The Volkswagen Golf GTI has been the hot hatch that all others try to match for over 40 years now. Volkswagen has now produced a leaner, more focused GTI, with the addition of the GTI Clubsport and Clubsport S models. These anniversary models celebrate the GTI’s 40th birthday, reminding us of the iconic mark one GTI from 1976. The Clubsport is easily distinguished from its regular GTI siblings with its unique styling.
Up front, it has a new bumper complete with air curtains which channel air around the front wheels, below this is a splitter to aid downforce. There are new sculpted side sills, a new rear bumper with diffuser below and a multi-part roof spoiler. Above the side sills is a very subtle Clubsport graphic for those that are unsure what model of GTI this is. The car comes fitted with 18” alloy wheels as standard, our test car had the optional 19” Brescia alloys which are a must in my opinion, they truly enhance the cars athletic appearance.
The sporty styling is continued in the GTI’s interior with a pair of figure-hugging Sports Seats, a flat-bottomed Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and gear knob gaiter. The manual transmission has the traditional golf-ball-style gear knob as fitted to the mark one GTI.
The GTI Clubsport is powered by Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI engine, a third-generation EA888 engine that boasts technical refinements such as a water-cooled exhaust channel to the turbocharger that is integrated in the cylinder head. The engine produces 265hp and 350Nm of torque, however thanks to a boost function this power temporarily increases to 290hp and 380Nm when you kick-down the accelerator fully. All this power is fed to the GTI’s front wheels through a front electronic locking differential.
You can select your preferred driving mode through the car’s onboard 6.5” touch-screen infotainment system that integrates the driver profile. Using the ‘Individual’ setting we can optimise the settings to our preference, this includes, steering, throttle and differential settings.
On the road the GTI Clubsport is noticeably different to a regular GTI and the all-wheel-drive Golf R. It’s far sharper in its responses to driver input, the steering is one of the best systems I’ve ever experienced, honestly the feeling of weight and feedback through it is incredible. You can take turns with pinpoint accuracy and confidence that the front end will turn in exactly as you wish. The suspension is firm yet the ride comfortable, even on uneven surfaces. The six-speed manual transmission is a joy to use thanks to a short-throw between gears, you can also have a DSG automatic transmission but I feel you’re missing the point of the Clubsport if you go for the DSG. With a front-wheel-drive setup and a manual transmission, this GTI truly feels like an old school hot hatch, albeit with a lot more power, it has the driver involvement that so many modern hot hatches fail to achieve. The engine performs well and is happy to rev out to the redline with no drop in power, there is a decent induction noise although I’d prefer if there was more noise coming out of the exhausts with some ‘popping’ induced on lift off.
We took to the track to see how this GTI will fare against some of the competition, although fast it didn’t produce the laptime that I felt it was capable of. On acceleration out of the corners it struggled for grip, you can opt for road-legal semi-slick tyres on 8-inch wide Pretoria rims, with these I’ve no doubt at least one second would be shaved off the Clubsport’s laptime, we’ve a video below of the lap. In the real world the tyres as fitted to our car would be my preferred option with sufficient grip for wet and dry motoring.
The GTI Clubsport is finely honed GTI for the enthusiastic driver, your average driver won’t get the same thrill out of it as an experienced one. It really delivers a raw driving experience, you can have a Golf R for the same money but it’ll never put the same kind of smile on your face. This is one serious model for the collectors.
Engine Size 1984cc
Fuel Type Petrol
Power 265hp – 290hp
Torque 350Nm – 380Nm
Acceleration (0-100km/h) 6.3 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h
Consumption (Combined) 7.0L/100km
CO2 Emissions 162g/km
Road Tax Band D €570
Base Price €44,375
Price as Tested €47,019