We've chosen to represent the latter here with the Subaru BRZ, a giggle of a car if ever there was one. And to represent the former, our trusty Megane 265 Cup long termer - about as sharp as a hot hatch gets. But standing twixt Subaru and Renault dealerships, with a hypothetical £25,000 burning a hole in your pocket, which way would you turn?
Jumping into the BRZ first you need to look past a slightly confused mass of curves and angles, not to mention plastics that'd feel more at home in a Hyundai Accent circa 1997. But it all feels solid. And the driving position is inherently sporty, placing your backside low down and your legs stretched out.
Off the line
That said, it goes without saying that it simply doesn't stand a chance against the Megane in a drag race. The Renault's engine is a corker. Power comes brutally and near-instantly, in any gear, accompanied by an ethereal whoosh from the turbo. Occasionally, if you're lucky, it'll even reward you with a subtle pop as you lift off for a gearchange. Fast? Oh yeah, it's that - and devastatingly so.
That changes once you hit some corners, though. It's not that the BRZ doesn't feel well set up; it's just clearly not been designed with ultimate pace in mind. It's still quick in the dry, though, with a chunky, stable feeling that inspires confidence, and plenty of grip to boot. It's still a stretch away from being able to keep up, though, as it simply doesn't have the power to drive it out of corners in quite the same way.
In the wet, however, there's no comparison. The Megane blats off down the road, immersing you in the experience, ducking and diving into the next corner and strong-arming its way out with such consummate ease that a stolen glance at the speedo results in widened eyes. Meanwhile, the BRZ's still somewhere two corners back, slithering around and trying to go sideways instead of forwards. "Nope, that ain't happening," it says, as you feed in the throttle. "But look - I can do big skids instead!" It isn't as quick as the Megane, then - but it doesn't half make you grin.
So which is the victor here? Fast, or fun? Well, let's face it: the conclusion to this test was never going to be 100 per cent definitive because it depends on so many subjective variables. If you want nerve-tingling power, astonishing grip, and an all-out adrenaline rush - not to mention, bragging rights - you'll buy the Renault and live with its deficiencies.
SUBARU BRZ 2.0I SE
Engine: 1,998cc flat-4, direct injection
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 151@6,400rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 sec
Top speed: 140mph
MPG: 36.2mpg (combined)
Price: £24,995 (OTR, before options)
RENAULT MEGANE RENAULTSPORT 265 CUP
Engine: 1,998cc 4-cyl, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 265@3,000-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.0 sec
Top speed: 158mph
MPG: 37.7mpg (combined)
Price: £25,245 (OTR, before options)
Photos: Prime Exposures