Car Reviews Motoring

VW Golf GTI Clubsport Review

Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Volkswagen’s Golf GTI Clubsport certainly looks the part, and the basic shape of the Golf suits the aggressive styling well.

The Clubsport gets a more pointed lower grille at the front than the basic GTI as if it’s sticking its bottom teeth out. Add that to an upgraded suspension, brakes and steering, and the car makes the standard GTI start to look tame.

Although the Clubsport is the same engine that you get across the rest of the GTI range, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is boosted from 245PS in the basic GTI to 300PS in this model. That reduces the 0-62mph time from 6.3-seconds to 5.6-seconds. What’s more, the car, via a seven-speed DSG paddle-shifting automatic, tops out at 155mph. The gearbox is excellent, enabling the Clubsport to maximise its performance.

It does struggle to get all its muscle down in damper conditions, though. So, expect a bit of wheelspin followed by the electronic systems trying to reign in the power if the weather’s anything but perfect. You can turn some of the assists off in the menus, but be prepared to do a lot of digging to find them in the infotainment system.

The car feels very well planted on the road and has excellent levels of grip, making it huge fun to drive. Body roll is minimised when going around corners, while the rear stability feels solid. The resulting firmness will undoubtedly put you off if you prefer comfort. But, if settling down into the seats and relaxing is your thing, you’re hardly going to be looking in the direction of a hot-hatch to begin with.

The sports steering wheel is very nice – and it’s heated, which should set the tone nicely for the driving experience that’s about to follow. But, while there are certainly flashes of additional styling, the interior is, ultimately, much the same as any other Golf.

The infotainment system is a touchscreen with haptic touch-sensitive buttons and, while it looks nice, it isn’t intuitive to use. Setting the car up is a frustrating journey of menus, sub-menus and confirmation screens. It will suit you if you love customising your smartphone, but it’ll infuriate you if you wish there was just a simple knob for the air conditioning.

It is a similar story with the buttons on the steering wheel, which are all one piece of plastic, so you’re never quite sure what you’ve pressed. Unfortunately, it’s also touch-sensitive, so it’s all too easy to press the wrong switch.

The front includes sports seats, which hug your body well in fast corners and add a good level of comfort, given the sportiness of the suspension.

Overall, the interior is pleasant enough, but there’s a sense that VW made just about enough of an effort, rather than going the extra mile. As a result, there’s no real premium factor over lesser Golfs in the range. While there’s plenty of soft-touch materials, overly plasticky bits are never far away, creating a sense of average build quality. The fact the door bins are carpeted, though, is a nice touch.

While a hot-hatch is unlikely to be used as a family car, it’s still a five-door motor and has the practicality to match. The boot space is plentiful, too, with 374-litres, expanding to 1230-litres with the rear seats folded away. Therefore, the Golf will likely suit a couple of adults and two or three kids in the back, even if the ride comfort doesn’t.

The Clubsport claims a combined 38.3mpg, although, if you’re driving it as Volkswagen intended, you can expect to get quite a bit less. Emissions for the GTI Clubsport are 167g/km of CO2, which makes it a tad unattractive if you’re targeting it as a company car.

The Golf was last tested by Euro NCAP back in 2019, earning a five-star safety rating and scoring an impressive 95 per cent for adult occupants, 89 per cent for child occupants and 78 per cent for safety assists. The assists include automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and traffic sign recognition. Park assist, a rear-view camera, and a head-up display are all available as optional extras.

Overall, the Clubsport is terrific to drive, so, if your heart is set on this Golf GTI, then there’s no way I’d put you off. Indeed, I may encourage you. Your kids will also be impressed with their dad driving a car this cool – or should that be ‘hot’?

Fast Facts: VW Golf GTI Clubsport – as tested:

  • Max speed: 155mph
  • 0-62 mph: 5.6 secs
  • Combined mpg: 38.3
  • Engine layout: 1,984cc four-cylinder turbo petrol
  • Max. power (PS): 300
  • CO2: 167g/km
  • Price from: £35,985

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