A hot hatch that encourages you to misbehave

After a few weeks getting acquainted with our Hyundai i20 N, it’s safe to say it’s getting under our skin.

Hyundai - Hyundai i20 N: a sports car that encourages you to misbehave - News

‘Offroader’ is a bit of a dirty term in the auto industry, as far as I’m concerned. It usually points to a car that tries so hard to be everything, that it lacks the focus to make it feel truly special. I have yet to experience a car that can simultaneously be a luxury car and a track-focused weapon, finding that 99 percent of “enthusiast” cars fall somewhere on this scale, not knowing which genre to commit to. in an attempt. to attract the largest audience; regardless of how many ‘track’ or ‘sport +’ settings there are to manipulate.

Imagine, then, my genuine, unbridled joy when just five minutes into the long-term Hyundai i20 N’s first drive; it was as uncomfortable and bouncy as my M3 on the track-worthy coilovers, prompting my dad to ask to be dropped off quickly citing feeling queasy in the passenger seat. The car feels like it’s reluctantly driving at the pace of normal traffic, rattling as if in protest.

Hyundai - Hyundai i20 N: a sports car that encourages you to misbehave - News

Suspicions were confirmed by an alert that appeared on the instrument cluster moments later, saying ‘S-Bend ahead’. Maybe some kind of security system that tells you to slow down because it knows the road ahead, I thought. In fact, the purpose is revealed moments later with the message ‘Press OK for N mode’. The car asks to be put into a different mode when it sees a nice road ahead. Click ‘OK’ and in return you’ll be greeted with more noise pumped into the cabin, an overdrive that creaks and jumps no matter how cautiously you move through the revs, reduced ESP, heavier steering and a slightly sharper throttle response. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a car that pushes you to do no good like the i20 N does.

If you look around the cabin, there are more signs that the i20 N is determined to be nothing more than a jerk. The first thing you notice on the steering wheel is a big red button marked ‘REV’, almost reminiscent of the red ‘N20’ nitrous buttons on ‘The Fast and the Furious’ cars of the early 2000s, but somehow even less. subtle. Pressing it enables the car’s automatic rev-matching function when shifting through the six-speed manual gearbox. Disliking auto-rev trim is a hill I’ll die on, but I’ll give the i20 N immeasurable points back for doing it in the most childish way possible. He rattles the throttle with a colossal amount of revs, causing everyone around him to stare in confusion as to why someone is rev-matching on a red light. By no means efficient, but it always elicits a smile.

Hyundai - Hyundai i20 N: a sports car that encourages you to misbehave - News

Once you comply with the i20 N’s childish requests to drive hard on every possible road, you realize that’s where it thrives. Traction is truly unnerving, and I’m sure there isn’t a road in the UK that can put the i20 N to shame when driven properly. Regardless of how hot you enter a corner, the mechanical limited-slip differential will push you in and out without a hint of understeer. On the other hand, when conditions are worst, the chassis lovingly accepts all the takeoff oversteer you can throw at it before a hard smack on the steering wheel instantly straightens you out the moment things get too real for you. It only tips the scales at 1190kg, allowing the car to be incredibly responsive, while the relatively wide track makes the car feel planted in all environments.

The car sounds a lot thicker than you’d expect, but sometimes you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the N’s 1.6-liter inline-four is turbocharged. There’s very little audible to tell the driver what the turbo is doing, which is something I think would add healthily to the i20 N’s defiant attitude. On the move, there’s a bit of a laggy feel to it, but it rarely breaks the bank . Most of the time, it’s above 4000 rpm, at which point lag is no longer a concern. This allows you to modulate the throttle more closely to how you would drive a naturally aspirated car with big throttle bumps, resulting in almost instantaneous effects. The 202bhp figure comes from just 5500rpm, while a much more impressive 203lb-ft of torque is available from just 1750rpm. This makes the car go through the gears in a very satisfying way, making you feel like you’re making rapid progress.

Hyundai - Hyundai i20 N: a sports car that encourages you to misbehave - News

The only lag in the driving experience is the rev lock during turns. Unfortunately, the i20 N is cursed with what appears to be a slow-moving electric throttle body, making rapid shifting a precise art that, more often than not, makes you look like a 17-year-old. facing his first manual car. Worse than that, however, is during takeoff from mid-corner, where the throttle body can momentarily rise and upset the balance the car works so hard to perfect in every other area.

A Fiesta ST still feels like a cut above the i20 N, but I think my money would still end up in the local Hyundai dealer’s till. The ST looks and feels too serious for its own good in 2022. The spirit of a silly little hot hatch seems to have been lost in favor of smart efficiency. The i20 N, on the other hand, not only comes across as a rebellious teenager hell-bent on doing whatever he wants at any time, but also encourages him to act the same way; which to me, is absolutely invaluable.

Hyundai - Hyundai i20 N: a sports car that encourages you to misbehave - News

I noted that during our long-term review of the A90 Toyota Supra, a car I really loved, I would still find myself driving past it and hopping into my old Clio 182 for a blast on the back road. It all came down to the fact that the Supra was so good at being an everyday sports car that it didn’t feel much different when you let it out of its proverbial cage. On the other hand, the Hyundai is such a different car when you’re on a good road with some room ahead of you, that I often find myself in conflict over whether I want to take the i20 N or my E46 BMW M3 for a spin. . That’s the mark of a really fun car.

However, to test this theory, we’ll soon be pitting the i20 N against a more classic sports car flavor to see if it really can be a continuation of the ‘simple and fun’ mantra that sports cars seem to be losing sight of in recent years.

Below, check out Hyundai Elantra N owner forced to sell at huge loss after battle with California law

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