‘N LAYS THE WAY FROM SPORT TO THE STREET
By Derek Ogden, Motoring Brand
In automotive terms, the letter “N” primarily stands for “neutral” (i.e. go nowhere). But in the case of the Hyundai i20 N, nothing could be further from the truth. The manufacturer developed the compact by bringing the DNA of its world rally champion to the streets as a daily driver.
And there is little evidence to seriously doubt it. Powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine, mated to a six-speed manual transmission, the maximum output of 150kW is enough to take the hot hatch from zero to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds .
Based on the third-generation i20 hatch built in Turkey in Europe, the N version isn’t a stripped-down model on steroids. There’s a lot to admire when it comes to comfort and convenience for this class of car.
Opposed to the Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI and Suzuki Swift Sport, it offers an encyclopedic list of performance goodies. And the price of $34,990 plus on-road charges, which recently increased by $2,000, is nothing to sneeze at.
It is available in five different colors: Polar White and Performance Blue, at no cost; or Metallic Sleek Silver, Mica Phantom Black, and Mica Dragon Red, all for $495. A black roof adds $1000.
The rally-inspired look is designed to match high performance by minimizing drag and increasing horsepower. Up front the air duct and splitter look the part, while at the rear a rather jagged design is complemented by a sleek rally-inspired roof-mounted dual-layer spoiler which here looks more to an afterthought. Hopefully that makes up for the aerodynamic efficiency.
A black grille, based on a checkered flag, is dominated by the Hyundai badge and (you guessed it) the letter N. LED headlights on both sides incorporate tick-shaped daytime running lights.
Fog lamps flank a second grille strip at the bottom. The Whiz-bang wheel design, with red brake calipers sticking out from behind five 18-inch Y-spokes, put the finishing touch on the hot hatch.
Inside, it’s Ns all around, with letter-specific touches like leather-trimmed N sport seats with integrated headrests, leather-wrapped N steering wheel and gear knob, and pedals. sporty N alloy. The iconic red Rev button mounted on the steering wheel adds an alluring finishing touch.
Wheels pushed to all four corners of the car provide a spacious cabin, capable of carrying five adults in relative comfort. Front bucket seats provide ample support in the recommended enthusiastic drive, while rear shoulder and legroom can take on all but the bulkiest front row in a pinch.
Storage is king, with spikes in versatility. This is for example the case of a multi-level box with a movable floor, incorporating an integrated cargo net, in the high position. Lower the rear seatbacks 60/40 and you have a flat cargo area.
Removing the floor reveals a deep compartment despite the presence of a space-saving spare underneath.
Where do I start? The i20 N includes a plethora of computer-age automotive menus presented on two 10.25-inch digital in-dash displays, offering instrument information and entertainment.
In fact, there’s almost too much to take in. Included are worldwide track maps with lap times; Custom throttle response settings, exhaust note and stability control all accessible at the touch of two steering wheel-mounted switches.
Also at your fingertips is a red button that calls up rev-matching technology for optimized downshifts. The instrument cluster has a range of display functions. On a more relaxing note, the car is equipped with a premium eight-speaker Bose audio system.
MOTORS / TRANSMISSIONS
A 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol develops 150kW and 275Nm, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential that drives the front wheels.
Hyundai’s advanced Smart Sense driver assistance system complements an already comprehensive safety package with things like City/Intercity/Pedestrian Forward Collision Assist, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist, which warns when the speed limit has been exceeded; Lane Follow Assist, which keeps the car centered between lane markings; and Blind Spot Collision Warning, an alert when a vehicle approaches the driver’s blind spot.
Passive safety is in the hands of six airbags.
Fuel consumption (regular unleaded) of 6.9 liters per 100 kilometers is claimed by the manufacturer on the combined city/highway cycle. During the test, the lively hatch registered 10 liters per 100 kilometers and 4.7 liters per 100 kilometers respectively.
An N Power Sense axle up front and a dual-coupled torsion beam axle at the rear provide stiff ride and handling, which didn’t miss a bump on the ubiquitous uneven Australian road surfaces. Trackwork is more to the hot hatch taste.
Steering is precise and direct thanks to a reduced steering ratio compared to the standard model, while the limited-slip differential, together with the Pirelli P-Zero 215/40R18 tyres, developed specifically for the i20 N, allow the car to squeeze through bends efficiently.
High-performance brakes with larger front rotors resist fade, produce consistent pedal feel and maximize heat endurance.
Hyundai has put the brakes on sending the i20 N Down Under, with a full order book and wait times approaching two years, so the above chance to have fun and play would seem academic . Know what I mean? Say no more.