The N performance division of Hyundai continues to expand its range of production car by adding a third high-performance model, the rally-inspired i20 N, a small hot hatch that is set to compete with the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST, VW Polo GTI, and up to a point even the Toyota GR Yaris.
At first glance, the nimble little Hyundai is pleasing to the eye, its aggressive body design uses sharp but subtle lines, with the bumpers and skirts that remind you of its WRC counterpart doing a good job of highlighting the high-performance nature of the i20 N.
Under the hood we are treated to an equally tiny surprise, an all-new 1.6-liter turbocharged GDi engine that Hyundai says is “the first of a new generation to feature in a European model.”
The automaker loves to reference the WRC version of this car and it is proud to announce that the production i20 N has the same weight as the i20 Coupe WRC, 1,190 kilograms (2624 pounds).
It would have been nice if the two cars shared the same engine or at least power output but sadly, the i20 N’s brand new engine can only produce 204 PS (201 hp) and a maximum torque of 275 Nm (203 ft-lb), but the power-to-weight ratio is more than satisfying.
This car was not developed to break speed records, so it can only reach a maximum speed of 230 kph (143 mph) and can accelerate from 0-100 kph (0-62 mph) in 6.7 seconds, which is decent but more than a second slower than the much hotter GR Yaris.
The i20 N more than makes up for its apparent lack of power by offering a fun driving experience. The car feels more than powerful even at lower RPMs, delivering maximum torque between 1,750 and 4,500 RPM. If you need to quickly overtake, maximum power can be achieved between 5,500 and 6,000 RPM.
For the moment, Hyundai is only offering a 6-speed manual transmission, which is nothing but good news for those who prefer the traditional feel of shifting gears, but the 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission featured on the Veloster N might be added in the future.
The manual transmission has been upgraded and reinforced to cope with higher torque and features Launch Control to give drivers the edge on track days.
There is also an optional mechanical limited-slip differential to choose from the options list. It controls the power transfer to the front wheels by enhancing grip on every corner, and it has a fitting name, N Corner Carving Differential.
The i20 N features a reinforced suspension system, high-performance brakes, and its fitted with 215/40 R18 Pirelli P-Zero ultra-high-performance tires.
As we leave the hardware and get in the car, we are greeted by a surprisingly spacious and sporty interior. The N-specific seats have integrated headrests and the steering wheel, shifter knob, and pedals also get the N treatment.
The digital gauge cluster and AVN screen are well proportioned and include a bundle of high-performance features.
There are five drive modes to choose from: Normal, Eco, Sport, N, and N Custom. They change the parameters of the engine, ESC, exhaust sound, and steering. Moreover, custom presets can be assigned to the dedicated N keys on the steering wheel.
The performance N version is a whole different car when compared to the standard i20 but as we take a long look at the competition, we can say that we appreciate the effort and wish the new division luck for future generations.
It is a good car that performs well but it is more of a building block than a future legendary h0t hatch.