The AA was recently invited to sample the latest edition to Hyundai’s performance range, the new i20 N hot hatch at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park - complete with world rally driver Hayden Paddon. The i20 N joins its siblings the i30 N and Kona N, which we also got the opportunity to take for a spin on the racetrack.
ENGINE: 1.6-litre 16 valve twin overhead cam
GEARBOX: 6-speed manual
ECONOMY: 7.7L/100km, 175g/km
0 – 100 km/h: From 6.2 seconds
PRICE: $53,990 + ORC
Hyundai refer to their hot hatch as both the ‘Corner Rascal’, and an ‘Everyday Sports Car’. After receiving an invitation to test the new i20 N at the motorsport park we were curious to experience if by this they mean that it not only appeals to customers after a small practical everyday hatchback, but also a car that can bring out the rally car driver within.
Hyundai set out to demonstrate just how equally practical and playful this hot hatch really is by allowing us to experience the thrill for ourselves and to discover if it really did perform like a ‘Corner Rascal’.
After a presentation and some safety briefings Haydon treated us with a Hot Lap demonstrating just how far we can take this pocket rocket on the track, all while keeping it tidy in front of our hosts.
Inspired by the rally-winning i20 Coupe WRC
Built to provide the ultimate driving experience, the i20 N’s sporty exterior includes elements taken from the world of motorsport, which made it look perfectly at home at Hampton Downs. Performance features include 18” forged alloy wheels, a distinctive “chequered flag” radiator grille with N logo, large dual single exhaust pipe and WRC-derived rear roof spoiler.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.6-litre turbo charged engine delivering a maximum output of 150 kW power and 275 Nm of torque. On the track its lightweight body (1235kg) coupled with activating the N mode made it extremely energetic, especially pulling out of corners. It is quick off the mark from 0 -100 in 6.2 seconds, and fuel efficient for a hot hatch with a claimed fuel economy of 7.7L/100km, and a CO2 emissions rating of 175g/km.
A six-speed manual may not be for everyone, especially for congested motorway driving, but it certainly makes driving fun out on the track. For those who crave a little race car feel the manual provides more control plus activating the rev-matching button on the steering wheel allowed for smoother and less jarring downshifts.
There is a selection of drive modes to choose from - designed to put the biggest grin on your face - Eco, Normal, N mode and N custom modes. Each N drive mode you select has a distinct exhaust note, from a relatively tame note in Normal mode to a crackling “after-burn” growl in N mode. It was only fitting to select that mode and lock it in.
Performance inside too
Of course, we were there to experience this little pocket rocket on the race track, but by just sitting inside you feel like you are already on your way to clear air. With dedicated sports seats with a unique integrated headrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and alloy sports pedals, all that was missing was the Race Suit.
Interior specs include a 10.25" N Supervision Cluster with several themes available depending on the drive mode selected. Perfect for giving instant feedback on torque and turbo boost while zipping around the track.
The large 10.25" touchscreen multimedia system includes a range of features including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite navigation.
Safetywise the i20 N is packed with SmartSense™ safety and driver-focused N technologies with the full suite ranging from Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) to Driver Attention Warning (DAW), which we doubt you will need when driving this caffeine fix.
After a few hours of an exhilarating track experience taking the dynamite i20 N through its paces, we are convinced it would give the GR Yaris ($54,990) – out of stock - a run for its money, even without the AWD system. Its priced competitively alongside its nearest competitors – that also include the Renault Megane RS (from $65,990), Honda Civic Type R (sold out) and the 2022 Ford Focus ST (coming soon) - that’s if there were any new competitors in the country to get your hands on.
This seriously hot hatch is not only a practical small car for the urban commuter, it also fires up your soul out on the open road. A perfect balance between sensible and rascal.