Why the new i20 N is gunning for Fiesta ST

If the recent batch of i20 N spy pics didnโ€™t stir your soul, then the conviction displayed by new head of development Tyrone Johnson - formerly chief engineer of the Focus RS - and head of design Thomas Buerkle might help. The brace of Hyundai execs explained to PH that its new small car would not simply copy the i30 Nโ€™s best traits, but instead seek to build on them in a bid to become the driverโ€™s choice in the compact hot hatch segment.ย 

โ€œWe believe now more than ever that feedback, not outright performance, should be the priority in our N models,โ€ said Johnson when pressed on what to expect on the next N car. โ€œItโ€™s about providing a product that can be driven with precision, that is above all else satisfying to drive,โ€ he added, before pointing that the i30 N is just the starting point of this new philosophy.

A strong statement from someone who heads up Hyundai's Nurburgring test centre team. Of course, the i20 N will not be as powerful as that car, and will likely get a pepped-up version of Hyundaiโ€™s turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder delivering around 200hp. But the smaller i20 platform โ€“ its wheelbase is 80mm shorter than the i30โ€™s โ€“ ought to offer more potential for playfulness while saving a fair bit on the scales compared to the i30 Nโ€™s 1,400kg.

โ€œThe i20 N wonโ€™t just be a clone of the i30 N,โ€ emphasised Buerkle. โ€œItโ€™ll have its own unique character and design. Weโ€™ll give it a unique personality to suit its size as we believe these two things should be complementary โ€“ so donโ€™t expect a smaller i30 N!โ€

Buerkle alluded to even more youthful traits, suggesting that we might be given an i20 N that also likes to shout and crackle - but that above all else the entry N car will be engineered to handle sweetly and be exciting to drive. He said the priority is for the driver to โ€œreally feel the speed, be it with the noise or the way the car handlesโ€.

โ€œItโ€™s all about the user experience and the enthusiasts are the main motivation,โ€ he added, highlighting how the positive feedback from i30 N has given Hyundai more confidence to take it to the established players, despite being comparative newcomers. โ€œWeโ€™re aiming for leadership in this class, not just to be a close follower.โ€

That inevitably means the i20 N will have the Fiesta ST to beat - but thereโ€™s also current Polo GTI and an upcoming new Renault Sport Clio to compete with. Spy shots of Hyundaiโ€™s test car show the i20 N will use the same Nurburgring-developed Pirelli P-Zeros as the i30 N, on 18-inch wheels. There are bigger brakes and a twin-exit exhaust system, but at this stage, thereโ€™s little else to give away what mechanical upgrades Hyundai will bring to bear.ย 

Buerkle explained that his team were working to craft an โ€œindividual designโ€, although the i20 is likely to get familiar N features, such as a rear diffuser and triangular centre brake light, as well as red detailing. Could Hyundaiโ€™s latest i20 rally car provide some inspiration? โ€œIโ€™ll take your idea on boardโ€, Buerkle replied. Wide-arch WRC kit, anyone? Ford wonโ€™t be crossing its fingers.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (64) Join the discussion on the forum

  • RedXYC 17 May 2019

    Nice article and nice car. Looking forward to this hitting the dealers. I hope they do a 4x4 WRC ala Lancia Delta Intergrale special. A halo model should add even more credibility to the N brand.

  • Big Robbo 17 May 2019

    Looking forward to seeing this wether it can tempt me out of my Fiesta ST who knows

  • Nickbrapp 17 May 2019

    No doubt it will be great and sell a few, but doubt it will be enough to temp people out of the ST, it looks like a car your nan would drive

  • cat with a hat 17 May 2019

    I'm sure it'll be a hoot to drive, just might take a while to convince 'brand sensitive' buyers

  • nuttywobbler 17 May 2019

    If the production version ends up looking like that, they’ll struggle - regardless of how good it is to drive.

    Visually, it looks rubbish, and certainly won’t tempt away Fiesta ST buyers I wouldn’t have thought.

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