Hyundai i20 N: The New Pocket Rocket from Korea

2020 Hyundai i20N

Hyundai has just unveiled the all new i20 N hot hatch and it is the 3rd model in Hyundai’s N performance lineup. 

2020 Hyundai i20N

What is N?

N was created in December 2013 and, contrary to popular belief, N stands for Namyang where Hyundai and Kia test many of their new vehicles and not for the Nürburgring or the Nordschleife. Their initial involvement was in Hyundai’s WRC programme and they subsequently hired BMW M Performance’s former boss, Albert Biermann, in 2014. You can safely say Biermann moved on from M to the next alphabet, N. 

Cringey jokes aside, with Biermann now at the helm of N, he quickly set about creating high performance N models to satisfy the petrolheads. The first model that arrived was the i30 N and it was pretty well received, this was quickly followed up with the Veloster N and now the i20 N joins the N line up as the 3rd model to come from Hyundai’s High-Performance Vehicle & Motorsport Division.

Exterior & Interior

The supermini segment is an extremely overcrowded one. Think VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Mini Cooper and Renault Clio just to name a few. And all of them have got a high performance variant. In order to stand out from this crowded segment, Hyundai has once again applied their “Sensuous Sportiness” design philosophy and gave the i20 N some sharp creases all over the body panels. This design language is combined with Hyundai’s rallying heritage to give the i20 N some seriously sporty good looks. 

The front is dominated by a huge grille that bears the ‘N’ logo and a unique pattern inspired by chequered flags. The LED headlights look sleek and come with daytime running lights too. The rear light graphics that form a ‘Z’ motif looks especially good at night. The car also comes with a rally inspired roof spoiler that adds more visual drama, as does the single exit oval shaped chrome sports exhaust. 

Hyundai didn’t just spice up the exterior and forgot about the interior. They made sure to sprinkle some sportiness all over the cabin too. You’re first greeted by the leather-wrapped steering wheel that comes with two ‘N’ mode buttons in blue and a big red ‘REV’ button which you don’t see on the standard model. If you’re wondering, the ‘REV’ button turns on rev matching mode when you’re downshifting through your 6-speed manual gearbox, making you look and sound like a hero. The car also comes with sports seats with integrated headrest that is unique to the i20 N, N gear knob and N aluminium pedals.

Overall, the interior is a sombre affair but Hyundai did just enough to lift the ambience compared to its lesser siblings.

Features

The Hyundai i20 N is not short of tricks and cheesy-sounding features up its sleeve. For one, it has 5 different drive modes and they call it the N Grin Control System (not kidding). The drive modes include Eco (seriously?), Normal, Sport, N and N Custom. They adjust the parameters of the engine, ESC, exhaust note and steering weight to optimise the driving experience. You can also choose to mix and match and store it as your N Custom mode. If you’re a true petrolhead and you’re feeling heroic, you will be happy to hear that the ESC in the i20 N can be fully turned off. With Biermann in charge of N, I would expect no less.

The car is equipped with the Gamma II 1.6-litre T-GDi engine with Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) that generates a stout 201bhp and 275Nm of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. There is no option for an auto gearbox and thank god for that. It sends the i20 N from 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 230km/h. These are some serious numbers for a supermini.

As mentioned earlier, the car also comes with a rev matching function activated by the big red ‘REV’ button on the steering wheel. It also has a sound generator in the cabin to give it a fruitier exhaust note from inside the cabin. 

2020 Hyundai i20N

An optional extra is the N Corner Carving Differential (again, not kidding), which is Hyundai-speak for a mechanical limited slip differential. It is a torsen differential on the front axle that helps to distribute power evenly between the two front wheels for better traction and grip out of corners. Oh and did I mention that there is launch control as well?

The car comes pretty well equipped with a digital instrument cluster and an optional 10.25-inch infotainment screen that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen also provides a feature called the Performance Driving Data System, which helps to monitor and record your hot lap at the track to assist you in analysing and improving your driving skills.

Going fast may be fun, but being safe than sorry is equally important too. Therefore Hyundai has fitted their SmartSense comprehensive safety package that includes Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Forward Collision Avoidance (FCA), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Blind-Spot Collision Warning (BCW), Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA), High Beam Assist (HBA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning (RCCW). 

Ride & Handling

Hyundai didn’t just grab a regular i20, stuff it with a powerful 1.6-litre turbo engine, lower the car by 10mm, slap on some aesthetic add-ons and call it a day. The modifications done under the skin are quite extensive. 

Hyundai has actually reinforced the chassis at 12 different points to stiffen the frame so that the suspension can work better. The suspension itself has also been upgraded with reinforced front domes and knuckles. The geometry has also been altered for more negative camber to enhance the grip in corners. The anti-roll bar, springs and dampers have also been upgraded for a sportier handling. High performance brakes that are 40mm larger at the front also feature for increased braking performance, less fade and better braking feel. 

The steering has also been upgraded with reduced gearing to give it a more direct and agile feeling when turning in. The i20 N even comes with bespoke 215/40/R18 Pirelli P-Zero high performance tyres marked with ‘HN’ on the sidewalls which stands for Hyundai N.

Final Thoughts

From the moment Hyundai hired Albert Biermann as the head of their N Performance department, you know that they are serious about creating driver focused performance cars. The i30 N and Veloster N were both pretty well received and I am sure this new pocket rocket from Hyundai will continue this trend. 

Hyundai’s ‘Sensuous Sportiness’ design identity has started to mature and the i20 N is really quite a looker. But it isn’t all show and no go, as Hyundai has put in a lot of effort making sure the i20 N drives as good as it looks both on the road and on track. 

When it comes to power, the i20 N is definitely not lacking compared to other rivals and it can definitely give them a good run for their money. The only thing standing in Hyundai’s way is its brand cache. The N brand is a fairly new one and unproven, it’ll take time for people to warm up to it and start to see it as a viable competitor to the established brands. Hyundai still has got lots of work to do to convince people they are serious about the N Performance brand.

The i20 N is slated to go on sale in Europe from 1st quarter of 2021, however there is no news of a potential launch date in Singapore. Hot hatches in Singapore is typically a niche market, but if Hyundai decides to launch the i20 N in Singapore expect it to cost around $120,000-$125,000 with COE.

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