First Drive

2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 review

It's faster and looks sportier, but it's pricier than a standard Golf GTI; so is the Clubsport Edition 40 worth the premium?

Words ByJohn Howell

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The Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 is a car with a lengthy name. In simple terms, though, it’s a limited edition Golf GTI – 1000 will be built – marking the 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI’s launch.

It costs a considerable Β£3380 more than the cheapest standard GTI, so what do you get for that extra cash? Well, it’s more dramatic looking and is claimed to be more aerodynamic, thanks to a deeper front bumper, bigger side skirts, a new rear diffuser and a big roof spoiler. Inside it comes with an Alcantara steering wheel, part-Alcantara sports seats with red stitching, plus new honeycomb trim on the dashboard.

Along with the looks there’s extra pace. In normal driving the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine has 35bhp more than the standard GTI – and that’s a standard GTI fitted with the optional power-enhancing Performance pack. On top of that, there’s an overboost function that temporarily peaks the power at 59bhp over the standard car when you accelerate in third and fourth gears. The suspension settings are tweaked, too.

However, for the same sort of money as the Clubsport, you could buy the even more powerful and quicker Golf R or a Ford Focus RS. As both of these rivals also have the benefit of four-wheel drive (the Clubsport is only front-wheel drive), it begs the question why should you spend your money on one of those rivals instead.

What’s the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 like to drive?

You certainly notice the Clubsport’s extra power over the standard GTI, but it’s some way shy of the Golf R or Ford Focus RS for ultimate pace. You need some patience, too, because the engine’s power doesn’t kick in until 2500rpm, but once you hit this mark it pulls strongly. There’s an additional surge from 4000rpm until the engine’s rev limiter, and the whole experience is accompanied by a stirring growl from the exhaust.

Instead of the standard six-speed manual gearbox, our car had an optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, which worked very well. It’s smooth in automatic mode, whether you are pottering around town or cruising across country; but the minute you want a burst of acceleration it responds immediately, producing finger-click-quick changes.

You can operate the gearbox manually using the paddles behind the steering wheel, although, for those who really enjoy their driving, the interaction of a proper manual would arguably add an extra slice of fun.

Having just the front wheels doing all the driving puts the Clubsport at a disadvantage compared with its four-wheel-drive rivals. It’s more likely to spin its driven wheels out of a side turning, or have its front end wash wide in a bend.

This is less of an issue at higher speeds when traction isn’t such a problem, affording the Clubsport a more planted feel. The optional adaptive dampers (Β£830) fitted to our car also kept body lean well checked, while offering enough compliance to maintain stability on patchy roads. That said, the Golf GTI Clubsport is still not quite as well controlled as a Focus RS, and it doesn’t steer as well, either.

Up to around 50mph the Clubsport has less feedback through the steering wheel either side of the straight-ahead. It’s a small thing, but just enough to make you think about your steering inputs, instead of them happening intuitively. Beyond this threshold the steering weights up nicely, giving you much more confidence.

The ride is certainly firmer than the standard GTI’s, or the Golf R’s for that matter. As a result the Clubsport bobs up and down over light undulations much like the similarly restless Focus RS. However, it’s not as well damped as the Ford, so you feel a harsher jolt over sharper ridges. Wind noise, and particularly road noise, are also quite pronounced at motorway speeds.

What’s the 2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 like inside?

The Clubsport is much like any other Golf inside. That’s a good thing because it means a great driving position, space for up to five adults and a decent-sized boot. The interior is better finished than rivals, too, particularly the Focus.

Our car came with the heavily bolstered optional Β£1350 bucket seats, which offer loads of side and shoulder support, although they don’t tilt forward easily. This won’t be an issue if you go for the five-door model, but on our three-door car it restricts access to the rear seats.

Should I buy one?

No, unless you love the idea of owning a limited run GTI that may, perhaps, hold some future cachet for collectors. It has more performance and feels slightly more agile to drive than the standard GTI, but these things aren’t enough to justify that sizeable price hike.

If you're willing to spend around Β£30,000 on a hot Golf, then the Golf R is a much better buy; it’s faster, easier to drive quickly and more comfortable. However, if you want the ultimate performance hot hatch for Clubsport money, then buy the marvellous Focus RS instead.

Alternatively, another of the best-handling front-wheel-drive hot hatches available is the even cheaper Renault Megane Renault Sport 275 Cup S. Even if you were to add a few choice options, it'd cost substantially less than the Clubsport.

For our full Volkswagen Golf GTI review, click HERE


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What Car? says…

Rated 3 out of 5


Rivals

Ford Focus RS – read the full review

Volkswagen Golf R – read the full review


2016 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 Clubsport Edition 40 DSG

Engine size 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol

Price from Β£33,005

Power 262bhp

Torque 258lb ft

0-62mph 6.3 seconds

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 40.4mpg

CO2 output/BIK tax band 160g/km/29%