Why the comparison?
Other than the continuing proliferation of performance-oriented diesel cars, the launch of the very first Renaultsport model to fill up at the black pump prompted us to look around for potential competition. Although the Golf is much more subtle about its abilities, a comparison of the spec sheets suggests that these cars are direct rivals, offering pace and potentially driving enjoyment to rival traditional petrol-powered hot hatches, while at the same time using less fuel and emitting less carbon dioxide.
How are they similar?
Well, both the Renaulsport Mégane dCi and the Golf GT Sport are available in either three- or five-door formats for a start. Prices are similar too, though the most basic Renault is cheaper and overall, the Mégane has more equipment for the price. Both cars are powered by 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines that have had their turbochargers turned up to produce some pretty impressive numbers. Power output is about 170bhp and maximum torque figures for both cars is around 260lb.ft.
Although the Renault just about has the edge in grunt, it's heavier than the Golf, so the latter is actually a tad quicker, though there's little in it. Instead, buyers of either car should find that 0-62mph in about 8.2 seconds is enough for most traffic light grand prix. However, on the open road, these cars should be more than a match for their petrol-powered alternatives. The torque figure is key and instead of a manic, high-revving nature demanding all your concentration, these diesel hot hatches sooth your nerves with rapid, but relaxed pace. It's a characteristic both cars share.
How do they differ?
You'll have noticed the styling by now, or rather, you'll have noticed the Renaultsport styling by now, next to which, the Golf is all but invisible. The GT Sport does feature a few aesthetic tweaks to differentiate it from the run of the mill Golfs, but this Mégane has undergone the full Renaultsport transformation and it's quite an extrovert. There's little to tell it apart from its fiery petrol cousins other than the puzzling deletion of the roof spoiler.
Despite appearances, it's actually the Renault that is the most refined car here and almost as unbelievably, the most comfortable. A large part of this is down to the more refined and better insulated engine, but also, Renault has wisely given the Mégane a supple chassis that manages to absorb bumps as well as it sniffs out apexes.
So which one would we have?
This is a classic battle between heart and head. Our hearts love the extrovert character of the Mégane and its superb chassis, yet our heads tell us that the Golf is a little better built and should hold its value well when it comes to resale time. It is possible of course that, despite these cars' similarities, the same buyer will not have them on their shortlist. We would and we'd agonise over which to buy. Ok, ok, the Renault. No, the Golf. No, hang on...
Shane O' Donoghue