Renault Megane RS265. Ford Focus ST.

Renault Megane RS256 Cup, from $42,640 plus on-road costs. 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol; 195kW/360Nm; six-speed manual; 8.2L/100km; FWD.

Ford Focus ST, from $38,290 plus on-road costs. 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol; 184kW/340Nm; six-speed manual; 7.4L/100km; FWD.Value

Renault: The French brand puts its focus (pardon the pun) on performance with the Megane. Equipment highlights include Brembo brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels and limited slip differential. Convenience items are limited to rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, auto wipers, four-speaker stereo system and Bluetooth with audio streaming.

Ford: Not only is the ST $4350 cheaper, it also gets plenty of creature comforts including keyless entry and ignition, Bi-xenon headlights, a reversing camera and the SYNC system that includes a five-inch touchscreen and satellite navigation.

Winner: FordInside

Renault: A no-nonsense interior with nothing flashy, just a small mono-colour display at the top of the dash and some faux carbon-fibre trim. The seats (which aren’t the sporty Recaros of the more expensive Trophy models) have good support but are firm. Small item storage is limited. The radio controls are only slightly less counter-intuitive than the old model.

Ford: The opposite of the Megane with countless buttons for the SYNC infotainment system, airconditioning and other controls. But once you get used to the controls everything is logically laid out and easy to use. There are also three small dials above the SYNC screen for oil pressure and temperature and turbo boost pressure for a sporty feel. The Recaro seats are a bit tight for larger bodies but do provide good support.

Winner: FordEngine

Renault: Wins the battle of power and torque but at the expense of higher fuel consumption; but if you’re buying a hot hatch, fuel economy might not be your top priority. For reasons known only to Renault the “Sport” mode button is hidden on the side of the dash and not clearly marked. Once you find it though, you unleash the full potency of this brilliantly flexible and responsive engine. It’s also quicker 0-100km/h (6.6 seconds v 7.0 seconds) than the ST.

Ford: It’s hard to believe this is the same Ecoboost engine Ford uses as a fuel economy hero in the Falcon, because in the ST it feels like it was built purely for performance. Although it is out-gunned by the Megane it has more than enough grunt for a hot hatch. Also wins points because, while optomised for premium unleaded, it can run on regular petrol; something the Renault can’t do.

Winner: RenaultHow it drives

Renault: Has the firm ride you expect in a hot hatch but the suspension is well resolved so it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. The steering is a touch light for a hot hatch but it is very direct and responsive. Where the Megane really excels is in the twists and turns. The RS has so much grip in the bends it feels like it is on rails. Brakes bite hard too.

Ford: Ride is slightly more comfortable than the Megane but still firm. Steering is nicely weighted and so quick to respond it can take you by surprise (in a good way). But while still a fun car to drive it lacks the on-the-limit performance of the Megane, especially when cornering.

Winner: RenaultPracticality

Renault: A big benefit of a hot hatch is the practicality that comes from being based on a hatchback. But the Megane RS256 is only available in the three-door model. That makes access to the tight rear seats difficult. But it does have a larger boot than the Focus (347-litres v 316L).

Ford: Although rear space is a bit short on leg and headroom compared to some other hatchbacks, the rear doors (the ST is only available as a five-door hatch) make access easier. The standard sat nav and reversing camera also makes life easier on a daily basis.

Winner: FordVerdict

Renault: If performance is your main criteria then the Megane RS265 is the pick. What it lacks is the practicality that you really want in a hot hatch.

Ford: Still a quick car, slightly more comfortable and bigger. It ticks all the major boxes for a hot hatch. Plus it gets more gear for less money.

Winner: Ford

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.