Once upon a time everything was simple in front-wheel drive Nurburgring record breakers land. Renaultsport marked its territory with the Megane R26.R more than a decade ago, which it then continued to ring-fence with subsequent iterations. SEAT briefly entered the fray, only to be usurped by another Megane (the Trophy-R). Honda's foray into proceedings was entirely understandable, too: the Civic Type R had been away for years, and the plan to announce its return to the scene with a FWD record made eminent sense.
Then VW came along. Given the niche appeal of a Nordschleife record, it was assumed the competition was a two-horse race, Renault and Honda continuing to edge ahead of each other second by second and tenth by tenth. If VW were to be involved, we all thought, then surely it would be with a Leon spiced up yet further.
But no. Instead, from what felt like nowhere, the Clubsport S arrived. Boom, 7:49 lap to establish a record, then another couple of seconds lopped off to prove the point. 150 cars for the UK, manual only, three colour choices, £34k (a bargain, all things considered), go and have your fun.
On a track, the Clubsport S was sensational. There was focus and agility to its handling unbeknown to any previous Golf, but crucially without any of the flightiness or intimidation that can come with aggressive FWD cars. The changes wrought to the suspension in particular, with that secret 'Nurburgring setting' for the dampers in the Individual mode, worked superbly, with the sort of circuit ability seldom seen in a hot hatch. Leave alone a Golf.
If anything it was actually more impressive on the road, for the simple fact that it dealt with bumpy tarmac. Here was a car that tackled a track way more convincingly than any other GTI, yet dispatched a B-road with more confidence (and probably comfort) as well. The CS proved, arguably better than any other attempt, the benefits that can be reaped from extensive Nurburgring testing and fettling. And, presumably, an enormous development budget.
Then it could just be a Golf. Yes, with only two seats. But damn near as refined and cossetting once the driver had calmed down, with the same feeling of quality and sophistication inside. It only ever felt like a track renegade when you needed it to, which was a stroke of genius.
Because the Clubsport S was so good, as well as that rare, it's suffered negligible depreciation, and will probably continue in that vein. Indeed there are cars that remain for sale at £40k. However, this particular 'ring-slaying Golf is the first we've seen at less than £30,000 - £28,995 in fact, and that makes it even more interesting than most.
Why? Well, an owner has dared to drive it, for a start (and presumably loved it), this car's 6,000-mile tally in stark contrast to some that have yet to breach four figures. Still, that's hardly a mileage to shirk at. Also, it's in Fife, which might be tricky for some, though does at least promise a much more exciting drive home than 99 per cent of other used car purchases.
The final explanation is the fact this Clubsport S doesn't have air-con. A deal-breaker for some, no doubt; as the seller rightly points out, however, that does make this one incredibly rare - apparently just five of the 150 in the UK are configured as such - and also the most faithful replica of the record car. It could be worth it in the long run, too, with bare bones specials often seen as the 'purest' possible once considered classics.
Alright, that's by no means a guarantee. What is guaranteed, however, is that the Clubsport S remains one of the best front-wheel drive cars of recent years, no matter how many times people will tell you it's just a GTI without rear seats. And this is currently the most affordable way into one. Call this consumer buying advice, PistonHeads style...
SPECIFICATION - VW GOLF GTI CLUBSPORT S
Engine: 1,984cc, 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 310@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 280@1,850-5,700rpm
First registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 5,900
Price new: £33,995
Yours for: £28,995