The fact that the GTI Clubsport even exists is a miracle in itself. Volkswagen already offers the brilliantly capable GTI and the Golf R for those needing extra spice, while the fallout from an emissions scandal has seen the entire Volkswagen group withdraw from publicising anything overtly sporting or CO2-emitting.

We should be thankful, then, that engineers decided to celebrate the 40th birthday of one of the most influential hot hatches on the planet with a complete rascal of a machine.

The changes, tweaks and additional niceties on the Clubsport may seem subtle from afar. Slip behind the wheel, however, and all becomes clear: this is true front-wheel-drive menace that manages to give a gigantic nod to the golden era of hot hatches without compromising on the mod cons.

Volkswagen isn't averse to celebrating the birthday of one of its most successful models and the Clubsport 40 Edition follows in the footsteps of the 25th, 30th and 35th anniversary offerings, but 40 genuinely feels special.

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Need proof? The Clubsport Edition 40 very briefly held on to the title of "most powerful GTI", shortly before having it ripped from its grasp by the insane and super-limited Clubsport S.

Just 400 of the aforementioned mean machines were put into production worldwide, with just 150 making their way to the UK. But the tried and tested 2.0-litre turbo-charged engine was tuned to develop an almighty 306bhp in that machine. It lapped the 'Ring in 7min 49.21secs thanks to it being stripped of rear seats and other such niceties, bettering Honda’s Civic Type R by 1.4 seconds and shaming the list of other front-wheel-drive hot hatches attempting to take the title.

Fortunately, the slightly more sedate Clubsport model, which we've been driving, is almost as powerful, generating 262bhp under normal driving conditions - but offering around 288bhp when a temporary boost function kicks in.

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The Clubsport also packs five doors, comfortable seats - you know, those things your family and friends can sit on - and all of the interior gizmos one expects of a modern Golf. Yet it manages to retain a certain old school hot hatch charm that's been missing from the market for too long now.

The secret to the Clubsport Edition 40's loveable personality is the extensive list of changes that have been made to the suspension and steering. For example, it boasts an all-new spring layout, re-tuned dampers and improved aerodynamic flourishes that combine to make a car that loves to be thrown through the bends.

Where the Golf R grips like a sloth covered in No More Nails, the Clubsport Edition 40 wriggles and shimmies through the corners, hinting that it's happy to indulge in some lift-off oversteer if you've got the cojones.

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The steering is also sharp and precise. Granted, it doesn't offer the sort of feedback afforded by something like a Caterham, but it means the car can be placed through a corner with confidence.

Let's no forget that engine, either. The Gold's transverse mounted 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder unit may be found in plenty of VW products but it doesn't fail to deliver the goods.

When mated to the slick manual gearbox, it can be revved to the limit and wrung out for every Newton Meter of torque it possesses. The DSG auto gearbox isn't quite as engaging but it's rapid enough to provide thrills and comes into its own on long motorway slogs.

To add to the nostalgic charm of the driving experience, Volkswagen has seen fit to throw in a wide black stripe, which runs from the front to rear wheels. It's a knowing nod to the original GTI of 1976.

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There are also plenty of modern touches, which stand it head and shoulders above the regular GTI range: including a larger boot lip spoiler, 18-inch Quantra alloy wheels, an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel and optional, figure-hugging sports bucket seats at the front.

It looks great, if a tad understated, but that has always been the appeal of a Golf: you can thrash it around a country lane and then arrive at the school gates without feeling and looking like a complete buffoon.

Granted, there's nothing groundbreaking about the infotainment offering but VW's Discover Navigation system with a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen does everything you ask of it.

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There's DAB radio, 2D and 3D mapping, plus dynamic navigation based on TMC+ technology. VW will even throw in a three-year subscription to Car-Net Guide and Inform, which gives you online access to live traffic, fuel pricing, parking, weather and news feeds via a built-in SIM card.

The test car we drove also benefited from the Car-Net App Connect optional extra, which costs an additional £130 but sees Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink thrown in for tethering the compatible smartphone to the touchscreen system via a USB slot. It's a little cheeky this isn't thrown in for free, considering the Clubsport 40 Edition costs in excess of £30,000 and that less expensive Skodas feature the tech as standard.

Verdict

The Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40 is a wonderful car with just enough engineering extras and additional power to make it worth spending the extra dosh to buy.

Those wanting truly blistering performance and seemingly unending levels of grip should stick with the Golf R, but if you have a taste for old school hot hatches and don't want to deal with a rust bucket, the Clubsport Edition 40 is the one.

Limited edition appeal, a fantastic chassis and handling characteristics that hark back to the 1980's, what's not to like? We're in modern day retro love.