With 266bhp and four-wheel drive, the subtle R aims to provide devastating all-weather performance in a practical shell. It’s available as a three or five-door, and with a six-speed gearbox in manual or twin-clutch DSG form.
Its rival here, the 301bhp Ford Focus RS, is less of a shrinking violet. The rally-inspired hatch is adorned with spoilers, scoops, huge exhausts and a muscular bodykit.
And while some buyers will be put off by its bold lines, there can be no argument about the performance on offer. The Golf and Focus are the Jekyll and Hyde of the hot hatch sector, but which one will come out on top here?