibling, the Civic Type-R. You feel less cost-cutting measures in the rear. Even though it is significantly roomier than the Golf R, the Type-S is a 4-seater. The headroom is limited, but the Integra Type-S can accommodate rear-facing child seats better than the Golf R. The Integra also offers slightly larger cargo space, but due to the sloping roofline and rear-end design, it is not easy to place larger items. The Golf R offers better vertical storage space, and wider trunk opening despite having smaller cargo room behind the rear seats.

The Drive

Both entries offer 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engines with a similar power output, but the way they send power to the wheels is different. The Integra Type-S is only available in a front-wheel-drive layout, and the 2.0-litre engine is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Golf R is the only choice if you want an all-wheel-drive, but you can choose a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission until the end of 2024. After that, only a 7-speed dual-clutch will be available.

The Integra’s 2.0 litre turbocharged K20 engine can also be found in a Honda Civic Type-R, but the Integra Type-S offers a more responsive mid-range and bottom-end grunt. The turbo lag is still noticeable, especially when we drive both entries back to back, but the K20 engine is quite playful, wants to be driven hard to enjoy more. It pushes 320 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, slightly more than the Civic Type-R.

Just like the Civic Type-R, the Integra Type-S also comes with the best 6-speed manual transmission in business. The shifts are extremely crisp, throws are short, and gear ratios are the right fit for this type of vehicle. It accelerates effortlessly at higher gear and low RPM situations, which is ideal for a car meant to be driven every day. The clutch pedal is quite progressive and predictable, so there is no compromise as a daily driver.

The Volkswagen Golf R comes with VW AG’s corporate EA888 gen 4 engine, which offers a stout 315 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque if you choose the 6-speed manual. If you choose the 7-speed DSG, the torque figure increases to 295 lb-ft. The EA888 engine has much bigger shoes to fill, as it is used in many different VW, Audi and Porsche models. It is one of the most versatile drivetrains available in this price range. It is the last year of the Golf R with a manual transmission, but the 7-speed DSG transmission is a better fit based on its character.

The EA888 engine prioritizes a smooth driving experience, it delivers what you need without any drama, unlike the Acura’s K20 engine. Of course, Golf R’s 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system works really well on all types of surfaces, and the new rear differential can send more power to the outer wheel, the Golf R can rotate with more throttle input thanks to this trick. The 6-speed transmission is not as engaging as Acura’s 6-speed, but it has even shorter gear ratios and is easier to drive.

Both entries are very capable on the twisties, but the way they communicate is slightly different. The Type-S only relies on front wheels, therefore it needs tons of rubber to have higher grip levels. 265 wheels are too big without the widebody, but the Type-S really shines when you take it to the back road. The front differential works so well, it gives you tons of confidence to get on the throttle pedal earlier in the mid-corner. The suspension can handle road imperfections much better than the Type-R even at the limit. Unfortunately, you don’t get the track-oriented “R mode” or LogR data logger.

The Golf R’s rear differential trick works very well to push the front end in the corner with more throttle input, as it sends more power to the rear outer wheel. However, when you get closer to the handling limits of the vehicle, the Golf R feels less communicative and responsive compared to the Type-S. On the other hand, the Golf R can go fast anywhere without thinking twice, while you have to be more careful about the road conditions with the Type-S to avoid wheel spinning.

The Verdict:
If you are looking for the best track lap times and the most special hot hatch, the Honda Civic Type-R is still the king of the hill.

The new Acura Integra Type-S is a better Civic Type-R in certain ways, it has a better exhaust note with more drama, better mid-range torque, a better suspension tune for public roads, slightly better interior quality, and a much better sound system. However, it still doesn’t change that the Civic Type-R is the most special and track-capable entry in this segment. The Integra Type-S is a track-capable hot hatch built for daily driving, whereas the Civic Type-R is a daily-capable hot hatch built for autocross or track days.

The Volkswagen Golf R is the best option if you want one vehicle to do it all. The Integra Type-S is supposed to be the polished entry, but the Golf R knocks it out of the park when it comes to overall refinement. It has the best road manners without a question, great all-wheel-drive system that allows you to go flat out anywhere, anytime. The grip levels are very high, but the car is not as communicative or responsive at the limit. Even though it is smaller than most entries, it is the most well-rounded option available, as it does everything exceptionally well, including its price tag. Long story short, it makes you question why the Audi S3 exists.

2024 Volkswagen Golf R2024 Acura Integra Type-S
Engine2.0 litre turbocharged inline-42.0 litre turbocharged inline-4
Transmission6-speed manual & all-wheel-drive6-speed manual & front-wheel-drive
Max power315 hp @ 6500 rpm320 hp @ 6500 rpm
Max torque280 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm310 lb-ft @ 2600 rpm
0-100 km/h5.2 sec5.5 sec
Fuel Economy (as tested)20 MPG – 11.8L / 100km22 MPG – 10.7L / 100km
Base MSRP (starting at)$51,778 CAD$58,326 CAD

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