£29,000 - £30,000 Price range
The VW Golf GTI Clubsport is the fastest and most powerful two-wheel-drive Golf you can buy. Its closest rivals are the similar in pace SEAT Leon Cupra, the Honda Civic Type R and the Renault Megane Renaultsport.
The big difference between the GTI and the Clubsport is its power – up to 290hp during a 10-second overboost when you floor it and 265hp the rest of the time, while the GTI has 230hp with the performance package. The 2.0-litre petrol can be quiet and civilised for commuting and ultimately won’t cost too much to run for the power it makes.
The next great thing about the Clubsport is the way it drives. This ultimate Golf GTI is the sharpest and most controllable it has ever been, and thanks to the latest electronic locking differential has huge amounts of grip. Despite being much more track-focused the Clubsport is still comfortable enough for everyday life.
Take away the aerodynamic bumpers and spoilers that differentiate the Clubsport from the regular GTI and underneath is still one of the most practical performance hatchbacks currently on sale – there are no complaints about passenger space and the Clubsport’s unique bucket seats are both supportive and comfortable.
The Clubsport sits at the top of the Golf GTI range and below the more serious Golf R, and as a result gets almost all the equipment you need such as climate control, parking sensors and a touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav.
The biggest difference inside the Clubsport compared to a regular Golf are the body-hugging front sport seats and the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob.
Other than that it’s still the same easy-to-use dashboard layout that lacks excitement and the same class-leading material quality that makes the regular Golf feel premium inside.
VW Golf GTI Clubsport passenger space
This seventh iteration of the Golf is slightly longer than the previous one and as a result it’s more spacious for both front and rear occupants. The rear seat is spacious for two, with the outer bolsters enlarged for better support during quick cornering, but will prove a tight fit for three because the middle seat is noticeably narrower.
VW Golf GTI Clubsport boot space
The Clubsport has the same size boot as the GTI measuring 380-litres in capacity. That is less than in rivals such as the Octavia vRS (590 litres) but more than in the Focus ST (316 litres). However, the Golf is not short on clever practical solutions – there’s an adjustable boot floor, a very low load lip and lots of hooks and latches to secure luggage.
The Clubsport does to the GTI what the GTI does to the regular Golf – it improves the handling without any noticeable drawbacks. The Clubsport is incredibly easy to drive fast and goes around corners with impressive composure, yet it’s more forgiving in terms of ride comfort than rivals from Honda and Renault. The XDS+ locking front differential improves grip to the point many testers reckon the Clubsport might be faster around a race track than the more-powerful Golf R. The confidence-inspiring handling is further helped by the optional Michelin Pilot Sport semi-slick tyres.
A £800 optional extra that is highly recommended by critics and should have been standard on this range-topping GTI is the adaptive dampers. There are three driving modes including sport and comfort and they not only alter the suspension setup but also the throttle response and the speed of gear shifts of the DSG gearbox.
Yet another re-worked version of VW’s 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol powers the GTI Clubsport. It normally has 265hp, but every time you floor the accelerator the turbocharger pressure is increased for a brief moment and you get 290hp – 10 less than in the Golf R. Acceleration during those 10-seconds is impressive but a more important figure is the pulling power – the 280 lb ft of torque is exactly the same as in the Golf R. Most of it is also available from just 1,700rpm and – combined with the lower weight of the Clubsport compared to the Golf R – makes for some dizzying in-gear acceleration.
The regular Golf was crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2012 and was awarded the maximum score of five stars. Safety inspectors were particularly impressed by the class-leading driver and passenger protection.
The Clubsport should be even safer thanks to it’s bigger brakes that reduce stopping distances and grippier tyres. It also comes with airbags in all the essential areas, electronic stability control and two Isofix child seat mounting points in the rear seats.
The regular Golf is a well-equipped car, while the GTI version gets an even more impressive list of kit. An intuitive infotainment with a touchscreen sat-nav and all-round parking sensors to help with parking are standard, while other notable equipment includes climate control and xenon headlights.
The Clubsport builds upon this strong foundation by adding more aggressive bumpers, a mini ducktail rear spoiler, and bigger chrome exhaust tips. Tinted rear lights and windows complete the visual package.
VW Golf Clubsport S
If you’re the sort of person who prefers to set record lap times round race circuits, rather than having rear seats, then the most track-focused version of the Clubsport has been built specifically for your exacting criteria. As you’ve probably gathered, the Clubsport S loses the rear bench but gains the bragging rights of being the fastest front-wheel drive car to lap the famous Nurburgring test track in Germany (as of September 2016 that is…). It achieved that feat thanks to a tuned engine providing 306hp, sticky tyres, and lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels.
Track-focused super hatchbacks are nothing new (the stripped-out old Renault Megane R26 R springs to mind), but unlike the Renault, the VW is usable and refined when you’re not going for it. That combination of ferocious grip and forgivable ride quality is something rivals have yet to achieve and that really puts the Clubsport S in a league of it’s own. It’s a shame, then, that all 150 UK cars are already sold.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of hot hatches – the more track-focused, like the Honda Civic Type-R and Renault Megane Renaultsport, and the more practically-oriented but still plenty fast, such as the Skoda Octavia vRS and the VW Golf R Estate. The Clubsport falls sort of in between. It’s more practical and easier to live with than the Honda and the Renault yet is more involved and faster than the vRS or the R. So if the Golf R looks a bit restrained to you, then get the Clubsport – it’s the drivers’ choice.