AS THERE EVER BEEN a more exciting time for hot hatches? There’s a Leon Cupra with what feels like in excess of 300hp, a four-wheel-drive Focus RS with a drift mode, a turbocharged Civic Type R with a fabulously unnecessary complement of aero add-ons, and, of course, the Renault Sport Megane, recently retired but still utterly sublime. And let’s not forget the smaller hatches: Peugeot finally finding its mojo again with the 208 GTi, and Ford’s Fiesta ST hopping into the desirability spot recently vacated by the RS Clio.
Amongst all of this, however, it has been rather easy to overlook the good ol’ Golf GTI. With a mere 220hp, or 230hp with the optional Performance Pack, it’s been looking a bit tame of late. Thankfully, Volkswagen hasn’t rested on its laurels of being the default choice for the average punter looking fora smart, quick hatchback; it has also produced not one but two models for those of us who like our hot hatches a little bit more special. The most special of those is, of course, the 3lOhp Golf GTI Clubsport S, which finished an astonishing second place in our recent Car of the Year test -just ahead of a McLaren 570S, a Honda NSX and an Audi R8V10.
Sadly, with just 150 examples coming to the UK, it’s already sold out. That leaves the Clubsport Edition 40, which is still available – albeit only until the ‘Mk7.2’ Golf goes on sale in the spring, it has 290hp on overboost and, unlike the S, has rear seats. It’s also available with five doors and a DSG gearbox, if you so desire. When we tested the Edition 40 on UK roads for the first time last month, we labelled it ‘the best drivers’ GTI you can buy’.
So I’m rather chuffed to now be running one on our Fast Fleet. Our car has five doors, but not DSG – my thinking is that you might as well have a manual ‘box wherever you still can. The Clubsport Edition 40 kit includes an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential, lowered and retuned suspension, a new front bumper, a rather large (by VW standards) roof spoiler, and some stripes that mimic those which adorned the flanks of the Mk1 Golf GTI.
First impressions? Wei I, it’s a Golf, so of course it’s a brilliantly easy thing to live with. The extra power is most definitely welcome, and while the Clubsport doesn’t perhaps feel as wild as some of its rivals – not least the Civic, an example of which I ran as a long-termer before the Golf – the VW has its own, more composed strengths. Just the kind that come to the fore in the midst of a grubby UK winter, in fact, as I hope the Clubsport will demonstrate over the coming months.