Why the comparison?
The Renault Mégane Renaultsport 250 and Volkswagen Scirocco R are two of the hottest performance car properties out there. They offer astounding pace and handling, yet they also major on style and even throw in some practicality thanks to four seats and boots. As more stylish alternatives to a hot hatch, these coupés offer serious driving thrills to keen drivers while still being everyday usable.
How are they similar?
The Scirocco R and Mégane RS250 are the pinnacles of their respective ranges, packing potent engines and tuned chassis to deliver a mainline hit of driving entertainment. Both use 2.0-litre turbocharged engines and six-speed manual gearboxes, though the VW can also be ordered with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Each drives the front wheels, the Scirocco coping with 261bhp and the Mégane dealing with 250bhp.
Off the mark, the Volkswagen is the quicker from 0-62mph, taking 6.0 seconds to the Renault's 6.1. Go for the Scirocco with the DSG gearbox and 0-62mph comes up in 5.8 seconds as it can shift gears quicker than a human's hands and feet. With top speeds limited to 155mph, this pair is fag-paper close for straight line speed. This is made all the more evident as the turbocharged motors do their best work in the mid-range rather than screaming away at high revs.
Even with such highly charged engines, both the Mégane RS250 and Scirocco R manage the sort of fuel economy that very much rules them in as everyday propositions. The Renault returns 33.6mpg and the Volkswagen goes slightly better with 34.9mpg. They're evenly matched on carbon dioxide emissions too, the Scirocco recording 189g/km to the Mégane's 190g/km.
The closeness of this pair is rammed home when you look at their equipment lists: leather seats, big alloy wheels, superb stereos and all of the other luxury kit you'd expect of a top line sports coupé. Also, they both have cabins that can just about accommodate four adults, though the two in the back have to be good friends, while boot space is sufficient for weekly shops and short breaks.
How do they differ?
There are two crucial areas where the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 250 and Volkswagen Scirocco R part company. The first is the easiest to spot and it's price. There is almost £5,000 between the standard versions of each of these cars, with the French car by far the less expensive. Go for the Mégane RS250 in its stripped out Cup variety and the price gap widens to nearer £6,000, yet even in its most opulent trim the Mégane still costs around £3,000 less than the Scirocco.
Add the dual-clutch DSG gearbox to the Volkswagen and its price tips over the £30,000 mark. So, the Renault has it won on the value front, but what about that other crucial area of difference: how they drive?
Again, it's victory to the Renault here, though its margin of success is much finer cut than the price list war. Both cars make the most of their performance in the mid-range where the turbos can do their best work. In the Volkswagen, the 2.0-litre engine is undoubtedly fast and endows the Scirocco with pace to keep up with all manner of sporting machinery. It can also do lazy cruising, town trips and general everyday duties without so much as a fluff. Herein lies the problem. It's just too well rounded and civilised for it to truly stand out as one of the greats. We wouldn't castigate anyone for buying a Scirocco R for these very reasons, but at this price we want something that has our neck hairs standing to attention.
This is where the Mégane Renaultsport 250 comes into its own. Like the VW, its engine is best in the thick mid-range of its power band. Overtaking is a cinch, back roads are snaffled up with greedy abandon and every demand from the driver is met with a precise reaction. The Mégane is not as cosseting over uncouth roads as the Scirocco and the French car is noisier at every speed, but it's by far the more thrilling car to drive. The driver can forgive the Mégane for not being as rounded as the Scirocco and for being more focused because the focus is on making the driver feel good about every millimetre of every journey - and that is a rare commodity.
So which one would we have?
Much as we love the Volkswagen Scirocco R, and we really do think it's a superb car, the win here goes to the Renault Mégane Renaultsport 250. It's cheaper to buy, as well equipped for luxury and safety, and offers as much usable cabin space as the Scirocco, but the clincher is the way the Mégane drives. The VW is very, very good, but the Mégane is brilliant and you just can't argue with that for the money Renault charges.