There are two elements to the Golf GTI Clubsport S’s performance.

Firstly, what it’ll do in a straight line. And secondly, what it’ll do on a dry race circuit.

The most extreme Golf GTI gets a revised powertrain, suspension and brakes but retains a conventional transverse engine layout, with a six-speed manual gearbox

The first of those can, if you only look at the headline performance figure, seem a bit disappointing.

VW claims the Clubsport S can hit 62mph from rest in 5.8sec, which for the life of us – although we test two up and full of fuel – we couldn’t quite match, at 6.1sec.

And given that we managed to coax 5.5sec from a Honda Civic Type R on the same stretch of asphalt, that might look a bit limp.

It’s not, though. Not a bit of it. The initial getaway is fine, matching the Type R to 30mph, but whether you slip the clutch, drive from low revs or allow some wheelspin, either the ESC or the active diff reins the action in when the revs begin to rise in first gear and inevitably trouble the traction – even with the former of the two systems apparently disengaged.

But look at the broader picture and the VW trumps the Honda in most respects. In gear, its every 20mph increment is quicker than the Type R’s. And it’ll cover the standing quarter mile in 14.3sec at 107mph, rather than 14.7sec at 104mph.

Those are small increments, but chuck them together and you get an idea of why the Clubsport S managed to eke out its Nürburgring advantage over the Civic.

Another is its brakes; in the dry, it stopped from 70mph in 43.6m to the Honda’s 44.2m. And this is all delivered with that familiar Golf feel: pedals are straightforward in weight, the gearshift is positive, the engine’s response is smooth and power delivery is strong to the 6800rpm redline.

All of those things are part of the reason why the Clubsport S was able to lap MIRA’s dry handling circuit in 1min 14.7sec.

It perhaps reveals that the track favours the Golf’s handling characteristics over the Honda’s even more than the Nürburgring does, because the Type R lapped MIRA in 1min 16.1sec. These aren’t the kinds of numbers we’d usually get so tied up about in a hot hatchback, but it is, after all, the Clubsport S’s reason for being.

So today, we are. And bear in mind that, on the road, the drivetrain, brakes and transmission are every bit as easy to live with as in a regular GTI.


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