If the recent batch of i20 N spy pics didn’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 N’s best traits, but instead seek to build on them in a bid to become the driver’s choice in the compact hot hatch segment.
“We believe now more than ever that feedback, not outright performance, should be the priority in our N models,” said Johnson when pressed on what to expect on the next N car. “It’s about providing a product that can be driven with precision, that is above all else satisfying to drive,” 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 Hyundai’s turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder delivering around 200hp. But the smaller i20 platform – its wheelbase is 80mm shorter than the i30’s – ought to offer more potential for playfulness while saving a fair bit on the scales compared to the i30 N’s 1,400kg.
“The i20 N won’t just be a clone of the i30 N,” emphasised Buerkle. “It’ll have its own unique character and design. We’ll give it a unique personality to suit its size as we believe these two things should be complementary – so don’t expect a smaller i30 N!”
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 “really feel the speed, be it with the noise or the way the car handles”.
“It’s all about the user experience and the enthusiasts are the main motivation,” 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. “We’re aiming for leadership in this class, not just to be a close follower.”
That inevitably means the i20 N will have the Fiesta ST to beat - but there’s also current Polo GTI and an upcoming new Renault Sport Clio to compete with. Spy shots of Hyundai’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, there’s little else to give away what mechanical upgrades Hyundai will bring to bear.
Buerkle explained that his team were working to craft an “individual design”, 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 Hyundai’s latest i20 rally car provide some inspiration? “I’ll take your idea on board”, Buerkle replied. Wide-arch WRC kit, anyone? Ford won’t be crossing its fingers.