2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport review: price, specs and release date

The iconic Volkswagen Golf GTI has been outpaced by a raft of faster rival cars, but now there’s a more potent Clubsport edition to fix this. Can it help the GTI regain its crown?...

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport front corner

Priced from £38,760 On sale Now 

Financial experts are forever telling us that diversification is crucial if we want to grow our portfolios, so traditional stocks and shares are just as important as investing in cryptocurrency – or designer shoes. Car buyers are a pretty diverse lot too, which explains why there are now several hot versions of the Volkswagen Golf to satisfy all tastes and mop up additional sales.

You can still get the Golf GTI (quick) and Golf R (very quick), but now there’s a Clubsport model that splits the difference between the two. It's intended to get the GTI brand back in the game now that it’s been upstaged by more powerful rivals, namely the Toyota GR YarisFord Focus ST and Hyundai i30 N.

To achieve this, Volkswagen has given the Clubsport tweaked sports suspension, beefier brakes, trick aerodynamic aids and a serious hike in power over the standard GTI, up from 242bhp to 296bhp. So do all these changes make the Clubsport the de facto fast Golf of choice, and can it retake its position as the best hot hatch around? Let’s find out.

2022 VW Golf GTI Clubsport driving, side

What’s it like to drive?

Those alterations to the suspension bring a 10mm reduction in ride height, so you might expect the Clubsport to be uncomfortable along a knobbly B-road.

Thankfully, though, it rounds off most impacts in everyday driving, even with the larger 19in wheel option that our test car came on. It's only on badly maintained roads littered with pockmarked Tarmac, potholes and various other imperfections that you start to jostle around and hear the suspension thumping away. 

You can opt for Dynamic Chassis Control, which enables you to stiffen or slacken the ride to suit you're driving style, but switching to the Comfort mode ultimately does very little to isolate you from the worst road surfaces. You can also adjust the steering in that same drive mode menu.

We found that Comfort mode is best left for town driving, where the wheel is light and easy to twirl when picking your way through traffic. Sport has a consistent heft that’s a pleasure through fast, sweeping bends, and complements the car's inherent steering accuracy. The car's electronic limited-slip differential helps to maintain traction in corners, enabling you to accurately trace your intended arc through the apex.

The Clubsport acquits itself well whether you're on a regular road or a track, with body lean kept to a minimum and a huge amount of grip available, although it could be sharper turning in to corners. It's not quite as engaging as the Renault Megane RS or GR Yaris, and you have to push it harder than the Focus ST and Megane to have a bit of fun with the chassis because those rivals are more playful at lower speeds.

While you can have a six-speed manual gearbox with the standard GTI, the Clubsport is only available with a seven-speed DSG automatic. That’s not such a bad thing as the GTI's manual isn't as precise as hot hatch rivals' anyway.

The DSG 'box can be a touch reluctant to respond during low-speed parking manoeuvres, but generally provides rapid gear changes on the move. There are paddles behind the steering wheel for manual shifts, but it will readily (and automatically) jump down a gear or two in its sportier S setting on inclines and when you brake on the approach to a bend.

2022 VW Golf GTI Clubsport handling, rear

Speaking of slowing down, the brakes have been altered too. The most noticeable change is that the Clubsport's pedal travel is slightly greater than that of a normal GTI. That allows you to more accurately gauge the right amount of braking for a given situation. Another distinction is that the brake discs are larger to better cope with the increased engine power.

The Clubsports increase in power over the GTI drops the 0-62mph acceleration time to 5.6secs, although this still trails behind the Hyundai i30 N's 5.4sec time with its automatic gearbox. What the extra muscle under the bonnet does expose is a deficit in traction in damp and cold conditions compared with some of the Clubsport’s four-wheel-drive rivals, such as the marginally more expensive BMW M135i.

2022 VW Golf GTI Clubsport interior

What’s it like inside?

The differences between the interior of the Clubsport and the standard GTI are subtle. You still get sports seats in the front with thick side bolsters to hold you in place, but this time they're dressed in a unique velour trim that’s grippier than the standard cloth.

Other than that, visibility, interior space and storage are all unchanged. If you want to know more about those aspects of the car, they've all covered in great detail in our dedicated Volkswagen Golf GTI review.


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