What is it?
It certainly didn’t take Hyundai’s ‘N’ performance division long to be taken seriously, with the i30 N immediately getting this firm off on the right foot in 2017, and being considered a true contender for class honours in the hot hatch segment almost immediately.
Since then Hyundai has continued that magic with the Kona and i20 (as well as the Veloster and Sonata in other markets), and given its success, the South Korean firm is working to build on that with its ‘N Line’ versions. Bringing some of that i20 N character and style, but without the associated expense and running costs, can the Hyundai i20 N Line successfully operate in that often awkward middle ground?
Just like BMW does with its M Sport team, this i20 N Line adopts a raft of styling changes from the ‘proper’ i20 N, with exterior tweaks to set it aside from regular versions of this supermini.
We’ll explore more on that later, but this N Line also uses a slightly more powerful engine, a revised suspension setup and even a sportier exhaust system, with the aim of making it feel different to drive.
What’s under the bonnet?
While the i20 N uses a punchy 201bhp four-pot engine, the N Line gets a more insurance premium-friendly 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit. Though other non-N i20s come with 99bhp, the N Line is offered with a slightly pokier unit putting out 118bhp and 172Nm of torque.
Here our test car uses a six-speed manual gearbox, though a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available at extra expense. The sprint to 60mph takes 9.9 seconds, with the i20 is able to soldier on to a top speed of 118mph.
As for efficiency, while the full-fat i20 N struggles to do 40mpg, the N Line is able to achieve a claimed 53.3mpg, with significantly lower CO2 emissions of 121g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
When a 1.0-litre mild-hybrid i20 is louder than your own hot hatch… pic.twitter.com/2rn7AfBZ4e
— Ted Welford (@TedWelford) April 22, 2022
Quite often these N Line-style packages hardly feel any different to the regular car and instead are all about style. But this i20 really is quite different to the standard supermini. You only have to press the ‘start’ button for the sportier exhaust system to growl into life – it’s almost amusingly loud for something with such a modest power figure, but suits the N Line character well. Though the engine itself needs quite a lot of effort to get the best from it, the six-speed manual is pleasant to use, meaning you’re quite happy to change down every now and again.
It handles well too, feeling fun and nimble, and approaching hot hatch territory in this respect. Though the ride is unsurprisingly firmer than a standard i20, it’s far from uncomfortable. There’s also the mild-hybrid element to it too – with regenerative braking helping to charge the small battery and the engine turning off when coasting (or ‘sailing’ as it pops up on the dashboard), which all help to aid efficiency.
How does it look?
Though the standard Hyundai supermini is far from being a bad-looking model, this N Line trim adds a host of extra aggression to the package.
There are revised bumpers, while the intricate grille features a pattern that ‘draws on the style of a chequered flag’. With lower side sills, smart 17-inch alloy wheels and various grey detailing, it does look a lot like the full-fat ‘N’ model. The only other thing this N Line could perhaps do with is a small rear spoiler, as the backend does look a touch flat without one.
What’s it like inside?
The interior is a bit tamer than the exterior, though there are various reminders that you’re in something a little racier than a standard i20. There’s a sports steering wheel with red stitching, with that red theme continuing across the cabin – most pleasingly on the air vents and temperature controls.
The i20 isn’t the plushest car inside, though. Granted, we’re not in the luxury car segment, but the door cards and dashboard feel rather cheap, and not as pleasant as rivals like the Seat Ibiza. Though there’s a decent amount of room in the rear seats, the boot is small at 262 litres, with the mild-hybrid system eating into the space on offer. You get a full 90 litres more room in the actual i20 N hot hatch.
What’s the spec like?
In terms of pricing, the N Line is the most expensive model in the regular i20 line-up, though this does include paying for the slightly more powerful engine. Prices start from £22,395 for the manual, or £23,645 for the automatic. For reference, the i20 N costs from £25,250.
You do get plenty for your money with this N Line, though, including LED front and rear lights, climate control, keyless entry and all the sporty elements we’ve already mentioned.
It also gets a smart-looking 10.25-inch touchscreen that merges with a digital dial display of the same size. The user experience could be slicker, however, particularly when it comes to using smartphone mirroring, which can be quite laggy and frustratingly slow to set up.
We’ve become accustomed to these ‘line’ models being all show and minimal go, but this i20 N Line offers plenty of substance to back up its aggressive styling. Though not especially quick, it’s noticeably more involving to drive than a regular i20, and feels genuinely sporty with its loud exhaust.
It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like the look of the i20 N but perhaps can’t stretch to the cost of buying or owning one, this N Line model is a fantastic stepping stone, and won’t leave you disappointed.
Model: Hyundai i20 N Line
Price as tested: £22,395
Engine: 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol
0-60mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 118mph
Fuel economy: 53.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 121g/km