The hot supermini class that the new Hyundai Hyundai i20 N arrives into – heartland of the ‘pocket rocket’ – moves in cycles of domination.
The Hyundai lands in a class where for years, the Clios from Dieppe were untouchable, as Renault Sport perfected an unapologetic approach. In the mid-noughties, the Mini Cooper S, Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta ST were all likeable alternatives, but if you were buying one of these cars for pure driving pleasure, it had to be the French one.
But with the fourth coming of the RS Clio in 2012, the magic had ebbed away, not least because the model was now automatic only. Ford, whose quick Fiestas of the post-millennium era had been fun and rewarding but unable to lay a glove on the RS Clio, picked up the mantle. The Fiesta ST introduced in 2012 had such an innate ability to entertain that even had Renault Sport released another almost perfect Clio, it still may not have been enough.
In the following years, Peugeot found some form with special versions of the Peugeot 208 GTi and Mini occasionally hit the sweet spot with the Cooper S, but it was never enough. Then Ford cemented its rule by decanting its near-perfect Fiesta ST over in the next generation, albeit now with one less cylinder. It’s that three-pot Mk8 Ford Fiesta ST – the one currently in showrooms – that you can’t avoid mentioning when talking about the subject of this week’s road test.