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    VW Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40. It’s a Golf GTI that’s been specifically tailored for people like us – and now we have one on our fleet.

    / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Gti-Clubsport-S / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40-VII / #VW-Golf-GTi / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen / #VW / #2016 / #VW-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk7 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-VII

    Has there ever been a more exciting time for hot hatches? There’s a Leon Cupra with what feels like in excess of 300bhp, 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 Mégane, 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 217bhp, or 227bhp 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 for a 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 306bhp #VW-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 R8 V10.

    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 286bhp 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. In basic form you’re looking at £31,590 with five doors (£30,935 with three), which is just over £3000 more than you’d pay for a basic Golf GTI and on a par with rivals from Honda and Ford.

    Our car also has a healthy smattering of options, namely Oryx White paint (£985), a driver assistance package (including lane assist and side scan, and costing £960), Discover Pro Navigation (£1325), 19-inch ‘Brescia’ alloy wheels (£595, and an inch larger than the standard items), tinted rear glass (£95), rear side airbags (£280) and a tracker (£536). This little lot takes the total to £36,366.

    First impressions? Well, 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.

    ‘When we tested the Edition 40 last month we labelled it “the best drivers’ GTI you can buy”’

    Date acquired October 2016
    Total mileage 3568
    Mileage this month 1132
    Costs this month £0
    Mpg this month 28.8
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    / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Gti-Clubsport-S / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40-VII / #VW-Golf-GTi / #Volkswagen-Golf / #Volkswagen / #VW / #2017 / #VW-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-Mk7 / #Volkswagen-Golf-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-GTi-Clubsport-Edition-40-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Typ-5G / #Volkswagen-Golf-VII

    With the brilliant Clubsport S sold out, is this the best Golf GTi that money can buy?

    Test location: Thundridge, Hertfordshire
    GPS: 51.839570, -0.051380
    Photography: Aston Parrott

    After the euphoria of the Golf GTi Clubsport S scoring a victory in issue 227’s hyperhatch group test and then going on to bloody a number of premium noses in last month’s eCoty, it may have escaped your mind that VW produces two Golf GTis with ‘Clubsport’ in their names. This is the one you can still buy, and this is our first drive of it on the road.

    It’s available as a three- or five-door and with a choice of either a six-speed manual or double-clutch gearbox. There’s an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential taken straight from the GTi performance pack model, too.

    Using the familiar EA888 2-litre turbo engine from other GTi models and the r, the Clubsport produces 261bhp – 34bhp more than a performance pack GTi – and in short bursts that increases to 286bhp, just 10bhp shy of the r’s peak figure and 20bhp below the Clubsport S’s. Peak torque is 258lb ft at 1700-5300rpm with 280lb ft on overboost, but at 6.3sec to 62mph regardless of which gearbox you choose, the edition 40 is some way short of the 5.2sec evo recorded with its fast fleet Golf R.

    Other changes will be familiar to those of you who have pored over the spec of a Clubsport S. the front bumper features a number of aerodynamic devices that give the car a more focused look. I’d posit that it looks more extreme even than ford’s focus RS, but then I am to design what Nigel Farage is to international diplomacy. There’s also a boot spoiler and the most modest of rear diffusers, which permits VW to claim that rear-axle downforce is ‘significant’ above 60mph. it also claims ‘slight’ downforce at the front axle. the car does, however, create no lift, which is something.

    Other chassis work has seen the roll stiffness move rearwards to improve rear-axle turn-in and front-end grip. In essence, this means understeer should be less prevalent and the rear more mobile.

    Spring rates are ten per cent stiffer, with the dampers tweaked to suit, but toe, camber and caster settings remain untouched from a GTi performance pack (so, too, the brakes). Adjustable dampers, as fitted to this car, are an £830 option.

    An 18-inch wheel is standard and comes fitted with a Pirelli P Zero tyre, but you can specify the same 19-inch wheel and ferociously sticky (in the dry, at least) Michelin pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre as on the Clubsport S.

    As VW prepares for the new, facelifted Mk7 Golf, the Clubsport feels like the engineers have been let loose to do what they wish, resulting in this GTi feeling tighter, fitter, more eager and athletic than the Mk7 GTis that have gone before. the chassis doesn’t represent a night-and-day difference over a regular GTi’s, but it’s appreciably more responsive and alert when you push it, the differential being keen to bite and the front axle less inclined to push when you pour on the power. Indeed, the chassis manages to extract more grip and traction from the (standard) front tyres than before, allowing for wider throttle openings earlier in corners and no manic scrabble for grip from the inside front tyre.

    At higher speeds the Clubsport is much sharper, too, with less body roll. the front and rear feel more tightly connected and react as one when the car is pitched in on its nose – you can really feel the rear arc round the apex as you drive for the exit. Who needs a four-wheel-drive hatch?

    The added power will be noticeable to anyone coming out of a regular GTi, and on the road the Clubsport feels on a par with an r in a straight line.

    Its motor exhibits a bit more of an appetite for revs and encourages you to reach for the top end of the tacho rather than driving around without straying from the torque band. This is a deceptively quick hot hatch.

    Renault’s Mégane 275 trophy and Honda’s Civic Type-R still have sharper chassis, but in the Clubsport edition 40, VW has delivered the best drivers’ GTi you can buy. If you’re quick.

    ‘You can really feel the rear axle arc round the apex as you drive for the exit’

    + Faster, tighter; fitter engine and chassis
    - Still not top of the class; only in production for a short time

    Rating 4++
    Engine in-line 4-cyl, 1984cc, turbo / #EA888
    CO2 162g/km
    Power 286bhp @ 5350-6600rpm
    Torque 280b ft @ 1700-5300rpm
    0-62mph 6.3sec (claimed)
    Top speed 155mph (limited)
    Weight 1300kg (224bhp/ton)
    Price 2017 UK / USA £30,935 / $22,350

    ‏ — at Thundridge, Ware SG12, UK
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