Had this been Hyundai’s first correct sizzling hatch and never its second, expectations would most likely be on the ground. As it’s, the i20 N follows the wonderful i30 N, that means this new mannequin arrives with some strain on its slender shoulders. Moreover, it plonks itself cheerily into a category of automotive that additionally contains the mighty Ford Fiesta ST amongst its quantity.
I first drove the i20 N in prototype guise on the roads across the Nurburgring and on the Grand Prix monitor again in September. The automotive was removed from completed however it confirmed numerous potential. I left anticipating the completed manufacturing model to have a personality all of its personal, a type of flinty-eyed seriousness that will be in full distinction to the Fiesta ST’s tendency to clown round. All these months later, I am left questioning how my radar might have been so poorly calibrated.
However first, the specs. The i20 N is identical dimension because the Ford however it’s (doubtlessly) a bit lighter, weighing from 1190kg the place the Fiesta ST weighs 1262kg. The Hyundai’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder produces 204hp and 203lb ft of torque, whereas the Ford’s 1.5-litre turbocharged three-pot manages 200hp and a muscular 214lb ft. Each have six-speed handbook gearboxes, however whereas the i20 N will get an LSD as customary, it’s important to pay a bit extra to improve to the ST-3 to get one on the Fiesta.
So do not be fooled by the ST’s considerably flattering £21,955 beginning value. The ST-3 will set you again £24,580, whereas the Version mannequin you see right here, full with diff and manually adjustable coilovers, is costlier nonetheless at £28,770. In the meantime, the Hyundai is priced from £24,995.
I will not permit appearances to cloud my judgement an excessive amount of, however to my eye the i20 N appears over-styled, as if Hyundai’s designers ought to have put their pencils down three months earlier. It is so angular it virtually appears prefer it comes pre-crashed. I suppose there is not any mistaking it for another variant within the line-up, which maybe is not true of the Fiesta ST.
Their cabins are fairly related in look with free-standing fairly than built-in touchscreens and air flow controls low on the centre console. However the Ford’s inside feels very barely extra upmarket with softer plastics and higher match and end, plus very supportive seats and a steering wheel that extends additional in direction of you to provide a extra pure seating place.
Any expectation that the i20 N can be the extra studious of the 2 vehicles is properly and actually torched by the ring of fireplace graphic that burns its manner across the digital instrument show once you change into one of many sporting drive modes. Impulsively it is the Hyundai that looks like the joker, the Ford watching on from a distance, gently shaking its head. Hyundai has by no means taken its sizzling hatches too critically – its N fashions are described as ‘nook rascals’ and you turn drive modes on this i20 N utilizing the N Grin Management System – however that fireplace graphic is the clearest indicator of all that Hyundai needs its efficiency vehicles to be regarded as enjoyable as a lot as the rest.
Which is not what I used to be made to assume on the Nurburgring final autumn. There Hyundai’s engineers expressed a choice for crisp, trustworthy dynamics – linear steering, a well-balanced chassis and predictable, progressive dealing with. They virtually sneered on the Fiesta ST’s contrived and really self aware dealing with traits. That automotive has sharp off-centre steering that offers an impression of hyper-agility, plus a propensity to swing its tail across the instantaneous you flip right into a bend.
Ford’s engineers baked that stuff into the automotive’s dynamics very intentionally. It makes the ST enormous enjoyable to drive at highway speeds, however it’s virtually completely against the extra buttoned-down Porsche or Lotus methodology. For these most august of sports activities automotive makers, competency far outweighs compelled enjoyable. Each approaches have their place, however I bow to nobody in my perception that Ford has executed its personal technique masterfully. It is why for me, the Fiesta ST is among the most satisfying vehicles on sale immediately, regardless of the cash.
I used to be anticipating the i20 N to be firmly of the Porsche and Lotus faculty of thought, leaving the exaggerated turn-in oversteer and really responsive steering to the Ford. It took one 90-degree left hander within the Hyundai to grasp how improper I would been. I steered into the flip, felt the rapid response from the entrance axle, sensed the rear axle swing round gently to rotate the automotive into the bend and famous the roll within the physique as the load shifted to the surface, after which I pinned the throttle as soon as on the apex and felt the differential claw the automotive away from the nook, then seemed down on the steering wheel to test I wasn’t truly driving the Ford as an alternative.
The similarities in how the 2 really feel by a sequence of bends are so stark the i20 N virtually seems to be imitating the Fiesta ST. I ought to have recognized the moment I noticed these pixelated flames that the Hyundai can be extra Monster Raving Loony Social gathering than Speaker of the Home.
So the query that rises right here is which one does it higher? The Ford definitely yaws extra markedly on the best way right into a nook, although there is not a fantastic deal in it. And whereas the Fiesta ST’s main management weights, plus their charges of response, are so finely attuned to 1 one other that you just really feel you are driving one cohesive machine, the i20 N’s controls will not be so expertly matched.
Each have the type of bouncy journey that will develop tiresome in the event you solely ever drove on very badly surfaced roads, however they every have sufficient give of their suspension over bumps that you do not really feel as if you are being overwhelmed up. It is the Ford that flows extra elegantly alongside a stretch of B-road and it is extra enjoyable due to it.
Impressively, its smaller three-cylinder engine additionally revs extra keenly than the Hyundai’s four-pot, which seems to expire of enthusiasm because it nears its personal redline. It additionally appeared to depart the throttle open an instantaneous after lifting off on the best way right into a bend, so the automotive would proceed accelerating for a break up second longer than you anticipated it to. That could possibly be fairly alarming, notably in the event you’d left your braking to the final second, although it might be a difficulty particular to the check automotive I drove.
In the end, I do not see any manner during which the Hyundai is any higher than the Ford. That is why it comes second on this check. However the margins are fairly positive, which makes the i20 N a genuinely credible small sizzling hatch and at the very least a match for another automotive within the class, bar the Fiesta ST. The Hyundai is fast, entertaining to drive and nothing like as severe as I anticipated it to be.
SPECIFICATION | 2021 HYUNDAI I20 N
Engine: 1,598cc, turbocharged four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed handbook, front-wheel drive
Energy (hp): 204@5,500-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 203@1,750-4,500rpm (224@2,000-4,000rpm on overboost)
0-62mph: 6.2 secs
High velocity: 142mph
Value: £24,995 (value as examined £26,545 comprised of £550 for Efficiency Blue particular paint, £500 for Bose Premium Sound System Package deal and £500 for Black roof)
SPECIFICATION | FORD FIESTA ST EDITION
Engine: 1,497cc, turbocharged 3-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed handbook, front-wheel drive
Energy (hp): 200@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 214@1,600-4,000rpm
High velocity: 144mph
MPG: 42.8 (WLTP)
CO2: 149g/km (WLTP)