Back in 2015, the Golf GTI Clubsport was a curious case of marketing compromising a first impression. Because while the Clubsport was a nice way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI, it didn't quite meet the expectations set by that name. It was a faster and better handling version of the Golf GTI, yes, but only slightly. It didn't feel very Clubsport.
Thankfully, VW put things right when it gave us the car we'd always wanted in the Clubsport S. It took over the fight against Renault Sport's and Honda's best, leaving the Clubsport to shine for its halfway talents. Now, the model's desirability has increased further thanks to the confirmation of an auto-only powertrain for the Mk8 Clubsport. It's the last of the breed available with manuals, the most powerful examples of 'regular' Golf GTIs (those with back seats, basically), with gearsticks.
It's not like the last Clubsport lacks much compared to the Mk8 Clubsport, either. The odd status of overboost means that the Mk7 was sold as 265hp, when in fact 290hp was there at full throttle for 10 seconds every time you needed it (providing there had been 10 seconds since the last application of full throttle). Confusing, but the long and short is that this Clubsport is only 10hp behind the last one.
There were additional Clubsport tweaks that made it worthwhile over the GTI Performance Pack, too, including bucket seats, the bodykit (said to provide tangible aero benefit) and a rework underneath, with stiffer springs and revised anti-roll bars. There were even Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s on the options list for full track day kudos, though sadly they aren't fitted to the car here.
What it added up to was... well, exactly what you might expect, really. It was a Golf GTI made a little better, if not subjected to a staggering transformation - that was the job of the Clubsport S. Still, there's still plenty to recommend the regular CS; not only is there now a substantial price gap between it and comparable versions of the record breaker (more than £10,000), it serves as a reminder of the what the Mk8 perhaps hasn't got quite right so far. Arguably, this is a better looking Golf, for example, plus it seems everyone is in agreement that the old interior was a more user friendly one. And with the dimpled golf ball gear knob - rejoice!
It says a lot about Golf GTI buying habits - and why the new CS is configured as it is - that there are just six Clubsports currently for sale on PH. This is the only car without the DSG, and there isn't a single three-door. You don't need to be business mind of the year to decipher that five-door autos are what people want to buy. So that's exactly what VW has made. As for this particular Clubsport Edition 40, it looks good even by the high standards of similar cars: it's covered a piffling 20,000 miles from new, comes with a VW service history and even seems to have survived with its natty 'Brescia' wheels unkerbed. If the Mk8 has made you covet a Mk7, there can't be many better.
So, while the level of work that's gone into the new Clubsport - with more negative camber, reworked dampers and a chunk of Nurburgring test time - means expectations are running high, don't forget about the old one. It wasn't revelatory for the GTI and it never will be, but it was a great example of just how good at almost everything the humble five-door Golf could be.
SPECIFICATION | VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI CLUBSPORT EDITION 40
Engine: 1,984cc, four-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@5,350rpm, 290hp with 10-second overboost
Torque (lb ft): 258@1,700-5,300rpm, 280lb ft with 10-second overboost
MPG: 40.3 (provisional NEDC)
CO2: 162g/km (provisional NEDC)
Year registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 22,000
Price new: £30,875
Yours for: £23,650
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