First Drive

Hyundai i20 N 2021 UK review

What really matters is that the driving position is good. It is perched, as with everything in this class, but is nicely aligned and has generous adjustability in the steering column. So you hit the engine start button, note the loud, deadpan burble of the exhaust, feed in the reinforced clutch via a pedal that’s weighty enough to have some intent about it but not so heavy that it’s bound to become tiring in town, and you’re away.   

We only have 90 minutes with this LHD-market car, so don’t spend much time pootling. Suffice to say that the i20 N’s suspension is quite pliant at low speeds, and progress at a canter decently refined by the class standards. There’s an underlying robustness, sure, but nothing of the bone-clattering rigidity you used to experience with the Cup-chassis’d Renault Sport Clios, and there’s also less reactivity than you’d get from the current Fiesta ST. Contrary to what the exterior suggests, you could live with this set-up, happily. 

However, on any half-decent road, you should just do as the car tells you: go into N mode, by pushing the juicy blue button nestled up next to the airbag cover. One press gives you Hyundai’s standard dynamic presets, while two will bring up your own preferences. It’s a little overwhelming at first, because you can programme engine response (three settings), steering weight (three), ESC leniency (three, including fully off), the rev-matching function (three, amazingly) and the grenade factor for the exhaust (you guessed it: three). 

There’s even a driveline option for left-foot braking. Normally the ECU would drop torque output while the brake pedal is depressed, in order to avoid damaging the engine, but if the ESC is fully off, this measure is disabled. 

Today, we have everything ramped up, except for the steering, which is in the medium setting, and the rev-matching, because the i20 N’s pedals are positioned almost perfectly for you to do it yourself. And, actually, the ESP, which is set to midway Sport. Owners might also think twice about having the exhaust at maximum attack while driving along local routes, because it is quite fruity on the overrun. Memorably so, your neighbours may opine. 

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