The Volkswagen Golf GTI - seen by many as the first hot hatchback - celebrates its fortieth birthday in 2016. To celebrate, the German brand have created the most powerful variant yet, the Clubsport Edition 40. The experts at Car and Driving check it out.
Ten Second Review
Volkswagen are masters of filling a niche and the Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 is further proof of this. Slotting in between the regular 230PS GTI Performance and 300PS Golf R, the Clubsport has a nominal 265PS, plus unique styling inside and out. Could this be the best hot Golf yet?
If there's the slightest hint of petrol running through your veins (and even if there's not), you're probably aware of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. What was initially a secretive project hidden from company executives burst onto the scene in 1976. With a 1.6-litre fuel injected engine pushing out 110PS, its light weight meant it was faster than many sports cars back then. As the Seventies became the Eighties, the second generation grew larger but became available with a sixteen valve engine to increase performance further. During the nineties, the Golf started to develop a middle aged spread that blighted the third and fourth generation models. Thankfully the last three generations have regained their form with the seventh generation offering the trademark blend of practicality and performance. The Clubsport Edition 40 version we see here celebrates the fortieth birthday of the GTI in the same way as other anniversary models. That means this the most powerful GTI ever.
At first glance, the GTI Clubsport Edition 40 follows the same recipe as the regular GTI and GTI 'Performance Pack' models. That means a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbocharged engine coupled to either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Where the normal GTI has a maximum of 230PS however, the Clubsport has an additional 35PS under normal conditions. If you push the throttle flat to the floor, this increases to 290PS for up to ten seconds at a time. Even with the additional grunt, there's only the front wheels to transmit this to the road. Those hoping for performance comparable to the Golf R will be disappointed. Traction limits the 0-62mph time to 6.0 seconds for the manual and 5.9 seconds for the auto model. Top speed is a whisker under 155mph for the auto and 155mph exactly for the manual. Not only is there more power, the new body kit offers 'significantly improved downforce' which increases the tyre's grip the faster you go. While it's unlikely you'll notice much difference when popping to the shops, it could make a very noticeable difference if you're partial to the odd track day.
Design and Build
There's plenty to distinguish the Clubsport from the regular GTI models both inside and out. Starting with the exterior, your eye is naturally drawn to the newly designed 18" alloy wheels that barely cover the bright red brake calipers. Being forged, they're nice and light too. Should they not be flashy enough, there's an optional 19" wheel that was also specifically created for this anniversary model. Up front there's a totally new front bumper with enlarged black vents that flow into a distinctive black stripe along the sides. This decal evokes the first generation GTI and includes the word 'Clubsport' for extra pose factor. New side sills complement the stripe while out back you'll find a new diffuser for the rear bumper. While you're looking at that, you might notice the larger exhaust tips too. More striking is the significantly larger rear spoiler that provides much of the additional downforce. Inside you get racing bucket seats with part Alcantara trim and 'GTI' lettering embroidered into the headrests. If that wasn't racy enough, there's an Alcantara covered steering wheel with a red strip and GTI logo, a red stripe on the seatbelts and GTI branded stainless steel kick-plates as you open the doors.
Market and Model
Clubsport pricing starts at around £31,000 for the three-door model: there's a £675 premium for the five-door version. The DSG auto gearbox is optional for just under £1,500 more. That's brave pricing, given that we're talking here of a two-wheel drive model with 265PS (or 290PS if you keep the throttle pinned for ten seconds at a time) priced only fractionally below a Golf R model with four wheel drive and 300PS available all the time. For reference, a basic Golf GTI is still nearly £27,500 for the three-door 220PS version, though should you wish to up that to the Performance model with 230PS, better brakes and a limited-slip diff, you're looking at almost another £1,000 on top of that. Still, at least this Clubsport model looks bespoke. It's being offered with an optional black painted roof which is combined with one of the body colours: Pure White, Tornado Red, Oryx White with a mother of pearl effect, Reflex Silver, Carbon Grey Metallic or Urano Grey. The solid colour Deep Black pearl effect is also available. And it's well equipped, the kit tally running to climate control, keyless entry, Bluetooth and satellite navigation. To keep you safe there's adaptive cruise control, a driver alert system, post collision auto braking and the usual selection of electronic assistants.
Cost of Ownership
The GTI Clubsport may offer a serious slug of extra performance over and above its lesser brothers, but that doesn't make it significantly more expensive to run. The GTI and GTI 'Performance Pack' variants both emit 145g/km of carbon with the auto gearbox and 139g/km with the manual. Go for the Clubsport and the manual produces 160g/km while the auto actually drops this to 155g/km. As for fuel consumption, it's the auto once again that proves the more efficient gearbox. The combined figure is a reasonable 42.1mpg, 2mpg less than the regular GTI. The warranty is unlimited mileage for the first two years but you're only covered up to 60,000 miles for a third year. Pretty standard in other words. Servicing costs won't be terrible and you can always count on Volkswagens for decent residual values.
It's easy to argue that the Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 fills a gap in the range that isn't really there. While it may be little more expensive than the GTI and offer up to 290PS, that power output is only for brief periods at a time. Not only that, there's not much more to spend before you can drive home in a Golf R that offers a nice round 300PS at all times plus AWD. We think in a more positive way however. The Clubsport will be usefully lighter than the R which could make for even more engaging handling. There's also no doubt that Golf anniversary models tend to have quite a following, something that does resale value and collectability no harm. If you're in the market for a truly exciting hot hatchback, we'd recommend taking the Clubsport for a spin before it's too late.