We don’t often like to put the conclusion at the start of a section in our reviews, but sometimes you just need to. It’s not to say that I’m anti-Golf GTI, but I am now very much pro-Clubsport.
The engine is the same 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged affair, but rather than the 245PS (180kW) that the GTI comes with, the Clubsport has been blessed with an even 300PS (220kW). That means the latest GTI Clubsport is on a par with the outgoing Mk7 Golf R. The race to 62mph is now completed in 5.6 seconds, swiping a whole 0.7 seconds from the standard GTI’s time, while the 45 jumps ahead of the standard Clubsport with the removal of the 155mph limiter, allowing it to hit 166mph with enough room.
Unlike the R the GTI Clubsport 45 still sends all its power to the front wheels and it has the same limited-slip differential and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as standard GTI. But that is where the similarities to its two siblings end. The Clubsport instantly feels more naughty than the normal GTI, the right gearchange is accompanied with a crack from the Akrapovič exhaust and the extra power means the Clubsport feels almost instantly more capable than the standard GTI.
But, if you think adding more power into a front-wheel-drive car must then equal more issues, you’d instantly be wrong. For all the extra torque heading through the front axle (that’s a meaty 400Nm, or 295lb ft) there is still very little in the way of torque steer. Floor the Clubsport and the meatiest GTI doesn’t try to tramp around the road, instead adding a gentle tug to the wheel before just getting on with everything.
The party piece of the standard GTI is the mixture of excellent diff and firmer suspension. The mix is more intoxicating than ever in the Clubsport, with the damping having been firmed up even more. The excellent diff means that a keen right foot through corners can haul the car out of trouble and the firmer rear suspension means the car can do what a colleague in the motoring press core helpfully described as “little skids”.
I have to say having driven the standard Clubsport just before the 45 I didn’t notice a massive difference between the exhaust note from the fancier pipes on the 45, but both sound sporty enough to make the standard GTI feel rather lacklustre. Our car was also fitted with the £795 Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers. A relatively cheap addition, but not one that really seemed to provide transformative changes to the car’s ride.