There should be a metaphor about slaying giants, here, right? Maybe a David and Goliath simile? Hot hatchbacks don’t have arms, though, which would make the slingshot reference quite tricky. Look, it’s the Ford Fiesta ST I’m talking about. Enough said. You don’t need to me to couch its significance in forced melodrama and myths. It’s not just a great car, it’s a trusted friend that has long been the default solution to the ‘what can I get that’s special to drive, fits the family and doesn’t cost a fortune?’ question. That’s why it has been Autocar’s favourite small hot hatch since 2012. It’s a legend. An icon. All of that.
Yet in the new Hyundai i20 N, we have an upstart that could cause a serious upset. After all, Hyundai proved that it’s able to give decadesestablished elite a proper shock with the brilliant i30 N, and the i20 N looks to be delivering more of the same ‘my first rally car’ experience in a smaller, even feistier-looking package. Check out the fixed rear wing, the diffuser, the chequered-flag grille and the red stripes… It doesn’t get much shoutier than this when it comes to hot hatch styling.
It makes the Fiesta ST look sedate, to say the least – even the special ST Edition version in Azure Blue that we’re testing here. That subtlety might be no bad thing, though. In fact, the understated character of the Fiesta ST is a big part of its appeal for many prospective buyers of fizzy little cars.
Interestingly, then, just looking at these two rivals immediately starts to reveal very disparate characters, despite evident on-paper similarities. Both have as-near-as-dammit 200bhp going to the front axle, a mechanical limited-slip differential and a stiffly sprung short-wheelbase chassis, and both cost close to £25,000.
What better place to start picking apart the differences than a glamorous rural lay-by in Bedfordshire? No, really: this twisty, gnarly stretch of road is the perfect habitat for this duo. It’s exactly the sort of road that we all dream of while we peruse the configurators for something that will provide all of the fun without the frights; and I might as well state right now that you can’t go wrong with either car here if that’s the beginning and end of your criteria.