What is it?
This is the smallest, most lightweight and least powerful Hyundai N Performance car produced by the South Korean manufacturer.
However, it’s far from being the least exciting. Rather, it’s one of the best driving experiences from the relatively young performance brand.
After driving an Abarth 500 for the past 10 years, I have a list of improvements I’d like to make to the small hot hatch driving experience.
Now that the i20N has landed on Australian soil, let me explain why this particular hot hatch is so close to automotive perfection (at least in this category).
Build Quality4.6 out of 5.
The i20N feels like a quality product. If you go poking around the exterior of this car, you’ll find that the large rear wing refuses to flex, the exhaust exit sits firmly in place and the doors are fairly weighty..
Sure, there are some larger panel gaps noticeable around the hood, however it doesn’t detract from this little hatch’s appeal.
Inside, there are plenty of hard and scratchy plastics, paired with soft touch elements that are placed in major touch points. Despite the increased use of these plastics, there’s a satisfying and rich feel to the buttons, dials and screens you interact with in here. Additionally, there’s a clear absence of any squeaks or rattles, even when traveling over questionable Australian B roads.
How Much Does it Cost?5 out of 5.
$32,490 before on-road costs is what you’ll pay for this car.
Let me rattle off a few features that I find surprising to find on a car this inexpensive. There’s automatic rev-matching, two 10.25-inch displays, an active valved exhaust, two-piece bucket seats and - who could forget - launch control.
When quoting the price to those interested in this car, they were instantly surprised at how much this car costs.
It puts it alongside the Ford Fiesta ST and Abarth 500, but below the new VW Polo GTi. Really, the direct rival here is the Fiesta ST as the Abarth is a little outdated, and the Polo GTi isn’t seeking the thrills the i20N delivers.
Overall, it’s full marks for the price that Hyundai has managed to conjure for the Australian market. It’s well within the realm of affordability for those seeking a brand new performance car, and it rewards buyers with a plethora of standard equipment.
Warranty and Servicing4.7 out of 5.
Served up with a 5 year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, it’s a standard Hyundai product so far. However, unlike its rivals, you also get a track day warranty accompanying this period. Meaning, you can safely take your car to the track with additional peace of mind.
There are shorter service intervals for the i20N, at 10,000km between services versus Hyundai’s normal 15,000km service interval.
Under Hyundai’s capped price service program, it’ll cost you $309 a visit over 5 years or 50,000km of driving.
Noise Level4.4 out of 5.
Didn’t I get excited when I saw that the i20N featured BOSE speakers on top of what was sure to be an iconic exhaust note, seeing as this is an N car from Hyundai. These speakers deliver a richer and fuller sound than the base speakers Hyundai provides in their vehicles. Although, it does require a little more volume to overcome the roar of those Pirelli tires emanating into the cabin.
When cruising, that road noise can become a little too overpowering for some. If you’re cruising in ‘N mode’ with the exhaust valves open, the drone of that engine can become a little intrusive too.
However, that’s part of buying a car like this. If you want a cushioned experience, chase the VW Polo GTi. The i20N is in every way a proper hot hatch, putting performance and weight reduction first, over excessive creature comforts.
Braking4.6 out of 5.
This is where the i20N outshines the slightly more powerful Fiesta ST. The larger brakes make all the difference when trailbraking into sweeping bends (or avoiding hitting any wildlife on the roads).
There was minimal fade experienced after pumping these brakes over a series of twists and bends.
Although these aren’t a flash set of Brembo-branded brakes, Hyundai has honed in the art of creating capable discs. These are quickly becoming my favourite set of brakes, even if they’re only found in Hyundai’s cars.
Acceleration/Power4.3 out of 5.
Okay, so on paper, I was a little disappointed to see there wasn’t some detuned version of the 2.0L motor stuffed under the bonnet of this little rocket.
Instead, there’s a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder unit producing 150kW at 6000rpm and 275Nm between 1750 - 4500rpm. That’s 123.7kW per tonne!
I was unsure how this engine was going to perform, as it seemed similar to the 1.6L turbocharged unit found in a few other of Hyundai’s less performance-orientated cars.
How wrong I was to think this engine wasn’t going to live up to the N performance name!
The sound and rev-happy nature of this particular 1.6L motor was a pleasant surprise. It’s a fulfilling motor that provides peak power close to redline, allowing you to use your entire rev range.
0-100km/h times is claimed to be 6.2 seconds, using launch control. My best attempt saw a time of just over 7 seconds. Obviously I need some more practice getting a decent launch, however, the i20N does feel as every bit fast in a straight line as its power-to-weight ratio would suggest.
This is absolutely a fast car with enough torque to push you back in your seat. Yet, the power output here is low enough to be enjoyed without risking your licence every time you flat foot the accelerator.
Gear Shifting4.5 out of 5.
Only available with a 6-speed manual transmission, the i20N is going to be popular as a new hot hatch, and out in the used market. There’s no automatic version available at launch.
It’s a slick-feeling shifter, and provides satisfaction upon every gear selection. On occasion, shifts between 4th to 5th can be a little awkward, but I’m sure you quickly get used to the notch feel.
Automatic rev-matching helps blend downshifts, providing a far smoother driving experience compared to manual transmission cars without it. It’s easily toggled on and off, thanks to that giant red ‘Rev’ button on the wheel.
Additionally, the location of the shifter, raised and close to the steering wheel, helps with more rapid and effortless gear changes.
Suspension & Handling4.8 out of 5.
This is the lead over the i30N that the i20N possesses. As Lotus’ founder would say, “Simplify, then add lightness”. That’s what the i20N is in the N performance line up.
It’s nearly 300kg lighter than the i30N, and a whole lot shorter too. Compared to other small hot hatches, it’s wide, low and a little longer than those cars. This provides an exceptional front wheel drive cornering experience.
Suspension is firm, but it’s nowhere near backbreaking. It provides plenty of travel to translate a load of road feel through the wheel and chassis of this hatch.
Cornering is simply addicting. Pair these sticky Pirelli P Zero tyres with a finely tuned limited slip differential and you have a recipe for success. You could fool some passengers into believing that this is an AWD car as you lay down more power mid-corner. Where most front wheel drive cars would drag their front ends in understeer, the i20N pushes that outside wheel even harder to confidently tackle sweeping bends.
Part of the appeal of this particular hot hatch are N-branded buttons on the wheel. They’re customisable buttons that can jump between drive modes, custom modes and N mode.
There are three standard drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Don’t concern yourself with these modes, except for the fact the car will always start in Normal mode. N mode sets every part of the car from steering feel to engine tuning (except for the non-adjustable suspension) to its most aggressive setting. It’s a mode that’s not overly aggressive to drive every day, unlike the N mode found in the i30N.
Finally, you have custom modes, which allow you to adjust these elements from standard to sport or sport plus. It’s a fine way to tune the car to your tastes, and allows you to quickly jump into modes that better suit the different roads you drive on, or depending on which passengers you have in the car with you.
Fuel Efficiency3.7 out of 5.
Expect to see higher consumption figures the more you want to enjoy driving this car. Over 700km of driving, I saw an average of around 10L per 100km - a little above the claimed combined figure of 6.9L per 100km.
This car could have benefitted from a slightly larger fuel tank, meaning I visited the pump three times in a week, paying around $80 per fill.
Luckily the i20N can run off 91 octane, allowing you to choose the cheapest petrol for the week compared to some other hot hatches which demand 95 octane and above.
Interior Design5 out of 5.
Hyundai smashed the interior design of the new i20N. Visually, there’s a lot going on, in a good way. It makes the i20N feel like an upmarket and well thought out product, rather than something that’s based on an economy car.
What stands out to me are the long horizontal strikes in the dash, making it appear as if the air vents run the entire width of the car.
Additionally, for $32,000, you have two large 10.25-inch digital displays, providing a Mercedes-eque level techno-luxury experience.
I’m obsessed with the video game-like graphics that appear on the gauges throughout this car, from the way you can sink your teeth into information like throttle percentage input or what G-Forces you’re pulling in corners through to the Lamborghini-like animations between gear changes.
Oh and of course you can’t miss the way the driver’s display throws up a flaming animation to transition from normal drive modes into the full-fat N-mode.
A strange design choice was the commitment to blue stitching and colouring on some buttons in this car. Outside, there are red accents along the front, side and rear of this car (and on the brake calipers). However, on the inside, that theme changes to blue. It can feel like there’s a little too much going on with the colour choices here.
However, some exterior colours, like red, will delete those red accents If you really don’t want that clash.
Boot Size & Comfort3.6 out of 5.
Although the seats aren’t as aggressive as the lightweight bucket seats you’d find in the i30N, they are a comfortable and very supportive two-piece leather/suede set-up. There were hardly any issues in relation to long term back comfort over long road trips.
Add active steering assist and cruise control (yes, in 2022 the Abarth 500 does not come with cruise control), and it’s a relatively comfortable hot hatch. Dial back those aggressive customisable settings, and you have what seems like a normal Hyundai i20 to drive around in.
Rear seats are also fairly roomy, and can easily see four adults travel over long distances in the i20N. Add the fact this is a five-door hatch, and it’s a lot more relaxing to take passengers with you, rather than having to get out and fold the front seats forward.
Boot space is rated at a minimum of 310L with all the seats folded up (around 2 medium-sized suitcases). Fold the 60:40 split seats down, you’ll be able to haul up to 1123L of cargo - a practical size that’ll see a set of track tyres fit in the rear.
I also appreciate the cargo net that comes with this car, and a velcro strap that seems suitable for a fire extinguisher or large water bottle. Seeing that this car can easily pull 1G in a corner, you’ll need to secure those loose items or risk seeing them in pieces in the back.
Features4.7 out of 5.
Pick your jaw off the floor, as you’re about to see one of the best bang-for-buck performance hatches on the market today.
Alongside the Fiesta ST, you’re getting a lot for your money. From a BOSE audio system, to an active valved exhaust, there’s a lot to love about the i20N.
There are no options for this car, as it’s a one-model offering from launch. All you’ll need to decide is what color you’re going for? Personally, I think N performance blue or this particular shade of white goes nicely with the theme of this car.
- 1.6L turbocharged inline four-cylinder petrol engine
- 150kW at 6,000rpm and 275Nm at 1,750-4,5000rpm
- 6-speed manual transmission with rev-matching
- 10.25-inch full colour touch screen and driver display
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- BOSE speaker audio system
- Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
- Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA)
- Lane Keeping Assist - Line (LKA-L)
- Lane Following Assist - Line (LFA)
- Performance exhaust system with valves
- E-limited slip differential
- 'N mode' and drive mode buttons on steering wheel
- N-specific brakes
- Shift indicator lights
- Short-throw gear shifter
- N-specific body kit and aerodynamics
- N bucket seats
- N specific wheels
- Keyles entry and exit/engine start and stop
- Automatic headlights and wipers
- Leather and cloth bucket seats
- Reversing camera
Buy it, Consider it, or Leave it?
This is at the top of my “Buy It’ list when it comes to small hot hatches.
Apart from some very special, and more expensive small hatches like the Toyota GR Yaris, the i20N is the new benchmark for front-wheel drive hot hatches.
It’s lightweight, it’s packing power in all the right places, it combats understeer like an all-wheel drive car, it’s fully-equipped and it’s priced perfectly in the market.
You even get a space saver spare tyre! A necessity as I had to use it after lodging a bolt deep in the rear left tyre after filming this review.
It’s a shame that this car won’t hit large markets like the US, as it’d be talked about in the same praise as the Ford Fiesta ST was back in the mid 2010s.
The i20N is the car I’d personally buy today, if my job didn’t revolve around swapping and borrowing cars every week.
It fixes most of the issues I’ve grown to loathe after owning an Abarth 500 for 11 years.
A larger fuel tank, radar cruise control and a heads up display could be little additions to perfect this car. These are far from dealbreakers, and feels like nitpicking at this point.
I was expecting the i20N to be a little less exciting than the i30N, yet it appears to be one of the best cars the marque produces today amongst stiff competition.
About the author Cameron is our resident car expert. Aside being a source of knowledge about the automotive industry, he has also driven a wide variety of cars - from a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, through to a 1998 Toyota RAV4.
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|Warranty Distance||Unlimited kms|
|Drive Type||Front Wheel Drive (FWD)|
|Fuel Consumption||6.9 L/100km|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||40 L|
|Engine Code||SmartStream G1.6 T-GDi|
|Max Power||150 kW @ 5,500 - 6,000 RPM|
|Max Torque||275 Nm @ 1,750 - 4,500 RPM | Overboost: 304 Nm @ 2,000 - 4,000 RPM|
|Boot Capacity||310 L|
|Country of Manufacture||Turkey|
|Phone Connectivity||Android Auto (Wired), Apple CarPlay (Wired), Bluetooth and USB|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Telescoping (Manual)|
|Acceleration (0-100km/h)||6.2 seconds|
|Manufacturer Warranty||5 year(s)|
|Type||Halogen and LED|
|Headlight Features||Auto High-Beam Dip, Auto-Dimming, Automatic On/Off, Cornering and Delayed Off When Parked|
|Cruise Control||Speed Limiter|
|Parking Sensors||Front and Rear|
|Hazard Perception||Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Forward Collision Warning|
|Lane Assistance||Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Lane Keep Assist (LKA)|
|Speed Sign Recognition||Yes, read only|
|Kerb Weight||1,210 kg|
|Ground Clearance||101 mm|
|Built-In Navigation System||Yes|
|Heads Up Display||No|
|Digital Radio (DAB+)||Yes|
|Release date||Nov 2021|
- MPN: BC3.V1
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