Hyundai i20 N review
The i20 N is the go-faster performance version of Hyundai’s popular supermini. It’s great fun on a twisty road, even if its steering is a bit too heavy, but its looks might be a bit challenging for some.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Hyundai i20 N
The new i20 N is the punchy performance version of Hyundai’s popular, practical supermini. And just like any good Game of Thrones character, its sole purpose in life is to topple the excellent Ford Fiesta ST from its throne, and crown itself king (or queen) of the affordable hot hatchback kingdom.
It’s certainly got the weaponry to help it win that battle. For starters, it looks like it’s out for a fight – it’s all big chin spoilers, body kits and wings here. Depending on your tastes, you might even think the i20 N is a bit too aggressive looking – particularly when you compare it to the more subtly-styled Fiesta ST.
But you just as easily might love its amped-up appearance, and that’s fine too. Those looks certainly make for a contrast with the interior, anyway. Open the door and you’ll find it’s a bit more relaxed on the inside, even if some vivid blue bits of trim and chunky bucket seats are giveaway signs that this is still the go-faster version of the i20 N.
Those chairs are comfy and hold you snugly in place through fast corners, and the driving position is pretty spot on too. There’s also a good amount of space in the back, and the boot has 352 litres of space, which is way more than the Fiesta ST.
You get a load of equipment as standard too, such as heated front seats, a wireless charge pad, automatic lane-keep assist and regular cruise control. Also in the mix is a sharp 10.3-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
But the main attraction is obviously everything that’s going on beneath the skin. For starters, it’s 1.6-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine packs a wallop: kicking out 204hp and 275Nm. That’s more power but less torque than what you get in the hot Fiesta.
Launch it from a standstill, however, and you’ll hit 60mph in 6.2 seconds – which is (just) quicker than the Ford can manage. It feels fast on the road too, even if it doesn’t sound quite as good as you might like.
The i20 N is a fun little hot hatch that packs a hefty punch. The weighty steering feels a bit odd to me, though.
Visibility is decent enough, and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera help make it a easy to park too. The steering is heavy though – particularly in the sportier drive modes – and you might find you don’t like this meaty sense of weight so much.
Elsewhere, its suspension and bodywork have all been stiffened up to make it even pointier and more fun on a twisty road, and there’s a limited-slip differential to give you even more grip through corners. Then there’s the beefier brakes, and a range of customisable drive modes to play with too.
But even though it’s been set up for driving thrills, the i20 N is still comfy enough to use around town every day. The ride is firm, for sure, but not as firm as what you’ll find on the Fiesta ST or hotter versions of the Mini 3-door. That said, the more agile and engaging Ford is still the car to go for if outright driving fun is what you’re after.
Ultimately the Hyundai i20 N doesn’t quite usurp the Fiesta ST, but it’s still an entertaining, feisty hot hatchback with impressive practicality and an exciting attitude that will appeal to many. The Fiesta ST might be that bit sweeter to drive, but it’s the Hyundai that trumps it for everyday usability and practicality.
So if that sounds like your kind of hot hatch recipe, head on over to our Hyundai i20 N deals page to see how much you can save through carwow.
Check out our Hyundai i20 N v Fiesta ST v Polo GTI group test review:
The i20 N is a small car, but there’s still decent enough room for passengers in the back, and the boot is a good size.
No real complaints as far as front-seat comfort is concerned. The chairs themselves are nicely bolstered and keep you snug and supportive on twisty roads, and it’s easy to get set-up comfortably behind the wheel.
Those in the back won’t have too much to worry about either. The i20 N is obviously a small car, but taller adults will find the second row suitable for short-to-medium-distance trips; and kids will fit in just fine.
Storage space is decent enough. Large door bins will swallow up bigger drink bottles with little fuss or bother, and the two cupholders in the centre console are a welcome feature, too.
There’s a reasonable amount of storage under the central armrest, and the little tray in front of the gear lever is a perfect place to stash away your phone. The glovebox is on the small side, though.
Compared with the Ford Fiesta ST, the Hyundai i20 N hits it out of the park as far as boot space is concerned. It musters up an impressive 352 litres of storage space, while the Fiesta can only manage 292 litres.
You can lower the boot floor to free up a bit of extra space for taller items, or raise it up to make the load lip a bit smaller. The rear seats fold down too, and if you remove the parcel shelf you’ll free up 1165 litres of storage space.
The i20 N is fun and fast on a twisty road, but the Ford Fiesta ST is a more delicate and entertaining hot hatchback.
Just one engine is available with the special performance version of the Hyundai i20. It’s a 1.6-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder, and it drives the front wheels through a slick six-speed manual gearbox. At the moment, there’s no option of an automatic gearbox.
This punchy little motor produces 204hp and 275Nm, and will cover off the 0-60mph dash in just over six seconds. It feels really quite quick out on the road, and the abundance of low-down torque means it’s easy to set off from a standstill.
So it’s just a bit of a pity that it doesn’t sound quite as good as the rorty three-cylinder engine you’ll find under the bonnet of the Ford Fiesta ST. It just sounds a bit harsh and synthetic in comparison, which probably has a lot to do with the sound generator system that pumps fake engine noise into the cabin when you accelerate. The exhaust does make some cool little pops and crackles when you lift off the throttle, though.
With a healthy extra dose of performance, you can’t expect it to be quite as economical as the engines in the regular i20, though. That said, it doesn’t perform too badly at all on this front. Hyundai reckons you’ll be able to average around 40mpg in daily driving, but we’d say you should expect to see closer to 30mpg.
These sorts of hot hatchbacks often have a reputation for being a bit too firm and relentless when you drive them around town or down a bumpy country road, but the i20 N isn’t too bad at all. Sure, it’s still an aggressive-feeling car; but compared with the occasionally hyperactive ride you get in the Ford Fiesta ST, this slightly more relaxed attitude is definitely welcome.
It stays decently comfortable out on the open roads and the motorway too, even if there’s a fair bit more road noise to contend with. It only gets regular cruise control instead of adaptive, which is a bit of a shame; but automatic lane-keep assist is on hand to take some of the strain out of longer drives.
But as usable as it is on the motorway and around town, it’s on a twisty B-road where the i20 N is at its best. Here it feels really athletic, with a pointy front end that darts into corners, and plenty of grip thanks to its limited-slip differential.
It’s a fun, agile little car this – but not one that’s quite as entertaining as a Ford Fiesta ST. This is mostly down to the steering, which just feels a wee bit too heavy and lifeless for our tastes. It’s accurate for sure, but if you ramp it up into the sportier drive modes this fake sense of weight just gets a bit ridiculous.
Still, the six-speed manual gearbox is really accurate and fun to interact with, and if you’re not too hot on your heel-and-toe racing driver gearshifts, there’s a rev-matching function on hand to help you out.
A few sporty looking bits and pieces help liven the cabin up, but not by much.
Hyundai i20 N colours
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*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.