2021 Hyundai i20 N hot hatch: full, unlimited-lap track thrash test | Auto Expert John Cadogan

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2021 Hyundai i20 N full-day unlimited-lap thrash test - wet and dry - on one of the country's first i20 N pre-production prototypes. Is it as much fun as i30 N, and can you live with it, day to day? Let's find out.

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Can you live with i20 N, day to day? Absolutely. Is it fun when you get the chance to blow out the cobwebs, legally and safely? Totally.

First half of this track test was wet - like it totally bucketed down until lunchtime, but it got quite hot in the afternoon and the tyres and brakes both copped a real, sustained workout. As did the powertrain. And nothing but positive feedback to report there. Brake endurance: Very good.

And I didn’t have to button off to preserve it. So that’s nice.

i20 N is inspired by the Hyundai WRC rally car, which led Hyundai to a 2019 manufacturer championship and a total of 17 wins - so there’s an emerging rally pedigree there. And the N division’s mission was to make a streetworthy example of an i20 that pays homage to WRC success, and slots in below i30 N.

(Pro tip: This WRC homage is exactly what Subaru did with WRX, and that worked out generally )

I found the seats very supportive - kinda important detail on the track - and the overall ergonomics are excellent. This is not a tiring car to drive hard and fast. N mode - accessible by pushbutton on the wheel - changes the character completely. Invokes the bi-modal exhaust; the rev-matching, etc.

turbo petrol four with GDI delivers 150kW and 275Nm - which is pretty standard for that engine, but it’s in a small car, so 0-100 is seconds, officially, which isn’t that fast, but it’s fast enough for authentic F-U-N. V-max is 230km/h - good to know, I suppose, if you want to lose your licence times. #’Straya.

A mechanical front LSD is available - no word yet on whether it will be standard or optional.

You can turn the ESC fully off. The options there: Fully on, fully off, and ‘sport’ - which offers somewhat less ESC intervention, but will step in if you go out to lunch in a big way while on the move. The production tyres are special Pirelli P Zero 215/40 R18s with ‘HN’ designation (for ‘Hyundai N’).

The chassis gets a full tweak, with lots of bespoke reinforcement, and there’s a full safety suite. You get onboard performance driving data logging - but no stupid name for that. They just call it a ‘Performance Driving Data System’ - proving they can get this kind of thing right, albeit occasionally.

i20 N weighs just 1190 kilos - which really is more than half the battle if your objective is fun and endurance. Hyundai says it’ll go on sale before June 30, but with COVID and the chip shortage, whether that’s achievable is really anyone’s guess.

Stay tuned for more updates on one of the most accessible exciting cars to launch this year.
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