Hyundai i20 N | The Perfect Pocket Rocket?

12th Mar 2024

By Kenny Longdon

Hot Hatchbacks

For car enthusiasts, or those who just enjoy driving, hot hatchbacks are somewhat of a rite of passage in the UK.

They have been popular since the '70s with the likes of the iconic VW Golf GTI Mk1 being one of the first to kick off proceedings, followed by the equally legendary Peugeot 205 GTI in the '80s.

Since then, we've had hot Renault Clios, more iconic Golfs and countless fast Fords. And then there's the hot hatchbacks that are more hyper than hot, with the likes of the Audi RS3 and Mercedes-AMG A 45.

They continue to be popular thanks to their practicality, easy to drive nature and their enhanced performance.

Arguably, the Ford Fiesta ST has been one of the most popular in recent times. This was due to its affordability, its fun driving experience and the fact it was a Ford, so it wasn't going to cost the earth maintenance wise.

Perhaps Hyundai thought Ford had it too easy and fancied a piece of the hot hatch pie? Step forward, Hyundai i20 N.

Hyundai N

Hyundai i20 N Front Angle on Track

Hyundai have enhanced their reputation immensely over the last decade or so, especially with their hybrid and electric models, which offer decent range and a design language that is incredibly unique.

One thing Hyundai didn't have, though, was a performance arm. And with Ford having given us plenty of fast Fords over the years with RS and ST models, VW giving us popular GTI and R models and BMW extending their epic M range, which offers high performance versions of all sorts of body styles, it was clear that high performance sells.

And BMW M is significant in the Hyundai N story. Not only is it a similar nomenclature, but the Hyundai N legacy was due to Albert Biermann. For over 30 years Biermann worked at BMW. In that time, he became the head of BMW M, overseeing legendary cars like the E46 M3. In 2015, he left BMW to join Hyundai.

Here, Biermann was asked to help lead and craft a new Hyundai performance arm, and just like that, Hyundai N was born. Their first car was a hot version of the i30, simply called the i30 N.

Today, it's joined by the entry-level i20 N, and the fully-electric IONIQ 5 N.

The Hyundai i20 N

Hyundai i20 N Dial Rev Matching

The beauty with the entry-level points in performance ranges is their enhanced dynamism, at a more affordable price. And who doesn't want an affordable way into high performance, after all it's been a proven way of selling cars for generations.

What's more, the i20 N is inspired by Hyundai's 120 Coupe WRC, so motorsport is in its DNA, and Biermann certainly had a back catalogue of experience that he could sprinkle on this seemingly humble Hyundai city car.

But the i20 N is a much more serious affair than its standard sibling. Instead of a humble 1.0-litre that is seen in the standard i20, a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine sits under the i20 N's bonnet, producing a punchy 201bhp. Being a supermini, the car only weighs 1190kg. This helps the i20 N accelerate from 0 to 62mph in 6.2 seconds, and go on to 143mph.

A driver-focused 6-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission option (which features rev matching if you don't want to heel and toe yourself), as well as a limited slip differential which not only aids traction, but informs those interested about the i20 N's driver-focused nature.

Five unique drive modes ensure the i20 N can be as playful or as docile, depending on your mood. These are selected via the N Grin Control System: Normal, Eco, Sport, N and N Custom, which are pretty self-explanatory at what they do to the i20 N's character.

And if you fancy taking the i20 N on track, The Performance Driving Data System monitors and offers useful data on the driver's track skills by logging information such as bhp, torque, turboboost and a lap and acceleration timer.

How does the i20 N compare to its rivals?

Hyundai i20 N Driving on a Track Rear Shot

The Ford Fiesta ST has been the go to affordable hot hatch for generations, and for good reason. The i20 N weighs about the same, and is actually quicker from 0 to 62mph, by 0.3 of a second. Like many great rivals, there's nothing to split them really, and it will all depend on your personal preference. The ST is rawer, while the i20 N feels that little bit more refined.

Even more 'grown up' and more expensive hot hatchbacks like the VW Polo GTI and even Toyota GR Yaris could feel more sterile to some, meaning cars like the Hyundai i20 N and Ford Fiesta ST feel purer.

Again, it will all depend on personal preference. But, were Hyundai right to create the Hyundai N brand, and give us the i20 N? Absolutely. The i20 N is just like its regular i20 sibling by being affordable, practical (comes with 5 doors and a decent sized boot as standard), full of technology, full of driver feel and is perhaps not as obvious as cars like the Fiesta ST.

In a world where everything seems serious, the i20 N is a car for those who love driving, and proves you don't need crazy horsepower to enjoy a car.

With the future of Hyundai N looking like an electric affair, especially with the exciting IONIQ 5 N, we're just glad Albert Biermann helped create a Hyundai performance brand, giving those who love driving, a sound way to experience some affordable performance.

Values and rarity today

Hyundai i20 N Static Pit Shot

You can still buy the Hyundai i20 N new, but there are also plenty of low mileage used examples for sale. They're pretty rare compared to a Ford Fiesta ST, as the latter has been on sale for longer, despite ceasing production in 2023.

Expect to pay circa £21,000 for 2021/2022 cars, rising up to almost £28,000 for new or nearly new examples.

If you want that little bit more space, but like the idea of a performance Hyundai, the i30 N may be more your thing. Alternatively, the IONIQ 5 N, looks to reset everything you thought after electric performance cars.

The perfect pocket rocket?

Hyundai i20 N Interior

With Ford discontinuing the Fiesta in 2023, does this mean the i20 N is now the go to entry-level hot hatchback? With Hyundai only entering the hot hatch scene in late 2017 with the i30 N, it's certainly not took Hyundai long to see their efforts rewarded, that's for sure.

Both the Fiesta ST and i20 N are guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Hot Fiestas have done it for generations, and will continue to do so despite being discontinued, as there will still be plenty of used versions for sale.

If you're wanting a brand new entry-level hot hatch, look no further than the i20 N. It packs plenty of punch, fun factor, practicality and technology. In black, it sinks under the radar, whilst the Performance Blue colour helps make it stand out, showing off its performance characteristics.

In a world where the electric car is set to change things, if you still want an old school feel, which still has all modern things you need like Apple CarPlay, heated seats digital dials and plenty of customisation options in the car's settings, then the i20 N is more than worthy as a fine choice in the pocket rocket hot hatch game.

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Whether you're after a new or used car with high performance, there's plenty to choose from with Evans Halshaw.

Alternatively, if you enjoyed this article, check out more like it in our dedicated blog section, or Spotlight section, which looks at unique cars from automotive's past.