Did Volkswagen just make the ultimate hot hatch?

For over 40 years the Golf has been defining and refining the hatchback formula. With generation eight, we get plenty of performance. And with the recent rise in performance in the hot hatch scene, the German brand had to bring a bigger gun in order to stay competitive. The Golf GTI Clubsport Mk8 is tailored specifically to the harsh terrain of the Nordschleife. Could they have made the ultimate hot hatch, or is it just an overly stiff grocery-getter? Let’s find out.

Drivetrain & Performance

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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Just like in previous generations, the GTI Clubsport upgrades upon the already capable GTI. The first time we got a GTI Clubsport was in 2016, in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the iconic performance car. It had 265 horsepower at its disposal, which temporarily went up to 290, with the over-boost function. The same year a Clubsport S version followed, with 310 horsepower. That one had a limited production run of 400 units.

But what about the new one?

Powering the Golf GTI Clubsport is a bumped-up version of the EA888 evo4 engine, used in the normal Golf GTI.

That said, it no longer produces 245 horsepower and 273 pound-feet (370 Nm). It now has 300 horsepower and (295 pound-feet) 400 Nm. Power still goes to the front wheels. The engineers have chosen to make full use of the super-quick 7-speed DSG gearbox, for more consistent track performance. The end result is a 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprint in around 5.6 seconds, and a top speed limited to 155 mph (250 km/h).

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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A track car is not just about acceleration times and top speed. It has to be a capable corner-carver as well. The GTI Clubsport does not disappoint here either. It’s 15mm lower than a standard GTI. In addition, it has more positive camber in the front, which allows for higher cornering speeds and negates understeer. With its dedicated setup, the Clubsport can unleash its full potential when tackling the Green Hell.

The GTI Clubsport makes use of VW’s newly-developed Vehicle Dynamics manager. Through its performance-optimized settings, it coordinates the functions of the dynamic chassis control (DCC), electronic differential locks (XDS), and the locking differential (VAQ), that comes as standard. All this allows the GTI Clubsport to carry more speed through the corners and accelerate out of them much earlier. In addition, steering response is superior to all other performance-oriented Golf models that have come before.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport specifications
Engine EA888 evo4
Horsepower 300 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 5.6 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph

Exterior

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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Volkswagen wants to make it clear that this is a special car. Therefore, its exterior is noticeably different than the normal GTI.

The front end is dominated by a redesigned front bumper. It features a more aggressive design and a massive honeycomb grille that goes all the way to the bottom of the bumper. The narrow radiator grille, which accommodates the VW logo, retains the typical Golf design. The air guide aero bits are now exterior-colored, and there is a new bigger front splitter, which helps reduce the front lift.

The rear stands out with a well-pronounced functional rear spoiler, finished in black gloss. Also exclusive to the Clubsport is a new ribbed diffuser and oval tailpipes, which are brought out by 40 mm, compared to the normal GTI’s round tailpipes.

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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On the side, the GTI Clubsport shows its 18-inch wheels (7.5 J 18 ET 51) wrapped around in 225/40 R18 tires. The design mimics the standard GTI 17-inch wheels. A number of 19-inch rim styles will be available as well. The red brake calipers, with GTI lettering, peek behind the wheels, complementing the widened side sills, featuring black stripe graphics.

Interior

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Interior
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The interior features lots of red stitching on the seats and GTI badging.

The flat-bottom steering wheel has perforated leather on 3 and 9 o’clock for superior grip and GTI lettering at the bottom. As you probably know the new Mk8 Golf has an interior completely devoid of buttons. Every function in the car is now interacted with via a touchpad instead of a button. This goes for the track-focused GTI Clubsport as well. The dashboard has a very clean, minimalistic design, and the high-resolution infotainment screen is very responsive. However, some of the functions take too many taps on the screen.

Price

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport is just coming out, so prices are not yet known. In order to put things in perspective, the normal Golf Mk8 GTI costs from $ 28,595 to $ 37,295 depending on how you spec it. Considering all of the extra time and effort that went into developing the new Clubsport, the prices are expected to be in the ballpark of $ 44,000.

Competition

Honda Civic Type R

2017 - 2020 Honda Civic Type R
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One of the most anticipated hot hatchbacks in recent times. Similar to the Golf GTI, the Civic Type R name combo carries a lot of weight in the segment. The Japanese contender features a stout 2.0-liter Turbocharged four-cylinder with reverse VTEC (on the exhaust camshaft). The current version produces 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm). Like the GTI Clubsport, the Type R also features a smart locking differential, which contributes to the 5.6-second 0-62 mph time. Because there is no speed limiter, you get a 169 mph (272 km/h) top speed. However, there is no quick-shifting automatic here, as the Type R comes exclusively with a 6-speed manual. Prices start from $ 36,995.

Read our full review on the Honda Civic Type R

Renaut Megane RS Cup Trophy

All Changes Contrived by Renault Sport To Brew The Hardcore Megane RS Trophy Exterior
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Although not as popular in the US, the hot version of the French hatchback has quite a following on the old continent. And for a good reason too. The 1.8-liter turbo-four may be smaller than the competition, but it matches the Clubsport’s 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm). Thanks to a playful chassis and a locking diff, the Megane does the sprint to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds. The top speed is 161 mph (258 km/h). As with the Civic, you only get a 6-speed manual gearbox. Prices for the Cup Trophy are around $ 56,490.

Read our full review on the Renault Megane RS Cup Trophy

Hyundai i30 N Performance / Elantra GT-N

2021 Hyundai i30 N Exterior
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The Korean brand has come a long way in a short amount of time. From making simple, affordable cars they are now a worthy contender across all the segments. Although the i30 N Performance is the newcomer here, it performs admirably thanks to a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder producing 271 horsepower and 260 pound-feet (353 Nm). The lowest numbers in the group, yes, but 0-62 mph still happens in 6.0 seconds, on to a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). Power goes to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual. Prices for the i30 N Performance / Elantra GT-N are expected to start at around $37,000.

Read our full review on the Hyundai i30 N Performance / Elantra GT-N

Conclusion

2021 Volkswagen Golf GTi Clubsport Exterior
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The Golf has a proven history of being a good all-rounder. Even with the top of the line GTI and R versions, it manages to combine performance and daily usability. The Mk8 GTI Clubsport retains all that makes the GTI a great car and turns it up to 11. According to common beliefs, any car developed on the Nurburgring is a stiff, spine-shattering coffin unfit for daily use. However, despite its numerous performance enhancements, the GTI Clubsport is still a Golf GTI. It still achieves that subtle blend of performance and practicality that makes it a complete package. At the same time, the performance aspect of the car is specifically tailored to the most trying racetrack. There is a reason, car manufacturers develop performance cars at the Nurburgring. And if a car is good enough to unleash its full potential there, it can do that anywhere.

Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read More
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