i can vouch a little bit on this comparison, as two brothers i was very close too back in the day were mental Rocco fans, where as the rest of our gang were spread amongst Astra, Delta, Beta, Sud, Sprint fanatasism, oh, and one ford man so he never came close to anyone! ha ha!
in my experience, either Golf or Rocco, had to be a hot model to hold a candle to any of the Alfa, Fiat Lancia offerings, or even my own 1.3s SOHC Astra of 1981,
my 1.3s Astra would easily live with a Golf/Rocco 1600 CL base model, but a once it was a multipoint injection model, and hot variants like the Storm, GT/II, Scala etc, they did have the grunt whereas my astra was all rev's and youthfull enthusiasm!
however, a decent sud/sprint, my mates 1500hl Delta, would clear off from even a GTi motored VeeDub, and still live with the later 1.8 stuff too.
at which point if we came across a really sweet Golf GTi, GTII, Scala type thing, we had to rely on my mates Delta holding the fort until such time we could find Aiden and his well sorted Mirafiori, or Emerys Garage 1.7+ Alfasud, which simply anhialated everything i knew of, Bar None!!!
the rocco's were good, and i like them, probably because they look so much like a sprint to be honest, but offer me ANY rocco you like, or Julian's Sprint, and there is only one car that would grace my drive given that choice, regardless of what any magazine test may decide,.
the Sprint is a clear winner in the real world to me, and i've never experienced the difference in performance between them as already pointed at, it just isn't what happened back in my day.
as for crap headlights, i recall the VeeDub offerings weren't really any good either, and whilst on a dark country lane in the rocco, if you wanted main beam, the relay took so long to changeover, for a moment you were in pitch black darkness, far from ideal!
my tuppence said