As much as we enjoyed the VW Golf GTI Clubsport we drove recently (more on that soon), there’s one catch - you can’t have it with a manual gearbox. That’s a potential deal-breaker for more buyers than you might expect, with stick-shifting GTIs remaining popular even as manual demand on the whole dwindles.
Allow us, then, to present a solution. It’s the Golf GTI 290 by Manhart, and it produces 286bhp (290hp), a mere 10bhp away from the Clubsport’s output. Making up for the small power deficit, it has a bigger torque output, producing 313lb ft vs 295. And, of course, you can get these figures whether the starting point is a DSG automatic or a six-speed manual.
The increased potency is thanks to Manhart’s ‘MHtronic’ tuning module, which is far from the only Golf 8 GTI mod on offer. The German company will also drop your hot hatch by 40mm on H&R springs, which is further than we’d want to go, but low ride height does at least work nicely with the 19-inch Venturi alloy wheels.
Manhart’s usual lashings of gold decals wouldn’t go so well with the GTI’s red accents. Instead, there are neat red pinstripes that appear to emerge from the GTI badges on the front wings, plus further stripes for the bonnet and boot lid. The red ‘lipstick’ applied to the edges of the GTI’s massive lower grille is a nice touch, but at the other end, that red-accented diffuser insert might be a bit much - it has a certain Tron vibe to it.
Inside, you can have a Rolls-Royce-style night sky headliner featuring a load of LED lights. It’s the joint-most expensive item on Manhart’s menu along with the wheels, weighing in at £1700. The tuning module is £1300, and finally, the springs are £300.