This new entrant to the compact hot hatchback is not exactly going to pounce through easily when the dominant Polo GTi exists but it has a unique taste of specs that it is offering to the segment. For starters, it has a courageous look inspired by the Rally version of it and a six-speed shifter that we rarely see on new cars these days. It is not exactly following in the footsteps of the GTi, in fact it is doing what the Ford Fiesta ST has done with its 3-pot manual combo which is really sweet.
I know the i20 N was released several months ago but I couldn’t ignore it for the longest time since the i30 N seems to have a clinch on the Golf GTi but some people are blind to see that. Surely, its little brother can send out a message to Volkswagen and the rest of the contenders that it means business and will never back down.
Firstly, we should explore this rad styling they decided to go with because it is not something I would call subtle and at the same time, it is not all showy like the Civic Type-R. There is no balance of economical and sportiness because it is such an impalpable design for me at least, I’d still tolerate it in the long run. Hyundai states that most of it is inspired by the i20 WRC rally car and that it embodies their Sensuous Sportiness design. Not sure what to say about that but I think it’s just for marketing purposes.
Anyway, let us start at the front of the car which indeed has something sporty on it either than the angry looking LED lights, is the wide radiator grille with a chequered flag pattern with the N logo. Moving down lower is the lip spoiler in Tomato Red accents which continues to the side skirts and some parts of the rear bumper. The side profile looks sportier not only because of the aesthetics, but because the suspension has been lowered by 10 millimetres and in addition you have bespoke 18-inch alloy wheels in grey matte finish, wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero ultra-high-performance tyres and N-branded brake calipers.
I’ll tell you what’s not there for show and it’s the WRC-inspired roof spoiler which acts as a downforce mechanism to improve handling and you wouldn’t think that it is functional. The bumper has a diffuser-like design with a single exhaust pipe to the side for a much more distinctive look. There are six different colours to choose from and the first five I am about to mention come with an optional Phantom Black roof paint. There is Performance Blue, Intense Blue, Polar White, Brass and Sleek Silver, the sixth one is the all-body coloured Phantom Black.
The engineers developed a potent engine that should produce a decent amount of power to ensure the i20 N qualifies as a fast hatchback. So, they went the lightweight path by employing a 1.6-litre engine and turbocharging it to produce 201 hp (150 kW) which is 3 kW more than the Polo GTi but it has less torque than the latter at just 275 Nm. Not to worry because all that means it can do 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds depending on how good you are at shifting the 6-speed manual but launch control is there to assist you. Talking about the gearbox, Hyundai states that it strong enough to cope with higher RPM shifting when you are doing your hardcore driving.
The engine provides more power and torque at low RPM and it can take the car to speeds of up to 230 km/h. Overall, the car weighs at 1190 kg which should make it fast and agile. The turbo system is cooled by an intercooler and the water circulation of the engine. It has a mechanical limited-slip differential that works to provide maximum grip and agile handling.
It comes with five driving modes: Normal, Eco, Sport N and N Custom. Each drive mode will adjust the engine response, electronic stability control, exhaust sound and steering accordingly. N Custom can individually set all these features to work in the driver’s favour. Rev Match is available and reachable from the push of a red button on the steering wheel and it synchronises the engine to the output shaft and it allows for smoother and sportier downshifts.
This interior looks a lot better than the i30 N thanks to the Performance Blue accents used here and there to lighten up the cabin with an all-black head lining not helping that much. The sports seats have integrated headrests with the specific N steering wheel, shift knob and metal pedals added in place. There is a digital cluster and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the party piece feature is a variable LED red zone that varies according to engine oil temperatures and the shift-timing indicator.
Safety features include Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear-Cross Traffic Collision Warning and many more from Hyundai SmartSense.
There is still no word whether the i20 N will make its way to SA shores but there is some hope that it will because we are getting the GR Yaris which has almost the same aurora as the i20 N, so there is a good chance that it might come but it must be priced well.
Source: Hyundai i20 N Press Release