Hyundai: why this company is keeping the hot-hatch alive
The XR2 and 205 GTi were highly sought after, especially by younger drivers who thought they were the bee’s knees. Insurance companies all but killed off the concept with demands for slower performance to make premiums affordable but not before Renault, Vauxhall, Volkswagen and others had a slice of the pie.
Such cars have all but gone these days, as I was reminded last year by a visit to the Festival of the Unexceptional. If you haven’t been, make a date (July 29 at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire). There is no shortage of hot-hatch nostalgia at this event.
But there are some modern offerings making a mark in this sector still. Hyundai, which made its name with impressive SUVs, now has some sporty offerings with its N series of cars. Tested here is the king of the lot, the i20 N.
Now, you may take some convincing, especially if you have experienced the standard i20. This is a lovely car, affordable, reliable and neat. But it won’t make the hairs on the back of your next stand up. It is tame and sensible.
The N version, however, looks sporty and offers excellent hot-hatch thrills. It manages 0 to 60mph in 6.2 seconds. And if you have a private track, you will be impressed by the 142mph top speed.
It looks sharp and smart, and it has one of the best crafted cabins I have seen in a long time. If this model doesn’t make you rethink your ideas about Hyundai, then nothing will.
It sounds the part and it has brilliantly sharp handling and is – dare I say it – better than the XR2 and 205 GTi generations could ever dream of.
But the most impressive feature on the i20 N is the price: £24,995. A lot of money for a hatch, but a bargain for a performance hatch. You would spend £30,000 or more on many of its nearest rivals.
This car has a good heritage. It is inspired by the i20 WRC rally car, and it delivers an all-around sporty experience with top-notch engine performance and dynamic technology innovations.
It is powered by a new generation 1.6-litre turbo GDi flat power engine with 204 PS and 275 Nm of torque, paired with a six-speed manual transmission.
It also has a performance-oriented design as well as dedicated features including Launch Control and Rev Matching contribute to an overall driver-focused experience.
The latest model joins the i30 N and i30 Fastback N among Hyundai’s high-performance line-up to satisfy performance-oriented enthusiasts.
The all-new i20 N has its roots in motorsport. It is inspired by the i20 Coupe WRC, a rally car based on a highly modified version of the road-going Hyundai i20, and thus has the same weight as the minimum weight required in FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
The model has led Hyundai to success: in 2019, Hyundai was crowned the WRC manufacturers’ champion after securing four wins during the season. To date, Hyundai has scored a total of 17 wins at the highest level of international rally competition.
Creating a look which appears both sporty and stylish is not easy. Too sporty, and it looks tacky. Too stylish, and it looks lame. But if you get it right, as Hyundai have done, then it manages to look very desirable indeed.
Hyundai use words such as “uncompromising and powerful” and talk of its “undiluted high-performance experience”.
The exterior design of the model emphasises its high-performance nature by combining elements of Hyundai’s rallying heritage with the company’s latest Sensuous Sportiness design identity, which creates an emotional appeal for drivers.
It adds functional forms to the sporty and dynamic styling of its base model, such as a 10 mm lower ground clearance.
Some critics say the steering is a touch heavy in some modes. I beg to differ. Others say the car doesn’t have the sound to match its performance. Well, they have a point.
If you’re a young driver, you will be impressed. If you are an older motorist, this car will take you back to the glorious 1980s.
If the i20 N is just a touch too big, there is now an i10 N version launched.
The company has also added advanced connectivity features, comfort elements, and technologies that are usually only seen in higher segments. This progressive move makes the model even more competitive in its class.Meanwhile, Ashley Andrew, current Managing Director, has been appointed to the role of President of Hyundai Motor UK.
He joined the company in 2018 as Sales Director, taking over as Managing Director in 2019. His role over this period has seen him consolidate the UK business with a focus on sustainable and profitable growth along with a firm eye on the future.
What’s more, he has Yorkshire links, having studied at Sheffield University.
Hyundai is a progressive, innovative, leader in clean mobility and has an exciting portfolio of new products yet to come to build upon the success of its award-winning line-up. I am excited to be part of what’s to come.”
Mr Andrew boasts more than 29 years of automotive and sales experience, having worked at senior levels for brands including Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen Group, BMW Group, and Ford.
He began his career as a Graduate Trainee at Ford Motor Company UK Ltd, where he was selected for sponsorship to their Executive MBA Programme.
Hyundai i20 N
Engine: a 1.6 litre petrol engine emitting 204ps via six speed gearbox
Performance: Top speed 142mpg and 0 to 60mph in 6.2 seconds
Economy: 40.4mpg combined
Warranty: Five years’ unlimited mileage