New Volkswagen Golf GTD Mk8 vs Ford Focus ST diesel: specs comparison

How does the new VW Golf GTD compare to the best diesel hot hatchback on sale?

There are many hot hatches to choose from, including the Renault Megane RS, Hyundai i30 N and Mercedes-AMG A35, and most come exclusively with powerful petrol engines. Diesel-engined hot hatchbacks are much less common, with only the Ford Focus ST, the new Volkswagen Golf GTD and the forthcoming Skoda Octavia vRS to choose from - although you could also compare these cars against the BMW 1 Series 120d and Mercedes A-Class A220d.

These cars may not be quite as rapid as their petrol-powered counterparts but offer much better fuel economy and don’t necessarily give up the hot hatch looks. They’re still quick - the diesel Focus ST and Golf GTD both hit 0-62mph in around 7.5 seconds. You can think of these cars as hot hatchbacks for higher-mileage drivers, and they’re a great alternative if you can’t justify the higher running costs of a petrol ST or Golf GTI.

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The Ford Focus ST diesel is on sale now, while the Mk8 VW Golf GTD is due in showrooms later this year. We’ve compared them based on the latest info to see which is best.

Exterior

The latest Volkswagen Golf has three ‘GT’ branded hot hatch options - the petrol GTI, diesel GTD and plug-in hybrid GTE. They all feature the same styling upgrades over the standard Golf but each one has exclusive badges and a different colour scheme - red, grey and blue respectively. As a result, it’s possible to tell them apart from each other.

Ford, on the other hand, makes the diesel Focus ST look identical to the petrol version; its pumped up styling provides no hint to what’s under the bonnet. Over the standard Ford Focus, the Focus ST brings bigger five-spoke wheels, grey front bumper inserts and a big spoiler, plus a couple of exclusive paint colours.

Interior

Sitting inside the new VW Golf is a real treat for tech fans, as nearly everything’s digital and the car is always online. Drivers look at a 10.25-inch digital instrument display through the chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel, while a 10-inch touchscreen controls all the infotainment and sat nav functions. Standard tech includes Car2X connectivity (communicating with other so-equipped cars), Apple and Android mirroring, and Travel Assist - allowing the car to essentially drive itself on motorways.

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Besides more supportive seats and the new GTD-badged steering wheel, the Golf looks a little austere compared to the Focus’ cabin. There’s contrasting red stitching and red badges dotted around, and racy-looking Recaro bucket seats. The Golf’s interior feels a bit more upmarket than the Focus’ but drivers of previous Focus ST models should appreciate the less cluttered feel and more soft-touch materials. Ford’s stuffed plenty of technology in too, including adaptive LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel and a rear-view camera.

Practicality

Part of the reason hot hatchbacks are so popular is because they offer fast thrills and plenty of family space. The latest Golf offers 380 litres of boot space - the same as its predecessor - and the Focus is a negligible five litres behind. This should be plenty for most buyers (and those also considering an SUV), but there are other hatchbacks that have bigger boots, such as the petrol-powered Peugeot 308 GTi and Honda Civic Type R.

The Focus ST is one of the few hot hatches to be offered as a more practical estate version, with both petrol and diesel engines available. It’s thought there’ll be a GTD estate eventually. The next-gen Volkswagen Golf Estate has recently been spotted in development.

Engines and driving

Volkswagen has given the new GTD with the most powerful TDI diesel engine ever fitted to a Golf. Power now stands at 197bhp (15bhp up on the last model), and there’s a choice of seven-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearboxes for the first time. With more power on tap, the new Golf GTD should be quicker than the old car, which manages 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds. A passenger ride in the new Golf GTI showed that the new model is agile and composed even at high speeds, and this should translate to the GTD too.

The VW has the edge in terms of statistics, as the Focus’ 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel produces 187bhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds. We’re yet to see how that feels in the real world but the Focus ST has a sparkling chassis and is great fun to drive. The steering is quicker than in a cheaper Focus, it sits 10mm lower and there’s clever suspension tweaks to make it stiffer and more agile.

Verdict

Prices haven’t been finalised for the GTD yet but we expect it to cost a similar amount to the diesel Focus ST’s near-£30,000 starting price. We’ll hold off giving a verdict until cash and PCP finance prices are known, and until we’ve driven both these cars. The Focus is likely to appeal to those who like their hot hatches to look super sporty, while the GTD is more understated inside and out.

Read our guides to the fastest hot hatchbacks of 2020 and the best used hot hatchbacks to buy.

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