With change from $41,000, the Hyundai i30 N isn’t exactly dear…but it isn’t cheap either, and the incoming dual-clutch transmission-equipped car will only push it further up the tree.
That is, ladies and gentlemen, where the i20 N comes in.
This is an excerpt from a feature in the next issue of Wheels, out 9 November - subscribe here!
Based on the Europe-only i20 five-seat, five-door hatch, the i20 N follows the i30 N playbook to the letter… but it offers a unique spin that not only makes the car more affordable – no prices yet, but let’s guess around $32,500 - but gives it a distinctly different character to its bigger, older sibling.
“We really want to follow our three pillars; it's an everyday sports car, it's raceway capable, and it's a corner rascal,” says the head of Hyundai’s high-performance vehicle development, Klaus Köster, on site in Russelsheim, Germany, at the COVID-delayed launch of the civilian-spec i20.
“Mr Beirmann [head of N for Hyundai, Albert Biermann] keeps on telling us, ‘Guys, it's all about the customer having fun.’
“This is important, and which is, for an engineer, sometimes maybe very challenging, because ‘fun’ is not so easy to measure. How do you measure? With the grin? How high is the blood pressure?”
To read the ingredients on the tin, though, you’d be forgiven for stifling a yawn and rifling over a few more pages. MacPherson strut front end with a torsion beam out back. The same 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder you’d find in a Kona or Tucson. Sliding brake calipers. Not exactly WRC-aping, tarmac-shredding specs.
It’s the parts you don’t see listed out on the spec sheet, though, that provides the secret sauce, that extra punch to the i20 N’s delivery.
Take the body-in-white, for example. Plucking bodyshells off the production line of a mass-market B-segment hatch is not conducive to affordability, but Köster says he’s happy with the changes he’s managed to work into the regulation-issue platform, pointing out Hyundai actually makes its own steel.
And while the 1.6-litre four-potter is a popular powerplant across the Hyundai universe, the one under the bonnet of the i20 N has a little something extra.
Known as the TGDI Gamma II, it scores a few niceties you won’t see in, say, an i30 N-Line, including a high-pressure fuel rail blasting petrol into the combustion chamber at more than 5000psi, as well as a high-performance water pump for its intercooler circuit.
“At least in the European market, the first time this engine has been introduced,” according to Köster. “This is really a state-of-the-art engine.”
Compare the 1190kg (claimed) i20 N’s 150kW and 275Nm output numbers with the two cars it’ll compete with, too, Ford’s Fiesta ST (147kW/290Nm, 1262kg) and the VW Polo GTI (147kW/320Nm, 1285kg), and it’ll be an interesting fight.
The i120 N isn't short on safety spec, either. Hyundai's SmartSense safety kit provides forward collision assist (city/interurban/pedestrian), intelligent speed limit assist, lane following assist and blind-spot collision warning, while a performance monitor offers information on power, torque, turbo boost. It also comes with a lap and acceleration timer.
It'll also be offered with an optional 10.25-inch LCD touchscreen navigation system with dedicated N content, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
But what about an automatic version of the Hyundai i20 N? Currently, it's only specced with a six-speed manual gearbox that's been tricked out to give it the N factor.
After all, we had to wait for more than three years before Hyundai delivered a dual-clutch auto it deemed worthy of its first genuine hot hatch.
“It was a new DCT development which was not available at the time when we launched i30 N,” explains Köster. “All the requirements to make the additional functions possible were considered in the base transmission development for the eight-speed wet DCT.”
The eight-speed isn’t just for the i30 N, of course; it will roll out across the brand’s various models, including the incoming Tucson and i30 Sedan.
“It’s a good example for high performance influencing normal car development that we are able to include the requirements into our mass production development projects,” Köster notes.
Will there ever be a dual-clutch version of the i20 N, I wonder?
“There will be no dual-clutch version,” confirms Köster. “In the B-segment, the manual is just the way to go. For those customers who think they need a dual-clutch, we have the right product in the C-segment.”