As sporty cars grow increasingly heavy and complex, albeit more capable than ever, it can be easy to forget about the benefits of simplicity. Indeed, today’s well of performance-enhancing technologies—from torque-vectoring differentials to active anti-roll systems and active aerodynamics—is deep and at times convoluted. That makes the 2021 Hyundai i20 N a refreshing break from the norm because it has none of those clever gizmos and doesn’t suffer from their absence.
Although Hyundai sells the five-door i20 subcompact hot hatch in various parts of the world, the performance-oriented N version is solely available in Europe, seemingly one of the only global markets left with any appetite for small, simple hatchbacks. It is more compact than the Volkswagen GTI and the Honda Civic, as well as the Ford Fiesta ST that also is now sold only in foreign markets. The i20’s nearest relatives in the United States are the pedestrian Kia Rio hatchback and the Hyundai Accent sedan, although the N model’s closest analog could be considered the two-door Mini Cooper S.
The i20 N is a product of Hyundai’s N performance subbrand, the same division of the company responsible for N versions of the Veloster, Kona, and Elantra. As a junior model, the i20 N forgoes the boosted 2.0-liter four found in those larger vehicles for a smaller turbocharged 1.6-liter inline-four good for 201 horsepower. A six-speed manual is the only transmission available. The engine’s 203 pound-feet of torque reaches the front wheels through a limited-slip differential, and the rear axle is a torsion beam. As with its brawnier siblings, the i20 has an aggressive N driving mode, which when engaged illuminates a ring of animated fire around the tachometer in the 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster. In practice this just firms up the steering effort, sharpens the throttle response, and uncorks the active exhaust system. For the full story, check out this article from Car And Driver.