Red hot hatchback a joy to drive

Hyundai 120N

By Bill McCarthy

Many manufacturers, when producing a sporty version of a model, often use a prefix or suffix on the badge, like R or S, GT or GTi. Think of the legendary Golf and Peugeot GTi.

With Hyundai is the is seemingly innocuous N, with the 130N and now the i20N. Look close enough and the N logo features a pattern inspired by a chequered flag, underlining the car’s racetrack capability.

There’s nothing innocuous about the look or the performance of this model, which is based on the 120 Coupe WRC rally car. It is a superb drive, providing the kind of thrilling performance to put a smile on your face.

Powered by a turbo-charged 1.6 litre petrol engine, mated with a slick six-speed gearbox the car delivers brutal performance.

It also features a raft of performance features normally associated with many expensive brands, with launch control, lowered sports-tuned suspension, low profile tyres on smart alloy wheels and coloured brake callipers and other bits of bling.

The front is dominated by a huge grille with a larger air intake for the turbo engine, with a lip spoiler featuring a Red accent which extends to the new side skirt and the rear.

The coupe-like styling and sharp creases and angles, together with the bespoke 18-inch alloys, emphasise the sportiness.

As does the WRC-inspired roof spoiler, while a large single exhaust further emphasis performance.

The interior is classy with good quality finish together with bespoke sports seats and multi-function steering wheel. The black interior has Performance Blue accents throughout and metal sport pedals.

The centrepiece is the 10.3-inch touchscreen which controls major functions like navigation, connectivity for smartphone, infotainment and voice controls.

On the road the car is a pocket rocket with a sweet revving engine providing instant acceleration via the launch control. It hits 60mph in just over six seconds, so take care if you have neck problems.

There are five drive Normal, Eco, Sport, N and N Custom. The drive modes adjust engine, stability control, exhaust sound and steering in order to optimise them for a variety of driving conditions. Also, dedicated N keys on the steering wheel allows the driver to tailor individual driving preferences.

Hyundai said the sibling 130N, unlike a Premier League defender, loves corners. Well, this small model is just as good if not even better as it clings limpet-like around tight bends and yes, corners.

The mechanical limited slip differential enhances grip and delivers maximum power to the road. If you think you can handle it, switch off the stability programme and enjoy the ride.

Additionally, the driver can select the rev-matching button on the steering wheel to increase the revs on the engine when shifting from a higher to a lower gear, while the launch control rockets the car away from a standing start.

You can calm it down to drive normally, but avoid rough roads and potholes if you don’t want your fillings shaken out.

If you are after a soft and comfortable ride, forget it. But the sometime discomfort experienced on lesser roads is worth it for a thrilling drive.

It may be a performance car but it’s also practical and safe. Boot capacity is good with 352 litres available, which can be expanded with the rear seats folded to a maximum of 1,165 litres.

Keenly priced and a riot to drive, and don’t forget the five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.


Hyundai i20 T-GD-i N 

Price: £24,995

Mechanical: 204ps, 1,598cc, 4-cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max speed: 142mph

0-60mph: 6.1 seconds

Combined mpg: 34.1

Insurance group: 27E

CO2 emissions: 158g/km

BiK rating: 35%

Warranty: 5yrs/unlimited miles

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