Hyundai’s N division is certainly flourishing in 2022, with the new i20 N joining the i30 N, i30 Fastback N, i30 Sedan N and KONA N. The i20 N is the first light hot hatch from the acclaimed N Division and is offered in a single feature-packed grade. The car is on sale now from $32,490 before on-road costs.
This particular example costs $33,985, as two additional options have been included. These are the Dragon Red Mica Premium Paint, adding an extra $495 and Phantom Black roof, adding $1,000. The i20 N Rally1 car currently competes in the World Rally Championship and the i20 N road car has an exterior design that’s inspired by lessons learned in the WRC. Having previously tested the brilliant i30 N, it’s a good chance to see how the cheapest N car compares to it.
Unlike Toyota’s GR Yaris, the i20 N has a more preferable low slung seating position for both the driver and passenger, with manual seat adjustment. Premium, cloth-trimmed sports bucket seats in the i20 N feature pronounced bolstering that hugs front occupants’ thighs and waists. N logoed fixed headrests and Performance Blue stitching with chequered flags feature on the front and rear seats. Speaking of N logos, they can also be found on the side sills, gear knob and steering wheel. There is a leather-wrapped steering wheel that is manually adjustable for tilt and reach with N buttons, a red REV button for rev matching and Performance Blue highlights and stitching. A leather-wrapped gear knob, manual handbrake and alloy sports pedals are also included. A perfect driving position can be found, with reasonable head and leg room for all occupants. Back seat leg room is another area where the i20 N is superior to the GR Yaris. There’s plenty of room for drink bottles, with cup holders in the centre console and in the front and rear doors. In the front, there’s two USB ports, a 12V socket and wireless phone charging, while in the rear there’s only a single USB port. The driver can change between three different layouts for the instrument dials on the 10.25-inch colour Supervision digital driver’s cluster, depending on their individual preference. Included is a 10.25-inch satellite navigation infotainment unit featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. In the i20 N, there’s a spacesaver wheel included and 310 litres of boot space, increasing to 1123 litres with the 60:40 rear split seats folded down. A dual-height boot floor allows for a flat floor configuration for longer items, or a deep floor for taller items.
As mentioned earlier, this example is finished in Dragon Red Mica Premium Paint, with the optional Phantom Black roof. The i20 N is available in a choice of five solid, metallic and mica shades including Polar White, Sleek Silver, Dragon Red, Phantom Black and Performance Blue. The front grille has a unique chequered flag design with a prominent N badge. Dragon Red cars get a gunmetal front lip/rear diffuser insert, while all other exterior colours get red inserts. The front bumper bar has an aerodynamic design and features functional side vents and fog lights either side. Looking at the side of the i20 N, there are black side skirts with N badging and the fuel flap is integrated into the rear light design on the passenger side. Painted red brake calipers with the N logo are found on the front axle and give the car more of a performance look. The rear of the car has a dual level rear spoiler, which reduces drag as well as the lift generated from the short overhangs when moving at high speeds. There is also a lower black rear diffuser with an integrated triangular N fog lamp, an i20 N badge on the hatch and a large oval outlet for the variable exhaust. LED headlights and taillights compliment the i20 N’s aggressive front and rear design. The 18-inch alloy sports wheels are wrapped in Pirelli P Zero HN tyres; 215/40/18 profile front and rear. Brakes discs are ventilated at the front, measuring 320mm in diameter, while at the rear there are solid discs, measuring 262mm in diameter.
The i20 N is packed with convenience, connectivity and SmartSenseTM safety technologies including Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, City/Urban/Pedestrian camera, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Following Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Parking Distance Warning, Front & Rear and Rear View Camera. Also included is a Bose eight-speaker audio system, DAB+ digital radio, wireless (Qi standard) smartphone charging pad, a Smart key with push button start and climate control air-conditioning. There’s rear privacy glass, LED headlights and DRLs as well as front, front side and curtain airbags. New to N Performance is N Road Sense, a sign-reading function that can detect road signs indicating curves ahead and recommends the driver switches to N mode. A new Track Maps feature debuts in the i20 N and automatically alerts you when you’re near a compatible race circuit, automatically running the lap timer as you cross the start/finish line.
The drive modes are activated by using the Drive Mode switch located near the gear shifter. There are six different drive modes to choose from in the i20 N ‘N Grin Control’ including Eco, Normal, Sport, N Mode, N Custom 1 and N Custom 2. There are five pages to toggle through on the 10.25-inch digital driver’s cluster, when using Eco, Normal or Sport Mode. Page 1 has the driver attention system and settings and Page 2 has oil and engine temperature (°C), turbo (bar) torque (Nm), a stopwatch and g-force. Page 3 has the drive information (current trip kilometres, fuel use in litres/100km, time driven in hours) since refuelling (kilometres, fuel use in litres/100km, time driven in hours), accumulated information (kilometres, fuel use in litres/100km, time driven in hours), auto stop and a digital speedometer. Page 4 has a compass and Page 5 has tyre pressures (psi). When N Mode is selected, a ring of fire surrounds the tachometer, with readouts for oil and engine temperature (°C), tyre pressures (psi), turbo (bar), torque (Nm), a lap timer and g-force. In the infotainment unit, the driver can access further information by tapping on N Mode, including throttle percentage, oil and engine temperature (°C), a lap timer, brake pressure, g force and launch control. When in N Custom 1 or N Custom 2, the driver can have Engine in Normal, Sport and Sport+, Steering in Normal, Sport and Sport+, Rev matching in Normal, Sport and Sport+, ESC in Normal, Sport and Sport+ and Exhaust sound in Normal, Sport and Sport+.
Driving impressions and performance
The i20 N is powered by a SmartStream 150kW, 275Nm turbocharged 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine with an overboost function, driving the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox and mechanical LSD. It’s closely related to the unit found in the i30 N Line, but features a bespoke turbocharger, intercooler and water pump system as well as a 350-bar high pressure fuel injection rail. The engine feels a bit more responsive than the unit found in the i30 N Line and due to its active variable exhaust, the i20 N certainly has the louder exhaust of the two cars when N mode is selected. The engine does its best work from around 2,000rpm all the way through to the redline. When N Mode is selected, the variable exhaust gives a few pops and bangs on the overrun. It does sound a lot sportier in this mode, but for city driving I’d be more inclined to use Normal Mode. Like the i30 N, the i20 N gives an addictive surge of power and the six-speed manual is a joy to use, with the addition of a reinforced clutch, upgraded friction materials and redesigned synchros. The i20 N completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in 6.7 seconds with launch control, comparing favourably to the 6.1 second 0-100 km/h time achieved by the more powerful but also heavier i30 N that was previously tested. It achieves combined fuel consumption figures of 6.9L/100km and has a 40 Litre fuel tank.
A small issue is the i20 N’s eagerness to ‘rev hang’, where revs would rise when changing up the gears, causing some frustration. I’ve driven a lot of cars equipped with manual gearboxes and this is the first time this has been experienced, sometimes reminding me of a slipping clutch, which I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing a couple of times. Hopefully this will be improved in later models.
The car is at its best when using N Custom 1, with the Engine in Sport+, Steering in Normal, Rev matching in Sport+ (turned off), ESC in Sport+ (traction and stability control turned off) and Exhaust sound in Sport+. When using this setup, as far as putting the power to the road is concerned, the i20 N is very similar to the i30 N Line Sedan. When exiting a sharp corner under heavy throttle and even with traction and stability control turned off, the car has no problems putting its power to the ground through its Pirelli P Zero HN tyres. There’s also minimal understeer when pushed hard and although torque steer is present, it’s never at unsafe levels. Due to some turbo lag, the best way to drive the car is to get on the throttle just before the apex of the corner and then use the Torsen mechanical limited-slip differential and boost to slingshot you out of the corner.
The i20 N really shines on the tight, twisty roads and being only a lightweight car at 1210kg, change of direction is a real highlight. There are reinforcements at 12 points around the monocoque, along with additional welds and new bolt-in underbody structures that give the i20 N increased rigidity. The i20 N comes with a Namyang and Nürburgring-honed suspension package but with fixed rate dampers. The car’s ride quality is for the most part good, however the Torsion Beam Axle in the rear feels too firm and unforgiving over large undulations and dips in the road. Electric steering is best in Normal Mode and it feels like in Sport and Sport+ that the driver gets artificial steering weight rather than steering feel. It’s weighting and feel are spot on in Normal and the other modes add unnecessary weight to the steering.
Brakes are excellent and combining upsized disc rotors with high friction brake pads and an enlarged brake master cylinder gives the i20 N a highly responsive and fade-free brake package. Air vents are built into the front knuckles further aiding airflow and brake cooling. Unlike some of the new cars tested, the i20 N remembers your custom settings when you turn the engine off and then start the car up again at a later time. All N Custom settings are remembered and don’t need to be reset and if you turn the lane keeping assist off it also stays off.
The i20 N’s main competitors are the Ford Fiesta ST ($32,290) and Volkswagen Polo GTI ($35,310). The 2022 Hyundai i20 N is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. It requires servicing every 12 months or 10,000km, whichever comes first. The first five services are capped at $309 each.
It’s great that these lightweight but relatively powerful cars are still being built and shows that there are still cars out there for the driving enthusiast. The only issues for me are the rev hang and stiff suspension over large undulations in the road. Aside from that, the i20 N is fast, safe, well equipped, with a perfectly matched engine and driveline. Hyundai’s i20 N certainly deserves its N badge and is a worthy addition to the current N range of models.
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