From £20,7707
We rate the Hyundai i20 N very highly. Has some of the magic trickled down to the N Line?

What is it?

'Something-Line’ versions of cars – think AMG Line, RS Line, S line, R-Line etc – can be somewhat cynical exercises. Add uncomfortable suspension, bigger wheels, a bodykit, some Alcantara inside and a chunk of money to the price. Job done.

Yet they are often a good money-spinner, especially when the performance brand the ‘line’ is derived from has some cachet – hence why a BMW that isn't an M Sport is a rare sight these days. Enter Hyundai i20 N Line, the newest trim level on the Hyundai i20. It’s still far from BMW M, but the Hyundai i30 N was very well received, and the recent Hyundai i20 N even more so, so you can’t blame them for wanting to ride that wave. 

For the i20 N Line, they’ve certainly gone all out on the styling. You have to look twice to be able to tell it apart from an i20 N. The biggest differences are the wheels, which are an inch smaller, and the exhaust, which has two round tips instead of the bisected oval on the real thing. Inside, the cloth sport seats aren’t quite as serious as the i20 N’s buckets, and the steering wheel is missing the two N buttons to select your favourite drive mode. 

Under the bonnet, the differences are a bit bigger. The i20 N Line always comes with the mild-hybrid 118bhp three-cylinder engine, but that engine is available with N Line only and starts from £22,395. It comes with either a standard-fit six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch that costs £1250 extra. 

Our test car had the manual and it’s worth mentioning because Hyundai calls it an iMT, for Intelligent Manual Transmission. The intelligent part of it is the clutch. Although there is a clutch pedal, it doesn’t directly control the clutch. Instead, a sensor sends the clutch position to an actuator, which then opens and closes the clutch. The benefit is that the mild-hybrid system can declutch and shut off the engine when coasting to a stop.

17 Hyundai i20n line 2021 fd side static

What's it like?

From the moment you start it up, it screams “I’m a hot hatch!” at you. The vibrations from the cold engine at idle are something you don’t expect from a modern car, but they do go away when the car warms up. What doesn’t go away is the sports exhaust. I laid down on the ground to check the exhaust was still attached and the catalytic converter hadn't been stolen from under it, because it genuinely sounds like one of the silencers is missing. It’s not piped-in speaker noise, either. For the week I had the car, I must admit I found it quite amusing, but that might fade in the longer term. 

Back to top

Set off and despite the springy sensationless clutch pedal, the gearchange is an unexpected delight. Fairly light, but with a short throw and a well-defined action, it’s a pleasure to row through the gears. That’s a necessity, though, because while 118bhp sounds healthy for a supermini, the long-ish ratios, the laggy nature of the engine and the strange throttle calibration, which only seems to give you the last 20bhp if you mat the pedal, mean that it feels rather listless. Thankfully, it’s keen to rev, but more low-down grunt would be welcome. The automatic version has 20lb ft of extra torque, but you miss out on the nice gearchange. 

Taking it out of Eco mode, which it defaults to every time you restart the car, definitely helps, but it doesn’t solve the issue entirely. Sport mode will even rev match on downshifts, but with the pedals so nicely set up for heel-and-toe, it’s satisfying to stay in Comfort mode and do it yourself. If only you could have Sport’s heavier steering in Comfort. 

After all, the i20 N Line is genuinely good fun to rag around B-roads, with a taut chassis, direct steering, supportive seats and keen turn-in thanks to 215-section Hankook Ventus Prime tyres. There’s not much in the way of throttle adjustability, but that might be a bit much to expect. The ride quality is not overly firm, particularly since you do get some driving dynamics in return. 

The interior is mostly familiar i20 stuff, but with better seats and a nicer steering wheel and gearknob. Our full road test of the regular i20 has all the details, but in brief it’s fairly roomy, the infotainment system is excellent and the dashboard looks modern but is made entirely of hard plastic. 

07 Hyundai i20n line 2021 fd dash

Back to top

Should I buy one?

The i20 N Line has quite a different character from the standard i20, which errs more towards the comfortable, laid-back end of the market. If you just want a standard i20 with a touch more power, the N Line might become tiresome, but if you’re after something with a taut chassis and a noisy exhaust, the N Line will deliver. 

The trouble is that there are some very good ‘warm hatch’ alternatives that offer actual warm hatch performance. Ford makes the Fiesta ST-Line, with a 153bhp version of the excellent Ecoboost triple for about the same money, and Suzuki is currently offering £2000 off its Swift Sport, making it a tad cheaper than the Hyundai at £20,070.  

Bearing in mind that the N Line comes fully loaded, with the only possible additional extra being a premium paint finish, it’s a good effort, particularly if you can find a deal on one.

15 Hyundai i20n line 2021 fd rear static


Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester
As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
567 21 August 2021

Buy a I20N instead.

nimmler 21 August 2021

complete ripoff for this over rated korean turd

artill 21 August 2021

As the i20 is such an ugly thing i started off assuming this would be awful, but actually think its not a bad effort. Yes, its still ugly, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the exhaust does sound a bit much, but unlike many of these _____Line cars, it sounds as if Hyundai have actually made a junior hot hotch, and i applaud that. The electro-clutch sounds a poor replacement for a real one, and its not really fast enough, and wow, its expensive (what isnt these days) but it also sounds fun, and an added bonus, if you are enjoying driving it, you cant see it!!