Autocar's Steve Sutcliffe pits the mega-hatchbacks against each other
29 January 2010

This is a showdown test between three mega hatchbacks, the VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS and Renault Megane 250.

See the Golf R v Focus RS v Megane 250 pictures

First impressions

The first thing that strikes you when you see the cars together is how different they look, notes Autocar's Steve Sutcliffe.

The Focus RS positively leaks bravado. It looks extraordinary on the public road, considering that it also wears number plates and a tax disc - and a price tag of £27k.

Yet, in its way, the Renault appears just as flamboyant, even if its overall personality is marginally less cartoonish and, therefore, slightly more elegant.

It's the Golf, however, that looks the most surprising to begin with because, for a while, it would seem to be a complete misfit beside the other two. You wonder, in fact, if it's even the right model.

That's what makes this group test so interesting. All three of the cars intend to achieve broadly similar results, but they go about attaining their goals in very different ways.

In basic showroom trim the Renault is the cheapest at £22,467, followed at a distance by the £27,280 Ford and the £28,930 VW. Line up the specs, though, and it's more like £25k (Renault), £29k (Ford and £31k (VW).

So how does the VW justify its higher price? One, it's four-wheel drive while the other two are front-wheel drive. Two, it's a VW, which is a much harder commodity to put a price on.

What have they got?

In terms of firepower, the Golf's 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine serves up 267bhp at 6000rpm and 258lb ft at 2500rpm, which sends it from 0-62mph in 5.7sec.

The Renault's 2.0-litre turbo engine produces 247bhp and 251lb ft. That's sufficient for 0-62mph in 6.1sec - although the lighter Renault is quicker to 100mph.

The Ford is the big-hitter, with a 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbo thumping out 300bhp and 324lb ft.

Golf versus the rest

In the real world, the Golf initially feels comprehensively outclassed for pure acceleration. The Megane drops the VW without trying very hard at all, and during an impromptu 20-100mph blast at the test track there is nothing between the Renault and Ford.

Yet, out on normal roads, the more regular the circumstances the more the Golf R starts to make sense. It isn't trying to emulate the Focus or Megane, and the overall impression from the cabin is that this is a high-quality, not especially thrusting kind of car.

When you pull away, the gap grows wider. The Golf R has a smoother, better ride quality than the RS, and its smaller tyres generate less road rumble. The same is true of the Renault, whose ride is calmer but noisier than the Ford's, but nowhere near as soothing as the VW's.

What isn't so good on the Golf is the vague gearchange and soft, unconnected feel of the clutch. You'd be wise to obliterate those issues by paying the £1305 and ticking the DSG box.

Conclusions

The Golf R is predictable and extremely mature in the way it handles, but also a touch on the ordinary side - odd, considering how incisive the Scirocco R is on the road.

The Ford and Renault are singing from an entirely different hymn sheet. They are designed to intentionally singe your fingers from time to time and be much more exciting company as a result.

Which is better between the Ford and Renault? The gap is so small you can only just see daylight on the other side - factor in Renault's price advantage and it almost becomes too close to call.

But be in no doubt, when the great road opens out before you, the RS delivers the biggest thump of adrenalin. It remains supreme among mega-hatchbacks when it comes to pure driving thrills.

Read the full article in this week's Autocar magazine, on sale now.

Twitter - follow autocar.co.ukSee all the latest VW reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Ford reviews, news and videoSee all the latest Renault reviews, news and video

Our Verdict

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Can the Ford Focus capture the hearts and minds of hatchback buyers?

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Comments
32

25 January 2010

What - 500 odd words - hardly a 'super test' is it now?

25 January 2010

Both the Golf R and scirocco R are supposed to be built on the same chassis. Maybe Autocar could actually ask some questions of VW (if this sort of thing is still allowed) like if that statement is true or not and if not what differences exist so that maybe one could make their Golf R drive like a awd Scirocco R?

Please let us readers know after you have investigated. shame about the Golf R. There was so much potential there. J

25 January 2010

i also like the Renault (a lot) just the sensible side of me says no cause bits will be falling off where as the Golf will last forever

25 January 2010

so from what i read..the megane is the best and the cheaper...

SDR

25 January 2010

Hmm, okay. Focus - great if I still bought Max Power, otherwise ghastly.

Golf - terminally dull - agree with previous comment, would much prefer a GTi for all sorts of reasons. If I wanted this type of machine I'd rather have an Audi S3.

Renault - sounds fantastic, actually very desirable. However could never bring myself to part with cash for one because I don't trust their reliabilty/longevity, and their dealers are not up to the job of providing a 25k experience (also true of Ford, to be fair).

On balance I find all of these cars very resistible - much better ways of spending 25-30k, or better still saving 10-15k (and I'll take a late MkV GTi please).

25 January 2010

i have to agree too, renault have changed a lot over the years and are now bein built better and should be more reliable AA hardly go to renault now so that speaks volumes.

R32

25 January 2010

"In the real world, the Golf initially feels comprehensively outclassed for pure acceleration. The Megane drops the VW without trying very hard at all, and during an impromptu 20-100mph blast at the test track there is nothing between the Renault and Ford." Really? In the real world we don't have test tracks to do impromptu 20-100mph blasts on. In the real world, we don't all drive from 0-60 like idiots all the time, so the comment about the Golf feeling comprehensively outclassed in not valid at all.

Next...

"So how does the VW justify its higher price? One, it's four-wheel drive while the other two are front-wheel drive. Two, it's a VW, which is a much harder commodity to put a price on." Indeed, what price quality? The price quoted for the Golf R is wrong in the article - the list price for the three-door manual car is £30,090. Autocar should know this.

In all, a very flawed comparison test. Typical of what I have now come to expect from Autocar and their "road testers".

25 January 2010

The way i see it you've got three cars doing the same thing from different aspects,the Ford(rally car for the road),the Renault(French coupe') and the Golf(Family man's part-time sports car), so it's simple , you pick your horse and get on with it!, what suits you is ok,lots of people who comment forget this, you write the check, remember that!

Peter Cavellini.

25 January 2010

[quote Ryan Bane]The more I see of that Renault, the more I want it, and the opposite for the RS.[/quote]

Funny, I was just thinking the same thing... it's starting to look a bit.... dunno... naff!?

For me and just from the pics, the Golf is the one I'd want to own for 5 years, which is what it would have to be after spending nigh on £30k.

25 January 2010

The regular GTI is the nicer looking Golf. Just don´t like the tacky looking exhaust pipes on the R. It messes up the whole car. And for the Renault, I wouldn´t mind seeing the regular 5 door Megane with a RS package, I just don´t like the coupe, it´s ill proportioned and the visibility is a real no sale.

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