Given the choice, I’d have a Clubsport with the standard-fit six-speed manual. That’s not because I’m one of those ‘manual or GTFO’ types - I just reckon a manual suits a hot hatchback the best, and the six-speeder VW Group fits in its MQB cars offers a sweet and slick shift.
However, the six-speed DSG twin-clutch transmission works jolly nicely in the car too. There haven’t been many times when I’ve rued the lack of stick. When left to its own devices it can sometimes be a little slow to react, but on a back road when you’re using the steering wheel-mounted paddles, it’s great fun to speedily chop through the gears. Makes a satisfying ‘pop’ on each change, too.
When first announcing the new addition to the CT ‘stable’, we received countless comments on a particular theme. What’s the point of it, when the all-wheel drive, more powerful R is just a few hundred quid more?
To answer that, we borrowed an R for a week for a photo call and some back-to-back driving. As detailed in the comparison test above, the R’s face-bending grip is hard to argue with, but the Clubsport is far more exciting and involving to drive.
There’s a lot to love about the now discontinued Type R, with crazy front-end grip, rabid straight-line performance and bonkers looks. The trouble is, there’s a lot to annoy also, like a frustrating nav system and trip computer, a punishing ride and a boosty engine that’s hard to drive smoothly.
What I like about the Clubsport is it’s blessed with about 90 per cent of the Type R’s ability, yet is 10 times easier to live with. The smoother engine is far nicer to use however you’re driving, the infotainment doesn’t make you want to punch the dashboard, and even with the dampers turned up to their firmest setting it’s a far smoother riding car. And if you don’t like the Civic’s wacky styling, you’ll appreciate the VW’s subtlety.
I wasn’t anticipating any MPG heroics from the Clubsport, but I was expecting it to be a little more economical than it actually is. Thanks to a lot of motorway driving the long-term MPG currently stands at a relatively reasonable 29mpg, but on a single long distance cruise I struggle to get much over 35mpg, which isn’t much better than the 362bhp M2 we sent back to BMW not so long ago.
When being careful I have managed to eke out 37mpg, which is odd since we’ve had little issue hitting 40mpg in the Seat Leon Cupra, which also runs the ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre turbo four-pot. If you’re really pushing it meanwhile, that figure will drop as low as 15mpg, which is actually consistent with our prior EA888 experiences.
This is something we’ve noticed before in recent high-powered VAG products fitted with the six-speed DSG. The auto stop/start function is way too keen to cut in, doing so before you’ve even come to a stop. If you’re coming to a more gradual halt, the stop/start has a habit of turning the engine off, then almost immediately turning the engine back on when it senses you’re still rolling. It’s a pretty minor annoyance, but one worth mentioning.
Whether on Instagram, in Car Throttle comments or in person, I keep hearing the same thing when talking about ‘our’ Clubsport: “that’s the two-seater with the Nurburgring record, right?” It isn’t, of course - as nice as a Clubsport S longtermer would be, a two-seater hatchback isn’t much use for someone who - like me - has decided procreating is a good idea.
But, the confusion does perhaps show that as a marketing exercise, the Clubsport S snagging the front-wheel drive Nurburgring lap record was highly successful. It seems people can’t hear the name ‘Clubsport’ without forming an association with heroic Nordschleife times.
Anything else you want to know about ‘our’ Clubsport? Let us know in the comments!