The Ford Focus ST has blown onto the hot-hatch scene. Will it cause a hurricane to rip through the rock-solid Volkswagen Golf GTI and Renault Megane RS265? Words: Jez Spinks. Photos: Chris Brasher.

Hands up if you still think you can only have fun in a rear-wheel-drive car. If you’ve lifted one of your upper limbs then you need to get behind the wheel of the best exponents of the front-wheel-drive hot-hatch breed.

And we have three of the finest here.

There are still squabbles about who actually built the world’s first ever hot-hatch, though what isn’t in question is that Renault and Volkswagen were right in there during the embryonic stages of the ultimate affordable performance car in the mid-1970s.

The Renault 5 Gordini (or Alpine) and Volkswagen Golf GTI both emerged in 1976 as the sporty take on the conventional hatchback body style.

And 36 years later, the two brands are still at it. The Golf GTI, of course, continues as the most famous of the genre, currently in its sixth generation and with a seventh about a year away from going on sale in Australia.
Renault’s small hatch today is the Megane.

The French company takes its hot-hatches so seriously that it operates a separate division – called RenaultSport – to build them. That’s where the RS initials come into play in the RS265 badge, with the numbers representing the power hike for the 2012 Megane RS, a model that first came out in 2009 as the RS250.

That makes the Ford Focus ST the newest contender here, having just launched in Australia. This isn’t a hot-hatch without its own lineage, though, with the Blue Oval having produced a number of memorable fast small cars since the turn of the 1980s.

We can tell you in advance that all three of these cars prove that Europe remains untouchable as the king of the hot-hatch-making continents. But which one of the trio will emerge triumphant here?

 


PERFORMANCE

Lift the bonnet on the Focus ST, Megane RS265 and Golf GTI and you’ll be greeted by a common engine formula: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with a single turbocharger to force more air into the circa-500cc combustion chambers to mix with the fuel (that’s directly injected in the ST and GTI).

The output results are not that dissimilar between the Focus ST and Megane RS265, with the Renault topping the power and torque tables with 195kW (265PS) and 360Nm compared with the Ford’s 184kW and 340Nm (though this figure jumps to 360Nm briefly on overboost).

Golf GTI owners would have reason to be feel slightly belittled with the Volkswagen offering 155kW and 280Nm.

The VW does boast the widest torque plateau, however, with its maximum pulling power produced all the way from 1700 to 5200rpm. The Focus ST delivers its 340Nm between 2000 and 4500rpm – with a brief surge of 20Nm coming on with kickdown overboost – while the Renault’s peak torque arrives at 3000rpm but with 80 per cent of that available from just 1900rpm.

The upshot is three cars that provide great tractability and immense mid-range driveability that makes freeway and city driving absolutely effortless. Lag isn’t an issue, giving you instead just linear acceleration that belies their turbocharged nature.

The RenaultSport Megane (there’s more than one way to refer to this car) actually produces the same 184kW as the previous RS250 version and the ST in default mode, and it takes the pressing of a Sport mode button to unleash the RS265’s full 195kW.

There’s a noticeable change in throttle response (making it too touchy for city driving), the exhaust burbles on over-run, and the electronic stability control (ESC) threshold is raised. (ESC can be switched completely off in the ST and RS; the GTI suggests it can but never disappears entirely.)

The in-gear performance of both the ST and RS265 is particularly special, with the Focus feeling the strongest off idle before our non-stopwatch rolling tests, from 80-120km/h and 110km/h upwards, reveal the Ford and Renault are evenly matched.

For those driving enthusiasts focused on standing-start performance, the Renault Megane RS265 will reach that metaphorical 100km/h chequered flag half a second before the next car, according to each of the car maker’s own figures. The Renault takes 6.0 seconds compared with 6.5sec for the Ford and 6.9sec for the GTI.

The GTI’s sprint time is identical whether the sporty Golf is fitted with the standard six-speed manual or, as on our test car, the optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic. You don’t get a choice with the others; it’s six-speed manual or nothing.

The ST’s 20 per cent fuel efficiency improvement over the 2.5-litre five-cylinder XR5 Turbo it replaces gives it the bragging rights for consumption here, with its 7.4L/100km official combined figure comparing with 7.7L/100km for the Golf and 8.2L/100km for the Megane.

An entertaining soundtrack comes standard regardless of whether you opt for your hot-hatch from Germany (ST and GTI) or France (RS265).

The Golf’s exhaust pipes parp on upshifts (an aural treat not experienced with manual gearbox versions), and the Renault reaches a turbo-whooshing crescendo above 6000rpm.

But top of the charts is the Focus ST, which charges along with an addictively bassy growl that resonates nicely in the cabin – thanks to the retention (from its XR5 Turbo predecessor) of the Sound Symposer that pipes noise from the engine bay into the cabin.

 


ON ROAD AND TRACK

Ask the chief engineer of any powerful front-drive car what their biggest challenge was, and it’s more than likely they’ll say just two words: torque steer.

It’s a term applied to the effect of the engine’s power being fed to the same wheels that are also responsible for determining the direction of the car.

Yet while the Renault Megane RS265 has the most power here, it’s the Focus ST where the symptomatic tugging on the steering wheel is most noticeable.

Ford says it could have dialled more torque steer out of its hot-hatch but determined it wanted to retain some drama – believing it was an important part of the driving experience.

None of CarAdvice’s road test team found the ST’s torque steer, which is most evident in hard straight-line acceleration, off-putting, though equally all found the Renault’s relatively calm rack all the more impressive.

The Megane also generates the best front-end grip and it’s no coincidence that the Renault is the only car in the group to have gone the extra engineering step with a mechanical limited-slip differential. (The GTI features an electronic version that alternatively dabs the brakes of the inside front wheel to help distribute more power to the outside wheel with more traction).

In dry conditions, the Renault feels the quickest – with the type of slingshot acceleration out of corners that can leave the driver grabbing at both superlatives and expletives.

The French hatch’s advantage felt slightly neutralised during our wet session on the racetrack, though its superior, tauter body control was still evident. No doubt the low, compact shape of the three-door hatch – Renault likes to call it a coupe – contributes to it having the flattest stance and greatest stability.

There’s noticeable roll from the GTI and ST on the circuit, and the Focus’s rear end was the keenest to step out when braking into corners, though both the VW and Ford delivered the kind of grip and composure that wouldn’t disappoint owners wanting to take them to the track.

For GTI buyers, though, we’d recommend paying $1500 to replace the standard suspension with the optional Active Chassis Control variable dampers that bring slightly sharper handling in Dynamic mode (and a slightly more flexible ride in Comfort).

For the most direct steering, the Ford Focus ST can’t be beaten – with less than two turns from lock to lock. There’s also a satisfying heft to the ST’s steering, which is also communicative like the Renault’s helm. There’s less feedback from the GTI, though its steering is reassuringly linear and uncorrupted.

It’s the first to understeer, though, and its balance, while good, isn’t as remarkable on the road as either the Focus ST or Megane RS265, which both handle rapid changes of direction with pivotal brilliance.
The Focus ST, Megane RS and Golf GTI all sit on stiffened underpinnings yet all three are sufficiently comfortable for daily driving.

The GTI’s suspension is the most supple, the RS265’s is the firmest, and the ST’s sits somewhere in between as the best balance of comfort and handling.

The ST’s 18-inch tyres make the most noise, however, followed by the GTI and then the RS.

 



INNER SPACE

Practicality is still part of the fundamental appeal of hot-hatches. The Renault is partly handicapped in this area because the Megane RS265 is only available as a three-door.

And while the CarAdvice team unanimously votes for the Renault as the style king in this group, the sloping roof does squeeze headroom adding to the rear-seat space being generally better for shorter rather than longer journeys.

Ergonomics are also an issue – with some bizarre button placements, such as the cruise control switch on the centre console, and unintuitive audio buttons. The front seats offer plenty of comfort, though some drivers might appreciate some extra bolstering (that isn’t lacking in either the GTI or ST).

Our Golf GTI test car was also a three-door, though a five-door version is available and the better bet practically – and visually – if you could stretch the extra $1500 to the $40,490 starting price.

Whichever version you get, you’ll get the classiest-looking cabin of any hatch currently on sale. There’s only one small-car interior that’s going to better it, and that’s the new-generation Golf due next year.

Only the GTI, though, comes with the sporty red stitching throughout, plus that tartan upholstery that has been a trademark of the car since the first generation.

Ford’s made an effort to make the ST stand out from the regular versions of the Focus. There’s no shortage of ST badges almost everywhere imaginable, inside and out, there’s the exclusive-to-ST ‘Tangerine Scream’ orange hue among the paint choices, and a row of gauges on top of the dash, though what’s impossible to miss are the chunky, cloth and leather Recaro sports seats (especially in the yellow/black colour set of our test car).

They’re quite brilliant, too – limiting your body’s movement during cornering yet providing sufficient breathing space and ache-free cushioning for hours of freeway driving.

 


VALUE AND FEATURES

If the Renault Megane RS265 leads on performance and the Volkswagen Golf GTI is ahead of the game on interior quality and presentation, the area the Ford Focus ST is unrivalled on is value for money.

Not only is the Blue Oval’s hot-hatch the most affordable contender here at $38,290 but it’s also the most liberally equipped. It almost makes the $38,490 GTI look like a poverty pack special in comparison.

While the sportiest front-drive Golf includes seven airbags, foglights, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, 6.5-inch touchscreen, leather sports steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and one-touch windows all round, the ST sees that standard-gear hand and raises it with full Bluetooth audio streaming, voice command control, metallic paint, satellite navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a rear-view camera. (And unlike the XR5 Turbo, this time there’s cruise control.)

As one of the more expensive hot-hatches on the market, thankfully the $42,990-plus Renault Megane RS265 is decently stocked. There are 18-inch alloys, eight airbags, Brembo front brakes, LED daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, limited slip differential, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth audio streaming and wipers with rain sensor among its feature highlights.

But you need to step up to the more expensive Trophy to gain Recaro cloth front sports seats and pay more again for the Trophy+ that brings sat-nav and reversing camera (plus some other items).

 


THE WINNER

Even as it sees out its twighlight years, we still love the Mk6 Volkswagen Golf GTI. As a hot-hatch combining a high-quality, feel-good interior with handling and performance a motorist of any level or driving interest can enjoy, the GTI remains unsurpassed.

But with the sixth-generation Golf effectively being a major update of the Mk5 out since 2004, a fresh look and approach is needed – and the seventh iteration of the GTI is now keenly awaited for its release sometime in the second half of 2013.

And if you’re a driving enthusiast wanting to occasionally head to the race track, it’s the Ford Focus ST and Renault Megane RS265 that will deliver the greater involvement and bigger thrills – not least because the GTI is relatively slow in comparison.

It’s a ridiculously tight call between the Ford and Renault. The ST is stunning value for money – cheaper than all its key rivals yet with a standard features list longer than any – and is a superbly balanced car complemented by a terrific engine and the best seats in the hot-hatch business.

But it’s once again the French that prove they are the undisputed masters of the hot-hatch genre. The Renault Megane RS265 can justify its extra premium over the ST with more than just quicker performance. This is a car that redefines front-wheel-drive handling.





  • Whitbomb07

    Absolutely no mention of the RS monitor in the Meg which amongst many other things allows the throttle mapping to be adjusted between 5 different maps when in the Sports (aka 265) ESP mode, making it much friendlier in stop/start/city traffic.

  • Jav

    I’ll still take the GTI as it is the classiest of the three. I still love the Renault for its outright thrills though.

    • Shak

      What defines class to you?

      • Noddy_of_Toyland

        To me, the classiest cars are in this order.
        1. Ssangyong Chairman.
        2. Proton Waja.
        3. BMW 3 Series Compact
        4. Rolls Royce Phantom.

        • Golfmother

          hahaah

        • Gotex

          hahhahahhahahahahhaha, Ssangyong Chairman, Proton Waja!

        • Me

          Must leave the GTi at #5.

    • Gibbut

      its interior is seriously outdated compared to the others.

  • Golfmother

    Three very good cars in the hotly contested hatch market , final judement in 2013 when the mk7 arrives .

    • Robin_Graves

      By the time the mk7 gets here all the mk6′s would be on their third gearbox and second engine.  Another VeeDud that’s awarded the wooden spoon.

      • gtrxu1

        With the Gti analogue dash and body styling Robin.I don’t believe its even worthy of being in this hot hatch competition.

      • Guest12

        Robin’s still floggin..

    • Dejavu

      Final judgement? It’s not like the VW entered this bout with a sports injury. Everything here was on an level playing field.

      • Huwtm

        Agreed – by Golfmother’s logic, there should never be a final judgement, considering there’s always a new model in the pipeline somewhere.

  • Fmehmet

    Not only is the renault in a different league, it looks totally unique compared to the other two’s pedestrian look. It’s a landmark and world class car…an all time great. 

    • TheRealThomas

      Here, here!

      • Johnson

        Hear, hear

    • Big jim

      Im still a bit dubious of the interior quality in frog made cars

      • Kd

        I’ve owned my RS250 for 18 months and can report the interior quality is excellent. Not a single thing has broken or fallen off and everything fits well

        • Mr Irony

          Have you driven it yet?

          • Kd

            Sure have! Over 35,000km with a smile on my face the whole time ;-)

  • Dave W

    The Japanese hot hatches aren’t getting the love these days. No mega test with the WRX and MPS? I know they’re probably not as good but it would still be great to see where they stand now.

    • Dom Von Hutch

      Stock Rex still the quickest, 195kw on tap, no sport button required – sub 6 second car in manual all day. Awful interior and exterior though IMO.

    • Tex

      They are so bad, they don’t even stand a chance now.

  • twincharger

    It would be the Focus or the Megane for me,hard choose that one.The Megane is the best looking of the three,Focus has a stunning looking interior.GTI is a poor 3rd.

    • Tex

      So, you are clearly going for design over anything else? Subjective, too.
      For performance however – the RS wins.

      • twincharger

        Correct given the fact that out side the race track there in nowhere in Australia where you can flog these cars.We dont have autobarns here,so design has to be the number 1 factor.

        • Tex

          I still enjoy driving a sports car to work. I also look forward to 5.30pm when I get to drive it home. I don’t buy a car for A to B transportation. If I did I’d be in a Volkswagen up!.

      • Huwtm

        Well he did say, “for me”, indicating that it was a very personal decision.

    • CanDo

      The problem with a Renault of course – in fact any French car – is that you wash off 50% in depreciation as soon as you drive it out of the showroom.

  • Dudeface

    I for one can’t wait to see what Ford dishes up with the next RS, and I’m sure VW will continue setting standards with the next gen GTI and R. And Renault, well they certainly won’t be sitting on their laurels… also can’t forget the Japanese, there’s a new Civic Type R on the way.. 

    The future is looking bright for those that love a good hot hatch!

  • Glenn59

    Great Comprehensive Test Report guys even if it echoes most other magasine reports.  You are a winnner whichever of these 3 cars you choose.  The Renault is the most driver oriented but also the hardest to live with.  I am expecing Golf Mark 7 will blow them all away.  

    • Dom Von Hutch

      It won’t blow anything away, ppl need to calm down about this, it will be faster than the mk 6 and will be an evolution that will simply continue to be the best all round hot hatch, won’t better the rs265 for all out performance, it’s the utilitarian approach that is the best strategically.

      • Glenn59

        When I said ‘blow them all away’ I was referring to the overall package, not specifically performance.  Having said that there weill be substantial dynamic improvements to the Mark 7 which is around 90kg lighter has a lower centre of gravity and the availability of a Performance Pack’.  The Renault will probably still be competitive but they are not an easy car to live with.  People also often ctiticisse VW for reliablity but Renault score much worse again in independant surveys.  I am not knocking Renault, I like all threee cars but to me the VW is the total package.

        • Tex

          I love this crap. I had a RS250 for 2 years and it never let me down. I had a BMW 130i for 2 years, and it was plagued with small issues.

          Renault, reliability? Wake up world – experience the new Renault before you comment. I haven’t heard fantastic things about VW either…

          • Glenn59

            With mass produced products the individual experiences of consumers can be variable to say he least.  Honda is undeniably one of the most reliable brands but my sisters new Jazz needed a new gearbox and clutch in its first 6 months.  At the other extreme many years ago my father owned not one but 2 Holden Camiras and never had a moments problem with either despite the diabolical reputation that the Camira had.  In other words, whatever you buy you can be lucky or unlucky.  Some brands just tend to have less problems than others. 

            I agree that Renault is gettng better but most surveys still rate them poorly. My own comment conceded that VW is not perfect either but it is a fact that they almost always rate higher than Renault.  Gooogle a few reliablity surveys at random and I guarantee you most if not all will have Renault in the bottom half of the survey.  This does not mean they are a bad car or even that most owners willhave problems.  It just means you are more likely to have problems than say a Corolla owner? 

          • Tex

            A Corolla?! I definitely had no warranty recalls.
            A Jazz? Well, they went from Japan sourced to Thailand.

            I’ve owned an old Renault; I totally get that they’ve had issues in the past. As have many manufacturers. But I can comment that Renault’s Spain-sourced RS250/265 is quite a reliable unit! So much so… I bought one and then after 1 year of ownership I started to sell the things…

          • TG

            Your father was a brave man, a very brave man. :)

          • GTI

            “Renault, reliability? Wake up world – experience the new Renault before you comment”

            “I haven’t heard fantastic things about VW either…”

            So other people need to experience the Renault for 2 years before they can comment, but you can make your mind up about VW based on hearsay.  Sounds fair.

          • Mr Irony

            Get them maintained by the Renault expert every month (who you know on a first name basis) with TLC.

            They will be just fine.

        • Dave W

          The golf is too conservative to be a true hot hatch.

          • Golfschwein

            And yet, it invented the genre by being, back in 1976, the equivalent of what it is today. All it had over the regular Golf was a warmer engine, tighter suspension, tartan seats, different steering wheel, chin spoiler, fatter tyres (on steel wheels!) and a set of plastic wheelarch blisters. Can you see how not much has changed?

          • Dave W

            Sorry mate but I don’t argue with you about the performance so I know if you argue about the looks, you’re just a fanboy.

          • Hung Low

            All VW copied was the recipe the Coopers had over a regular mini in the 60′s, copied the gti badge from Citroen and trademarked it as their own.
            Notable more worthy hot hatches during the decades were the Lancia Delta Integrale, Pug 205 gti, Renault 5 turbo, Ford cosworth rs, civic type R, Clio sport ………need I go on?

          • twincharger

            Also to heavy.And drinks fuel like a jet fighter.

          • Golfschwein

            Wrong on both counts. It’s the lightest of these three and uses less fuel than the Megane, and a fraction more than Focus, officially. On a WHEELS test loop, the Golf used significantly less than both.

          • Golfmother

            Speaking of sucking juice hows the fuel bill in the SSV6 , nothing under14 round town and lucky if you get 9 in the country .

            Try 8.8 in the city and 6.3in the country , golf is very frugal .

          • twincharger

            Rubbish Golfmother,GTI can not use 5th gear in Australian cities because of the low speed limits and traffic congestion.Its just not designed to do so.
            City cycle for the GTI is well over 10L/100KMS.This was frustration spoken by a leading VW engineer visiting Australia last year.Speaking about Australias draconian road rules,and low speed limits for a developed country.Leading engineers also from Germany from Mercedes Bens have made similar comments.Most notably how close we drive from each other and how unenjoyable driving is in Australia.

          • Golfmother

            Once again twin banger your ill informed , i use 5th gear constantly around the city , plenty of torque , and its below 9l easily .

          • Dave W

            Which Golf are you driving?

          • Mr Irony

            No such thing as a SSV6.

    • Bob

      blow them away or just blow up (transmissions or engines) like all current VeeDuds

  • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

    I had driven the GTI before I went and bought the 265 three weeks ago. I can say that the Megane offers much more to the driver than the GTI. If one is looking for a driver’s car then features mus not matter, one can make do without HIDs or rear view cameras, there are excellent headlamps and rear sensors in the Megane. With the Recaros on the ST, if you are tall and broad you will not fit into those Recaros. 
    ST is an excellent value proposition but I can tell you that both the Megane and the ST may cost “almost” the same onroad if you know to fix deals.The Megane will make you feel special anyday which the Golf wont. The acceleration is ferocious, driving position is spot on, brakes are excellent, rine is okay, you may not turn on the stereo as driving it so much pleasure. 
    You can get 6 years warranty in total for an additional $1.8k which is worth spending if you intend to keep your car after 3 years. 
    I agree that Megane is good for only 2-3 people especially if the driver is tall. But resp apart it is a cracker.

    • Glenn59

      I agree with you that the Renault is the best drivers car of the three and I came very close to buying one before chickening out and buying the Golf.  Love the style, performance and handling of the Megane .  It really is  a special car and I envy you driving it.  Having said that, there are very good reasons to go with the VW rather than the Renault as long as you are away from a racetrack.

      Firstly I would defend the Golf as being the better car to drive anywhere near legal speeds.  The motor has a more linear power delivery and the advantages of the Renaults race bred chassis are not evident until you really begin to push.  The Renaults steering also is nothing special until it is loaded up and the engine note sounds like a vacuum cleaner.  Get it on a track and it is heaven on a stick but for most of us this is a rare treat.
       
      Other factors tha that swayed me to VW were:
      *  Much Better Resale
      *  Much lower operating cost, (service, tyres, insurance fuel and more are dearer on the Megane).
      *  5 door versatility    
      *  Option of DSG gearbox
      *  VW reliability whilst not up to Japanese standards is independantly rated well above Renaults.
      *  Much better ride
      *  Control Arm independant suspension is superior on rough roads.

      I do agree with you that the Renault is more fun and that is important but there are a lot of negatives attached to that fun.  Enjoy the Renault, I still envy you, I am just unsure if you appreciate the downside to choosing French yet?  
       

      • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

        I agree to most of the bits there, I had a tough time deciding what car to choose among these 2, may be because I asked for suggestions in the Oz Renault sport forum that I skewed towards the Megane.. 
        When I drove the golf i did not like the initial response of the DSG and once again I thought buying the GTI would be a compromise and quite frankly speaking I will never have to envy a GTI owner. May be I just could not have lived making that choice that every time I see a RS go past by I would have thought I could have been in  there. 

        Talking about Legal speeds – lets face it, neither you nor I would have bought a hot hatch if we were always driving in legal speeds, My Honda civic can get to 60kmph in like 5 seconds and would do 100kmph in 2nd, so we are after the most amount of power, handling and Brakes with a hint of practicality (he he) at an affordable price. 

        Resale yes I agree but again depends on what you are after, I dont mind losing few grand after having more fun for 5-6 years but that again is individual preference.

        Cost of service for Megane is around $450(Renault workshop) , once in 12 months or about $300 in other service centers, dont think the GTI is gonna cost any less. Comprehensive insurance I paid $590 with $900 excess.

        With French reliability he he I do agree thats why I have a 6 year warranty, ride will not be as good as a GTI but livable, 

        I think if this was the only car I had I may have gone the GTI for practical reasons but since I dont have kids and have another sedan I just went with my heart. 
        I always thought that the Megane should be compared to the Scirocco and not the GTI. 

        Even the cup model has all the necessary features one can be after. Saying all that I still respect the GTI for being a world class car which the Megane may never be. 

        Fly low!!!!

        • Glenn59

          Glad you like your car Chaitanya.  The RS265 is fantastic fun and invokes passion like few affordable cars can.  The VW versus Renault arguement is really one of those do you follllow your heart or your head questions?  Sometimes you should follow your heart – life is too short.   

          • Golfmother

            Agree with both your comments , i drove all the current 3 at the time i bought the golf , 5 doors made life easier , the XR5 was damn good at the time , fun  drive , i just  did not enjoy the cabin fever dash , they are the future of fun but frugal motoring .

          • Huwtm

            The ST’s dash is much better than the XR5′s.

          • Golfmother

            Still too starwars for me Huwtm .

          • Robin_Graves

            If VeeDud made a dash that was fit for post 2010 I bet you wouldnt call that starwars.  Golf’s interior should lose a point in the Ancap rating – its so boring it sends the driver to sleep.

          • Golfmother

            Grave robber if i wanted to play while driving i would stay home and toy with my PS3 , some of us prefer the germanic order in this world with classy finishes not crass.

          • Poison_Eagle

            Germanic order you say? Spoken like a true disciple of Mein Kampf.
            The interior is as sterile as your mind.

          • Sumpguard

            Too funny Poison Eagle. Thanks for the laughs.

               Goonmother’s idea of exciting is a rupture in his colostomy bag. 

             

        • Hot Hatch Fan

          As a Mk6 GTI owner, I do turn my head whenever I see an RS/RS265 on the road. I never liked the look of them, but they have grown on me. If I were to do spirited/twisties driving on a weekly basis, I’d have definitely looked at one more closely.

          However, I am not disappointed in the GTI at all. Love the fact that it can be made into a bit of a sleeper with a few mods, as with the other recent Euro hot hatches.

          • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

            I do agree that the GTI will never disappoint. It is an excellent overall package. 
            People say a big NO to the Megane’s practicality, but the truth is not so. If you are just 2 + 2 children then there is absolutely no problem living with one. It is firm I agree but you will get used to it and wont feel the level of stiffness.
             If the suspension is not not adaptive we humans should get to be. 
            One will get a GTI if they want 4 doors and good legroom at the front and back. The boot is much bigger in the Meg. 
            I will not compare looks coz  Megane will go down as one of the best looking hot hatches (only the RS versions I mean), nothing wrong with the GTI but nothing special as well.
            price wise both are the same and you get all goodies but a touch screen I guess.

  • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

    I think by the time VW produces a better GTI, Renault would have done the same..

    • Claude_defraud

      The Renault is a much newer design than the current Golf, which has it’s origins in the Golf mk5 (2003). So when your product is just an update/facelift of a 10 yr old car then at some point it’s only normal for the others to catch up or surpass it.
      Historically the Golf GTI is the best & most enduring hot hatch champion….and will continue to be so when the all new Golf 7 is released next year.

  • Noddy_of_Toyland

    I think I’d still rather a Proton Satria GTi, rather than that imitation VW.

  • The Real Wile E

    “Hands up if you still think you can only have fun in a rear wheel drive car”
    Well er I was actually thinking I could have more fun in a rear wheel drive car.

    • Karl Sass

      Exactly, all these cars would be even better if they were rear drivers.

      • gtrxu1

        Agree Karl,the rear wheel drive and pricing of Toyota86 is going to give these Euro hatches a sales pasting

        • http://www.bryanbyrtrenault.com.au/ Modern Man

          so the 2.0 naturaly aspirated engine tarted up celica is better due to RWD?
           
          It has near enough to exactly the same weight, power etc as a clio and spec for spec the same price. YET the clio is still quicker, grippier and even more practical with a bigger and better rear seat and a more accessible boot

          • Karl Sass

            If the Clio was available in FWD and RWD which would you choose? 

          • http://www.bryanbyrtrenault.com.au/ Modern Man

            the best one. RWD is heavier so would be blunted in performance

  • Stevo

    VW Golf GTI 6.9 sec to 100 hardly a performance car .

    • Glenn59

      Anyone can put the petal to the metal.  That is not driving in my opinion.  Hot hatches are about real world accessible pefomance that you can use and enjoy.  The Mazda MX-5 is almost universally acclaimed as a drivers car and had similar straight line performance to the Golf and a lot less torque.  As an aside one of the local mags tested the GTI against the new STI Focus and even though the STI is a lot more powerful it was slower than the Golf to 100 kph because it could not get the power down as well.   Good Hot Hatches are all about balance.of driving qualities.

      • Noddy_of_Toyland

        Petal to the metal hehehe

      • sleepsy

        Hot Hatces are about driving the mother in law and her shopping bags home a bit quicker than usual.

        • sleepsy

          Which in turns gives you more time to look on carsales and dream about real drivers cars.

          • Golfmother

            School boy dreams , we remember them , yours would be a bogan VS .

        • AMG63

          That’s funny.  Coz mother in law really enjoys hitting 80-120 quicker than your rwd V8.

          • sleepsy

            She has more delight seeing her shopping bags fly around due to uneven weight distribution.

  • Joe

    I have just spent the last 2 days and 250km driving a Focus ST and I just have to say that I love it! I agree with virtually all of this article’s comments on the ST, even though I think that the ST’s interior is much more exciting than the Golf’s and I found that the quality and feel of the interior was right up there with the Golf.
    Sure there is heaps going on, controls and buttons everywhere, and at night it can be a little overwhelming as there are lights everywhere, including red submarine lighting. But it sure does appeal to those who love gadgets and electronics, like me.
    Also, the Recaro’s are amazing and the steering is bloody brilliant.
    What really sells the ST, in my opinion, is that you could actually live with this car, everyday. It has enough happening to make it a serious Driver’s car and at the same time the rest of the family could drive it just as they would a standard model Focus.
    Also, having been burnt previously with sky high servicing costs, the ST’s capped price servicing at $330 every 12 months or 15,000 km’s really appeals to me.
    For me, basically, my heart would say RS265 but my head(and my pocket) says ST.

    • Golfmother

      Spoken like a true ford dealer .

      • Robin_Graves

        Spoken like a true VeeDud fanboy

        • Golfmother

          Funny it was so obvious a dealer employee talking , even you are more ethical than that .

          • over Golfmother

            Your a nob Golfmother go away. sick of seeing you on most cadvice pages. you comments S–K

          • Golfmother

            So glad i made your day dw , keep on truckin .

          • Guest34

            stop wagging school and learn how to spell.

          • Bob222

            I sometimes wonder whether either Golfmother, or Robin_Graves have jobs? They do spend a lot of time commenting here. They certainly have more spare time than I do…

      • Joe

        Yes, I am a Ford Dealer. I am also a Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Peugeot, Honda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Renault, Suzuki, Chrysler/Jeep and Skoda Dealer and so I am familiar with the RS as well as the ST. I have been a Dealer for over 30 years and have driven over 320 Company Cars in that time(including cars on Novated Leases) and I don’t mean test driven.
        My point is that it’s OK to be biased but it is better to be open minded and even better to know what you are talking about.

        • Golfmother

          So you know zilch about the golf and 2 days in the focus , wow .

          • Joe

            Hey Golfmother, I might know very little about the current Golf GTI (and by the way I have driven many Focus XR5′s and 1 Focus RS) but I have certainly traded in many GTI’s and the odd R and whilst they are good cars, almost every owner who traded one was glad to see the back end of it, and I am not aware of many GTI or R owners who have gone back for another one.

          • Golfmother

            Yes the answer i expected mr ford dealer after all thats why your here .

            I have gone back 3 times , got close with the XR5 but as i said , starwars dash and  lousy resale .

          • Joker

            Ha… Golfmother- I could only say the ST has a starwars dash… XR5 has a pretty simple clean layout. 
            If you’re a Golf Fan, good for you but VW are resting on their laurels somewhat. Engine needs more grunt. 
            PS. XR5/ST both sound better. 

          • Deoxygen8ed

            So Joe. I’m guessing you’ve forgotten skodas are basically vw’s. Can’t wait til you have to trade hose in. No one will buy another one!

  • coconut

    The dark horses will be hyundia and Kia.. cant wait for their take on hot hatch… good quality, reliable hatch with decent pricing – that will be a winner :)

    • Glenn59

      I am happy to be proved wrong on this but I think you will be waiting a long time?  The Japanese are brilliant engineers and they have rarely come out on top of this class.  I thnk the Koreans will take a few years yet?

      • Dave W

        The Japanese attempts are rather pathetic lately. You remember when WRX was king?

        • Hung Low

          I remember further back when the Integra type r was king.

          • Jonesy

            If you remember so much then why are your comments so dumb?

          • Hung Low

            Too much time spent with your mother does that to me.

          • Golfmother

            AH yes what a car , when honda had some bottle .

          • Dave W

            Since we’re talking about hot hatches, it would’ve been better if you mentioned the Civic Type R instead.

    • Kd

      I’m pretty sure the Veloster shows that they have a L O N G way to go

      • Hung Low

        Well they did have the S coupe once!

        • Gibbut

          please dont mention that horrible thing!

          • Noddy_of_Toyland

            And Tiburon, which isn’t a BAD drive per se, and looks alright, in an imitation Ferrari way.

  • Rocket

    Ford were building “fast small cars” back in the 60″s not the 80″s. Of course Gen Y would not remember GT Cortinas and Lotus powered Escorts.

    • Goldcoastbabyboomer

       Touche!…and spot on…but they cant be told anything sadly.

  • F1orce

    While all good cars..

    Why does it take them so long to reach 100km/h?

    IS350 does 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds

    • tw

      if you don’t know the answer then your on the wrong site

    • Able

      How much more money does a new IS350 cost? At least $10,000. 

    • Dejavu

      And an F6 would ruin that Lexus even more so.

      Why? Because they’re in two different car segments, just like these that you’re comparing.

    • qikturbo

      So you consider 5.7secs fast !?!

    • Jober As A Sudge

      IS350 would be given a lesson by all 3 of these cars around a track

  • save it for the track

    IS350 is not a hatch. Is not in the same segment, and as others have said, it’s not always about straight line performance. I also don’t believe the IS350 has achieved a Nurburgring laptime quicker than the RS265 either. I’m confident i would be all over the rear of an IS350 on a track in a Renault Clio RS200 let alone a Megane.

  • GotTheItch

    This review for both track and city driving seems to be reasonably well executed.. I test drove the RS265 (I had my heart set on it), the “normal” mk6 GTI as well as the IS250 (luxury option for me)… and my verdict WAS the RS265… UNTIL I found the VW GTI-35 edition with the 173kw “r” engine (that’s detuned for fnt wheel drive) that gives a much more comparable engine performance to the RS265, maybe even a nose in front… the dealer actually took me to the “backstreets” and suggested that I drive it like I stole it!!! it won me over in 6.5secs to 100kmh….so my suggestion is to “splash” out 3k more for the GTI 35 limited edition….and the GTI-35 also has sportier look both inside and out..

    • Golfmother

      Or just do an APR tune 188kw and 400nm , $1200 .

      • Monk

        Is this the much lauded stage 1 tune Legnab?

      • Monk

        If you wanted something impressive, you could save yourself a whole handful of $ and go for an XR6T – 270kW, 533Nm.  More room, less insurance, RWD fun – and the servicing is not akin to being bent over in a prison shower.

        • Golfmother

          I fleeting thought about one Monkfish , but the crappy resale , the need for  a fuel tanker to follow me , and the horrible taxi looks and bogan image turned me off .

          Insurance $745 pa , service 15,000km  $325 , i can cope with that , fuel easily at 7.7l ave .

          Overall i think i made the right decision , unlike the egg head who posted his big drive  in his FPV supercharged V8 doing 255km , hello , another reason not to be associated with that kind of driver .

          • Monk

            Horses for courses then. I like mine, you like yours.  Live and let live. 

          • Golfmother

            Agreed , merry xmas monk .

          • GotTheItch

            true… but context and demographics targeted for the XR6T vs any of these cars mentioned, not really horses for courses then is it? if the review was hot hatch vs V6/V8s then.. maybe? it would be interesting read tho… right?

          • Monk

            GotTheItch, you’re a fool.  You don’t understand the meaning of the saying, do you?

          • GotTheItch

            better to have not said anything than to remove all doubt… do you know the meaning of that saying? plus its an idiom expression rather than a saying.. but coming from an XR6 owner, did i really expect more? shame on me.

          • Robin_Graves

            You might as well ditch the insurance when they find out you have a Habib Davoren Park stage 1 tune. ‘Excuse me sir – you didn’t specify in your policy you have modified the engine – sorry your claim is declined’

          • Golfmother

            Mr worry wort ,not even the dealer can detect it

          • Jober As A Sudge

            Not much of a service centre if they can’t detect it

          • Monk

            I would have thought that plugging the car into the right laptop would show you the results of the flash tune straight away…

          • Golfmother

            Not with two different dealers on two cars , the old power chip showed up like red light, APR dealer says dont even take it back to std tune they wont see it .

          • Robin_Graves

            Bunghole you really should address your trait of believing salesmen. The ecu rom is encrypted. To edit or reflash a tune you need the encryption key. The dealer, insurance company etc can compare the md5 checksum against the stock rom. There is also a counter in the ecu to keep track of how many times a new rom been written to flash memory. Insurance company inspectors know every trick in the book and will go to great lengths to decline a claim. A lot of newer ecus even keep a buffer of data and in the event of a crash store all the parameters for analysis. Any turbocharged car in a write off will be scrutinsed for a way out of paying the claim. Good luck with that.

          • Golfmother

            Why then grave robber is it not showing up on the service report , at an authorised VW dealer .

            Zoom .

          • Robin_Graves

            Give them a reason to look and they’ll find it in a big hurry.

          • Jober As A Sudge

            Service centre should be able to detect the tune just by driving it. You can be damn sure your insurance company will search for it if you’re involved in a bingle and if not disclosed to them prior…goodbye claim.

        • Mohammed Smith

          Please …… some deep respect for the XR6T! It is a properly fast car, and I’d take one any day over the GTI or ST. The RS though is something else, and deserves it’s rightful place above the XR6T, WRX & Evo brigade …. simply put: it’s a game changer …. in the mold of the Focus RS. Honestly, this review has disrespected the Renault by running this comparo against lesser cars.

          • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

            Very well said, it should have been compared with the Focus RS, Scirocco, BMW 125 or 135i..

          • Realjarod812

            Well Said and should Also be said this was a hot hatch comparison. Pretty sure an XR6T is not a hot hatch.

          • Jober As A Sudge

            If you have a family…XR6T is the smarter choice

          • Golfmother

            Definately the best car if its a fat family 1700kg plus 5 fatties .

          • Golfmother

            My wife smells bad

          • Jober As A Sudge

            Good constructive comment there Legnab.

  • Grads

    Dear Jez, it is an absolute pleasure to read your article. CA needs more people like you.

  • GOLDCOASTBABYBOOMER

    NO PRICING?????????????

  • Mohammed Smith

    F # $ % R R R K !!!!!

           ………. the expression made by the drivers of these cars, as I blaze past them in my Evo IX  !

    • Guesst

       F#$RRRKN IDIOT is more like it

    • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

      Wollies parking lot was it?? jus kidding mate..

    • Glenn59

      The EVO would blitz any of these cars but it also lacks what makes any of these three brilliant.  The fact that they are easy to live iwth day to day and offer tolerable ride and comfort.  I know the handling of the EVO is absolutely amazing but it really is more a track day car than anything else in my opinion. 

    • http://www.bryanbyrtrenault.com.au/ Modern Man

      and the price differentiation is?????
       
      Seriuosly, if i had a lambo it would go better but once again, price.
       
      even if you get a great deal on a new evo it is still almost 20k more than the top spec rs265 let alone the base one tested and the other two.
       
      handling and power for money these still beat the evo and only when ‘worked’ will the evo ‘blast past’ the rs265 on a track.
       
      Also, most of the owners of these cars appreciate their vehicles and what they can do and have a healthy respect for more powerful cars so they dont try to be the drag light hero’s we tend to see from the STi/Evo crew. I know this is a generalisation but it is what we all see day in day out on the roads.

      • Dave

        Well said Modern Man! An RS265 is more than capable of ‘seeing off’ any evo or sti on track.

  • Sam

    The megane rs really is something else and in performance terms its just incomparable to the GTI and ST. The ST might be close on the road but on the track or a good set of twisties the gap will widen substantially as the RS shines. 

    I think renault really have to be respected for making FWD performance an actual serious alternative to the more established world of evo/sti and the 135i. You’d really have to step up to the 100k+ bracket to find something that will well and truly beat it in all key performance areas.

    Incredible car

    • Andyw

      Agree, but still better off geting a 2y.o. hot hatch with low kays and flashing/zorst/intake/swaybar to get simmilar track results at a lower cost, plenty to choose and you can get this for $25k

  • http://www.luxaproperty.com/ Luxa Property

    Thats right “IS350 is not a hatch. Is not in the same segment, and as others have said, it’s not always about straight line performance.” and I agree to most of the bits there, 

  • Salvy

    I just wish the 265 was available as a 5-door. Coupes just aren’t that convenient when you have little ones… I don’t know if I can bring myself to buy a focus ST either. 

    Definitely don’t want a golf. I find them too bland!

    • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

      hi savy, i would say the coupes are only convenient when you have little ones, but saying that I mean not kids who need baby seats, but once they can sit in normal seats they are the best ones to have on the back seat, cant have adults. The ST should be perfect if you are after 5 doors and practicality. If you are after an auto the GTI is a fantastic car.

      • Salvy

        Fair call CKS, but my little one is less than a year old and the plan is to have more.

        • Chaitanya Kumar Samardhi

          You are best of going for a GTI then. I liked the GTI and was in a dilema before i got the Meg. The GTI has all what one needs and you should be able to bargain and get a very good deal, at least showroom prices. I wanted to try the ST before I bought the Meg but it was just not available. The seat is meant only if your body structure is lean and the ergonomics was not great. 

      • AMG63

         …. or when you are an empty nester.  It may seem terribly uncool but there are those who no longer have kids at home who also are in this market

      • fusion01

         Our baby was born into a BMW 135i coupe. And never moaned. I think it’s all a big fassy about nothing. I now own a 3 door ST / XR5 and it’s a cakewalk.

        • Salvy

          Yeah, I’ve had a few people tell me similar things, Andrew. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna go out and buy the megane sometime over the next few months. Besides, wifey has a VW Passat station wagon which is officially the family car. I’ll be looking after the little one only two days/week on my own and I’m sure I’ll cope. The heart wants what the heart wants…

          …now to choose a colour.

        • Plentyful

          You must notice the big drop in performance

  • timo

    Drove the Focus ST the other day,,,, goes real well. . very quick… 184kw is obvious when giving it a good drive through the hills… will hopefully beat a dealer down on a new ford focus st price soon… aint paying what they ask for it on road

  • Neal

    Good luck Timo. I had a look at the ST the other day but it was already sold so I couldn’t drive it. The seats are really something you need to try to appreciate, just awesome. Overall I was very impressed with it.

    I had a first gen 3 MPS and MK VI GTI with APR Stage 2+ upgrades but still felt it was a little uninvolving with the DSG.

    I only drive on weekends though so I think something like a RS265 would be perfect, however having a 2 year old makes it hard with 2 doors. The ST might be the best compromise between the 2. The dealer toldme 43k on the road which seemed high give the 38k starting price. There’s no more available until March so I’ll have a think about it.

    • Salvy

      Hi Neal and Timo,
      I had a look at the ST again the other day and the dealer told me they had a deal on at the moment where you could drive it away for 38k. Pretty impressive price if you ask me! Unfortunately I just can’t get past its looks; I really, really want to like it but I just don’t.By the way, I have a little one (1yo) and I’m still considering the RS265, i figure it’s worth the potential backache (she’ll only be in there a day or two per week).

  • Rita

    What a weird way the wipers work on the ST. Why the hell did Ford mess with what works fore every other car? Would be distracting in the rain. Also it doesn’t have twin exhausts. It has a single outlet which is shaped in a peculiar way. Seems to be the trend these days with hot hatches.

    $38K dirve away isn’t a super deal. It’s a normal deal. You honestly think they would be losing money at $38K lol.

    $35K drive away is a good deal. IT can be done. I use to sell the older model when I was working for Ford. I know roughly what the margins are. Even at $35K they would still be making money.

    Anyone who pays over $38K drive away fro this car is a mug.

    • R1392

      i have had a megane sport225 and that car was just a great place to be!
      i have lost it when i sleep it and smashed it into a concreate wall,and i got a renault laguna coupe after that…and let me tell you both are nice place to be as far as comfort and performance !

  • Rita

    Geee if your worried about 18 months. give it 5 years and then we can talk.

    Also one 265 recently blew its engine during BFYB Motor review I believe  The only car to drop its nuts. That’s not a good sign for a so called performance car. No matter what you say French cars are rubbish and not reliable at all.

    I’d take the Focus ST of the Frog any day of the week. Times recorded by some testers have gotten the St down to 5.7secs 0-100. I’ve yet to see an RS 265 crack 6 seconds. The engine has a lot more lag than the Fords engine and makes it’s power and peak torque higher up in the rev range. Most testers around the world prefer the Focus ST engine over the Renault and for good reason, it’s a better engine making more accessible and flexible power.

    • rs265

      haha…renault haters! i also heard of some rumours that the wheels rolled off and a car actually flied, along with pigs in the sky! c’mon, renault sport tests their cars in n’ring…things will crumble at such high speeds. Focus, astra and others – they just copy imho. astra opc’s brakes fade, focus has torque steer, m135i is just not as agile (10secs slower than rs) – essentially, these are ‘hot’ hatches. renault sport is a real sports car. All these rumours about things falling off – started by someone in topgear…nice to hear though lol.

      • http://www.facebook.com/salvdp Salvatore del Popolo

        Dude, M135i set a Nurburgring lap time of 8.05, 3 seconds faster than the Renault. I’m in the process of buying an RS265 so I’m not bagging the Renault, just saying that your facts are wrong. The M135i is a pretty special drive indeed, if a bit bland looking.

        But Rita, I don’t where you’re getting your stats from. 5.7 seconds with the ST? Phhhht! I’ve read many reviews and comparisons and have not come across a single one that suggests it faster than the Renault. Plus, it looks like a carp.

  • Rita

    All day? Really? You have not driven one I assume. All day trying sub 6′s in a REX will leave the gearbox behind after the 5th or 6th attempt. They’re actually quite slow. In in gear acceleration stock for stock the new Focus ST would have a WRX for breakfast grasshopper.

  • Damien

    You want a classy hot hatch? If you want a classy car get a merc, bmw or something, classy is really up for individual opinion though. The Golf GTI may be marketed as being more classy, but really it just looks like any other hatch, and is not the best of the pack in any field, so you would just be wasting money.

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