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Hyundai i20 N (2020 - )

This is a racetrack-capable hot hatch with real attitude.

Starting price:
£26,230

Why we love it:
  • Great handling on winding roads
  • Punchy engine and a superb manual gearbox
  • Competitively priced for a hot hatch
Where it could be better:
  • Lacks dynamic styling of some rivals
  • Wide pillars block over-the-shoulder view
  • Boot is quite small

Introduction

Hyundai i20 N

Take Hyundai’s popular supermini and give it some high-performance handling and the result is the i20 N. 

Any of the Korean carmaker’s line-up featuring the N label deliver extra dynamism and this model takes its inspiration from the i20 WRC rally car. This is a racetrack-capable hot hatch with real attitude.

With stand-out design cues to help distinguish the car from its tamer sibling - the i20 - the N model gains a high-performance turbocharged 1.6-litre GDi engine and a re-engineered gearbox to cope with higher RPM, this model is not for the faint-hearted as the performance figures show.

But, at almost £7,000 more than the standard i20, does it have enough to attract buyers to splash the extra cash.

Hyundai i20 N

The Hyundai i20 N certainly boasts a strong road presence. It looks like the standard i20 has been taken away and kitted out for a scene in a Mad Max movie. 

Eye-catching features on this five-door hatchback include a front end dominated by a bumper with a larger air intake for the turbo engine. The wide radiator grille finished in a gloss black shade houses the N logo and features a unique pattern that is inspired by a chequered flag which is a nod to this car’s racetrack capability.

There are full LED light clusters, darkened tail lamps, a shark fin antenna, a rear spoiler with integrated brake light, plus 18-inch matt grey alloy wheels with red brake calipers and Pirelli tyres.

Moving inside, the cockpit is also race-inspired with body-hugging sports seats featuring integrated headrests, an N sports steering wheel and metal pedals. There are lots of Performance Blue accents and a smart 10.25-inch infotainment screen. This is the access point to the many on-board systems, such as the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connection, sat nav, radio, plus the rearview camera. 

Creature comforts include heated seats crafted from a mixture of cloth and leather upholstery with Performance Blue stitching, along with a heated steering wheel and ambient lighting.

The 10.25-inch driver information display offers all the important driving data and is vital to keep an eye on your speed. And it’s always good to see a separate panel with physical controls for the air con set-up which helps avoid driver distraction compared to fiddly drop-down touchscreen menus.

On The Road

Hyundai i20 N

Handling & Performance

Powering the front-wheel drive i20 N is a new-generation four-cylinder, 1.6 T-GDi turbocharged petrol engine delivering 204PS and 275Nm of torque. With 1,190kg of weight in line with the Coupe WRC model it’s based upon, the power-to-weight ratio is one of the best in class. If you need further proof, the i20 N can complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 6.7 seconds and maxes out at 142mph.

The acceleration out the starting blocks is instant at the first sign of throttle pressure and the power keeps on coming. It feels really fast on the road with nicely weighted steering offering ample driver feedback.

Grip levels are confident no matter how hard you push the car into tight bends and there are drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport to alter the driving characteristics of the vehicle. Sport is obviously the most fun and it also cranks up the volume slightly for added appeal. In addition, there are N and N Custom buttons, along with Launch Control set-up that sharpen up the handling even more, along with a red REV button on the steering wheel. Press this and it allows smoother or sportier downshifts depending on the drive mode.

With stiffened suspension, the ride is not surprisingly firmer than on the standard car. And it’s so nice to have a manual gearbox which is quite a rarity these days. That way the driver can keep the revs high for sharper shifting and added engagement.

Hyundai i20 N

Space & Practicality

Another plus point in the i20 N’s favour is that despite all the grunt, power and performance, the vehicle still delivers on the day-to-day practicality front.

Admittedly, the i20 is a pretty compact hatchback anyway, but the i20 N offers just as much passenger space front and back. 

It measures 4,075mm in length, is 1,775mm wide (excluding the mirrors) and has a wheelbase of 2,580mm. Up front, there is plenty of seat adjustment so a couple of six-foot-plus occupants can sit comfortably, although the sporty demeanour of the car results in exceptionally body-hugging seats.

In the back, there is a good amount of knee room, provided the front seats are not pushed too far back. Although three passengers would feel really cramped, it’s ideal for youngsters and there are Isofix fixtures to secure child seats.

When it comes to storage, the boot is not as generously sized as some competitors with a capacity of 352 litres, a limit that increases to 1,165 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. And elsewhere, there are numerous storage compartments throughout the car, including a glovebox, an area beneath the front armrest, a single seat back pocket, very narrow front cup holders that you simply wouldn’t risk to carry a hot coffee and some trays.

Ownership

Hyundai i20 N

Running Costs

Anyone liking the look and appeal of the Hyundai i20 N will need to dig deep to find the extra £7k fee above the standard i20, but they will not be disappointed with the result thanks to its sporty demeanour and handling to match.

According to official figures, under WLTP testing, the i20 N can deliver a combined 40.4mpg with carbon emissions of 158g/km. That fairly decent fuel efficiency figure for a hot hatch could fall quite dramatically if the vehicle is driven with too much enthusiasm too much of the time.

The CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty (or road tax as it’s commonly known) charge of £645 dropping to the standard £180 fee after 12 months. And for anyone considering the i20 N as a company car, don’t expect too much tax relief as it sits in the worst Benefit in Kind category for 2023/24 at 37 per cent. The vehicle, as tested, sits in insurance group 27.

However, on the plus side, the Hyundai i20 N is priced very favourably compared to its closest competitors.

Verdict

Mention hot hatches and people quickly think of the Ford Fiesta ST, VW Polo GTI and even the Toyota GR Yaris. Not many people consider the Hyundai i20 N and that’s a real shame because this car is very well priced, is big on style and very big on performance.

Sometimes it’s worth thinking outside the box and if you’re in the market for a great compact hot hatch, this could be the perfect time to adopt that policy.

By Maxine Ashford
Jun 22, 2023

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