Hyundai has finally come good on all the teases for a high performance supermini. Meet the i20 N, forged in the fires of rallying and it’s out for the blood of the Ford Fiesta ST.
The Fiesta ST has been a landmark seller for Ford, not just because of its critical acclaim and impressive performance but also because of its solid showroom appeal. The i20 N has got to look as hot, if not hotter, for its best chance of cutting a piece of that pie. Thankfully, it does. It’s all angles, “WRC-inspired“ spoilers and red accents, without going overboard.
The car is 10mm lower on its new 18-inch wheels, with a bit of camber at the front to achieve that sporty stance and sharper driving dynamics. It’s perhaps not as attractive as the Fiesta but it’s extremely sporty. The black roof is only an option – one which we’d consider leaving out, actually. Colour options are Performance Blue, Intense blue, Polar While, Sleek Silver, Brass and Phantom Black.
On the inside, there’s no getting away from the fact you’re in the hot one and that’s no bad thing. Dedicated sports seats for the i20 N join an N gear lever, metal pedals and button-festooned steering wheel. N buttons are for saving your performance presets and you won’t miss the big red rev-match button on the wheel, either. A 10.25 inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is optional and there’s a nice digital instrument cluster, complete with shifting and engine oil temperature indicator.
With a 1.6-litre turbo GDi engine with 204PS (176kW) and 275Nm (203lb ft) the i20 N is square in the Ford’s lane. That power goes to the ground via a six-speed manual gearbox. Optional is the ‘N Corner Carving’ limited-slip differential for added turn-in bite. Zero to 62mph is dealt with in 6.7 seconds – a dead heat with the Fiesta in the traffic light Grand Prix. Top end, it’ll do 142mph, just shy of the ST’s 144mph VMAX.
The weight is stated as 1,190kg “just as the i20 Coupe WRC”, though it’s not stated whether this is kerb or dry. At the kerb, the Fiesta is in the high 1,200s so the Hyundai should be in the ballpark.
The Ford is as sharp as hot superminis come, as we discovered when we ran one in the GRR garage for several months, so the Hyundai has got to be up there. What’s new on the i20 N to help it compete? The chassis has been reinforced at 12 different points to stiffen it up, while beefed-up and more aggressive suspension and axles control the body on the wheels. The front brake discs are 40mm larger to help stop it and there’s even a brake pad wear indicator on the inside. Those new 18-inch wheels are shod in bespoke ‘HN’-branded (Hyundai N) Pirelli P-Zero tyres with a 215 section.
The engine, exhaust note, steering and stability control can all be altered between normal, eco, sport and full-on N mode. N-Custom allows all to be set between normal, eco, sport and sport+, as controlled by those N buttons on the wheel.
Pricing is to be announced closer to the car’s market debut from Spring 2021. It’ll need to be hot on the heels of the Fiesta, or cheaper, given the model’s high-value appeal with good finance options. Given how good the i30N is, there’s a real chance the Fiesta ST is finally about to be dethroned.