Road Test: Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40
Volkswagen marks 40 years of the GTI with the best car that’s ever worn the badge, says Alex Grant.
Sector: Lower Medium Price: £30,935-£33,005 Fuel: 40.4-40.9mpg CO2: 158-162g/km
Though there’s a chasm between the Mk1 and Mk7 Golf, a little of its popularity has come down to familiarity. You can move between generations with no doubt as to what you’re driving, and the same is true of the GTI.
Mainly because the concept works. The combination of practicality, fuel economy and all-round usability from Volkswagen’s trend-setting hot hatch are as relevant now was they were in 1976. For all the power, size and technology it’s gained, a Golf GTI will always feel like a Golf GTI.
This doesn’t suit every potential hot hatch owner. Volkswagen has never aimed to be fastest in its class, it’s even alluded to that in past advertising, and although the latest version is certainly a brilliant all-rounder, it’s perhaps not as exciting as some of its rivals.
In the UK, that puts it between a rock and a hard place. It’s as hard to justify against the economy and tax advantages of the GTD as it is against the menial price difference between Performance Pack GTIs and the significantly more powerful, four-wheel drive Golf R. And that’s reflected in the sales mix.
But 2016 marked 40 years since the first GTI and, like clockwork, Volkswagen has given its icon a birthday gift. The Clubsport Edition 40 is a time-limited, numbered special edition with visual nods to the Nurburgring record-setting Clubsport S, backed up by a power upgrade to 262bhp. There are three and five-door versions available, and a choice of manual or DSG transmissions.
Actually, given that 287bhp is available for short bursts via an overboost function on the turbo, the power hike is probably overkill if anything. But the sum of this car’s upgrades transform more than just its ability to overtake effortlessly. Peak torque is available across most of the rev range, so it pulls hard whenever you need it, while the combination of locking front differential, re-tuned suspension and aerodynamics add to the Golf’s innate ability to feel reassuringly solid and stuck to the road. There are some fantastic cars in this segment; the Edition 40 is amongst the best.
But this isn’t some hard-riding track day special. It’s no more challenging on wet, gridlocked British roads than any other model in the range. Ride quality, even on the optional 19-inch wheels, is impressive and the bucket seats – another option well worth ticking – make light work of long journeys, even if they don’t tip forward as well as the standard ones.
All of which is a part of that Golf GTI trademark. Equipped with the performance to show off the talents of the chassis, without losing that familiar best-of-all-worlds character, it’s a car you could set pacey lap times in, then stick it in a relaxed drive mode and waft home afterwards. An easily identifiable part of a popular lineage.
There are more sensible options within the Golf line-up, but, for those who can live without diesel fuel economy, there are few moments in life where you’d feel short-changed by the Edition 40.