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Can Hyundai take its fun, exciting hot hatch recipe into the electric era?

Of all electric cars it strikes me that the new Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is the first to have been developed from the outset as a pure driver’s car.

There are electric sports saloons, 2000bhp hypercars and, in the form of the Abarth 500e, even a superficial hot hatch. All are impressive in their ways but the N is different. This the best electric driver’s car yet made.

Hyundai’s N performance division is on good form, of course. The i30 and i20 hot hatchbacks are the best in their classes, even though those classes are slimmer than they once were.

It has recruited well from the outset too, including in 2019 Tyrone Johnson, one of the men behind the most recent Ford Focus RS, which is what, if anything, the Ioniq 5 N feels closest to – although there’s more complexity to it than that.

Read on to find out how in both subjective and objective performance terms, Hyundai has created the world's most fun EV. 

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N side tracking road

As a basis, N takes the standard Ioniq 5 and strengthens it considerably, in a similar manner to other N products – a big commitment given this all happens on the standard production line.

There are 42 extra welds and an additional 2.1m of adhesive applied, to stiffen the shell. The steering mounting (for a faster ratio rack) is strengthened, so too are the battery and motor mounts (there are two motors) and front and rear suspension subframes.

The axles are new because they have to cope with a lot of power and the rear end has an electronically-controlled limited slip differential.

The front motor generates a consistent 223bhp and the rear 378bhp, for a system total of 601bhp, although for 10sec intervals that can be boosted to 235bhp and 406bhp for a 641bhp maximum, following which it all needs to cool off a bit. 

Thermal management of the drivetrain and 84kWh battery (800v, max 350kW charge speed, occupying no more space than the regular 77kWh) is one of the ongoing challenges of performance EVs.

If you select the ‘N Race’ mode on this Ioniq it knocks back the power output by a small but unspecified amount to allows the N to lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under eight minutes twice without overheating. N doesn’t like talking lap times, but uses the stat to make the point that other EVs can’t.


You can mostly skip through this section. The regular Ioniq 5 has a good interior and it's enhanced in that very traditional 'performance car'  way for the N variant - with figure-hugging seats, nicer pedals and some ritzier materials.

But in short, it's very usable, there are sensible real buttons for the things you need while driving, and check out the regular N review if that's important to you. Otherwise move on, because there's loads more interesting stuff to tell you about this frankly excellent driver's car.


Aside from proving the drivetrain is up to scratch, Hyundai prefers to talk fun and smiles, not numbers, and to provide those, its systems are exceptionally complicated. A front-drive hot hatchback like an i20 N is one of the more straightforward performance cars.

Here Hyundai has laid the tech and the drive modes on thick – though I don’t think it’s any worse for it. 

Four steering wheel buttons let you select six drive modes (plus the overboost function), two of which are driver customisable. You can pick how angry the motor response, steering weight, damper stiffness, differential locking and stability control sensitivity are, the head-up display layout, and whether you have a synthetic engine noise (from three) or not.

There’s more. With noise on you can choose (or not) to have fake gearshift points. Then there’s an ‘N’ brake pedal that allows various one-pedal driving brake severity up to the point where it’s basically activating the ABS when you lift off. You can change the torque distribution front to rear, plus there’s a ‘drift optimiser’ mode in which to practice low-speed doughnuts and hooning. And a launch control. 

Depending on the circuit, Hyundai has achieved a performance aim of allowing 20 minutes hard driving, followed by 20 minutes charging, and 20 mins driving ... repeat and repeat. It won't do that at, say, the Nurburgring, but at less throttle-heavy circuits it has pulled off the trick. Which is impressive going. And Hyundais generally charge quickly and consistently.

See ride and handling for how all this gels together, because honestly it's hard to consider the performance without noting its impact on how it makes the car feel in corners. But know that when the engine note is turned off in a straight-line this acts like most other very fast EVs - it can do 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds. With the fake noises and gearshifts on you could swear you were in an automatic internally combusted car - it gives more engine braking and better acceleration at 'high' revs, for example.


It's impossible to get on top of all of the Ioniq 5 N's drive modes and different vibes in just seven laps of an unknown circuit while talking to a camera (hi guys, like and subscribe), or to fully explore all of those systems on the road given this car’s monumental (0-62mph in 3.4sec) performance. So let’s start with the basics and know that if you leave the car it in one of its mildly furious standard modes, it’s terrifically entertaining on circuit.

I began with the fake engine noise and gearshift on. I know they’re silly, but N says the same bloke who tuned the i30 N’s eight-speed real automatic gearbox also tuned the way this works, and for those of us used to mechanical things it makes it easier to, say, judge braking points or turn-in speeds because our brains know to use sounds as input triggers. Plus it gives you something to do. 

Even after years of development, Hyundai’s engineers like using it, and I did too. The ‘engine’ noise itself could use some work – it’s flatly synthetic – and it’s possible in a while we’ll be over it and it’ll all seem anachronistic. But whenever you reach that point, just turn it off – then the gearshift paddles adjust the regeneration.

With or without it the N’s dynamics are first rate, especially given this is a 2200kg performance car. As a result of the mass there is notable pitch under acceleration and roll in cornering, even with the dampers stiffened, but the steering weights up nicely to let you lean against it. You’d barely know the brakes are by-wire too. It could have more pedal resistance under heavy track braking, but then might feel too obstructive on the road.

Turn-in is good, particularly if you settle the nose first by trail braking. I don’t think a Porsche Taycan turns this well, or has this fantastic level of adjustability, even if you leave the power balance alone by not pitching the N into its rear-drive mode. The rear motor is more powerful than the front anyway, the tyres are 275/35 R21 Pirelli P Zeros all-around and the weight distribution must be fairly even. 

As a result – and with stability control off, which N says means you’re entirely on your own – the Ioniq turns large mid-corner grip into a slide on corner exit. It even wants to ease into gentle oversteer in high-speed corners. The last Ford Focus RS did this, but not to this extent, and not this controllably either. It’s “not a drift car,” says Tyrone Johnson, “but it can be made to drift”. And it’s still great fun if you’re precise and don’t let it.

The drift optimiser is a novelty. Hyundai wettened a skid pan so we could play with it. The throttle response is too sharp to easily enter a prolonged slide, but as a way to practice car control it’s huge fun. Look out for viral videos of owners sliding into lamp posts in wet retail outlet car parks.

But the car is seriously satisfying on the road, too. European Ns will have a softer damper setup than this test car at low speeds – they even do some tuning in the UK – but I liked it as it was here too. It feels sharp and controlled, with pleasingly accurate steering, good enough compliance and a keen edge to it. As well as the Focus RS, there are hints of Mercedes-AMG A45 or even Mitsubishi Evo about it, though it’s more mature and multi-faceted than all of those. I’d drive this over most of them.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N front quarter tracking circuit

Weight isn’t the enemy of efficiency in an EV in the way it is in an ICE car because there’s energy recuperation under braking. The Ioniq 5 N can regenerate 0.6g of energy under braking, and even 0.2g’s  while the ABS is activated. 

What is a bar to high efficiency is big rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag, which is a shame because the Ioniq 5 has sports tyres, a large frontal area and even a little rear downforce. 

N engineers of course, would prefer a lighter base car, but there isn’t a focus on that within the company. So although N ambassador and technical advisor Albert Biermann says “there are not as many cars that were as good a starting point as the Ioniq 5”, he concedes that “it’s not easy to apply the N treatment” to what is a “2.2 tonne elephant dancing”. Although here it is at least the quality of the dance, rather than the fact that it’s doing it at all, that’s impressive.


Hot hatch, sports saloon, rally replica. Who knows how you'd quite define the Ioniq 5 N. What I can tell you is that it feels like it has parts of those, distilled, albeit slightly synthetically, into a whole that’s really enjoyable. And tangibly, not gimmicky so, too. 

And all against what is, still, limiting technology – too heavy, too easy to overheat. Hyundai has worked through those limitations brilliantly. Despite this the N is genuinely capable and retains a great sense of fun and mechanical interaction. After hours with it there was still so much more to explore. 

I think this is a landmark car. The first genuine EV driver’s car. A car we could bring along to Britain's Best Driver’s Car in 2025 and be confident it’ll perform well. Not because it makes brmm noises, but because the tuning is excellent and the engineering feels real. The all electric driver’s car, finally, has arrived.