Well, there's always that middle ground between C and perl - XS modules. Cut probably still beats it, but Text::CSV_XS
appears to be faster than split for files of that size. And has the added advantage of supporting embedded newlines and embedded delimiters.
For a 1 million row table of 100 columns, sum the second column:
s/iter Split Text::CSV_XS
Split 49.8 -- -8%
Text::CSV_XS 45.9 8% --
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