Hyundai i20 N – Car Dealers Magazine
Could someone check on Hyundai? They say the last 18 months have affected everyone in a weird way, but our new fixation with the anti-bac wipes and the two-meter distance doesn’t have anything about the sudden change in personality of a certain southern automaker. Korean.
I’m not talking about Hyundai and Kia’s pivot to producing truly competitive cars – that was over ten years ago, keep going. What took a little longer was for Hyundai to find its mojo: not letting its models sit like the simple Jane cousins of the Kia models written by Peter Schreyer.
So here we have the very first interesting Hyundai i20: a car whose previous unenviable role was not to overshadow the Kia Rio. The styling is certainly an improvement, as is the interior, but it’s not here just to be a cool supermini: we brought it to Wales because Hyundai kind of built a Fiesta ST killer, and on its first attempt.
As you will understand, this is the i20 N refined at the Nürburgring – following on from other models such as the i30 N, the i30 N Fastback and… oh that’s it. Dismissing its apparent lack of pedigree would be a mistake, however – Hyundai’s performance division isn’t exactly kidding.
Just as Kia knew its best chance for success in Europe was to hire a famous European designer, Hyundai looked for no one other than BMW M division star Albert Biermann – and just five years later it It is clear that the investment is paying off. Like its big brother, the i20 N has all the visual gems you’d expect from a screaming hot hatch – front and rear dividers, that all-important rear trunk spoiler, and of course the signature red trim and baby blue paintwork of the cars. N combo models. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like your performance car to blend in – and I’m one of them – this certainly sounds the part.
As you might expect, Biermann und das Team also spent a lot of time on the i20 chassis: the N sits 40mm lower than a standard i20, has firmer springs, and its delicate shell is reinforced and reinforced in all kinds of places to feel every part of the miniature M – sorry, N car. Under the hood, there’s a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder – a more traditional setup than the Fiesta ST and its emissions-friendly three-pot, with a more traditional soundtrack to boot. Some – not me – would say that Hyundai’s little engine note is a little less characteristic than the Ford’s, but ignore them – the ST’s pantomime boom is no match for the old one ( more) academic hoarseness of the N in my eyes.
Make no mistake though, the N is quite a modern hot hatch: instant power, a ridiculously grippy front end – aided by a Hyundai-designed limited-slip differential – and a firm, but not punitive ride.
Around Wales’ rolling B roads – and particularly in this business – the set seems almost tailor-made for the job at hand. Steering is precise with just the right amount of weight – as long as you leave the various modes alone, anyway – and avoids the tendency of some hot LSD-equipped hatches to feel totally unnatural on tight corners.
The springs and shocks, while a bit firm at low speeds, negate the peaks and ridges of the best Brecon Beacons’ tarmac, with a kind of smoothness you’d expect from a much bigger and bigger car. expensive than the i20. Hyundai also nailed the feel of the pedal, and for someone wearing size 10 Timberlands on a cold and humid Welsh morning, it’s a pleasure to find them no longer stuck dangerously close to each other.
All of this, of course, is fine for a day at the British oil tankers’ playground. Equally important is how the angry Korean little sedan stands up to the task of actually being a Korean little sedan.
Reader, I have surprising news: it’s not bad. Despite the garish exterior and the badge that may or may not represent the Nürburgring, the i20 is an easy going car. Jump inside and you’ll find a – well, if I’m being honest, a little boring interior. The gearbox is light and easy to use – not artificially ‘meaty’ for fun. The seats are comfortable and sporty, but unlike those on a Fiesta ST, don’t feel like the bolsters are trying to crush you in the block.
It also doesn’t instigate bad behavior on you like ST does. The Fiesta desperately needs you to crush your right foot into the carpet, but oddly enough, the i20 doesn’t – it’s not as hard on your attention in a way. This is probably the most surprising – and impressive – thing about the i20 N. Not only did Hyundai actually come out of nowhere with a fitting little hot hatch, but – loud exhaust and garish exterior aside – it’s one day perfectly usable today. And you know what ? It’s also the one I would have on a Fiesta. Now there is one phrase I never thought I would say about a Hyundai i20.
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