Hyundai’s all-new i20 supermini will officially spawn a new hot hatch rival to the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot’s future 208 GTi. Rumours of a hot hatch version of the i20 have been circulating after prototype sightings around Hyundai’s Nürburgring-based European development hub, but this is the first time Hyundai itself has substantiated the i20 N's development.
The i20 N will be based on the all-new i20 hatchback that was revealed earlier this year, which itself rides on an updated version of the previous model. It will feature a range of performance upgrades both in the chassis and powertrain, in a similar style to those applied to the i30 N.
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Helping develop the i20 N will be Hyundai’s World Rally Championship driver, Belgian Thierry Neuville. In these images taken at Hyundai’s arctic development base Neuville, alongside engineers, put the new supermini through a series of tests, in one instance making a distinctly four-cylinder noise not dissimilar to the larger i30 N.
The i20 N’s specific powertrain is still an unknown quantity, however the 2-litre turbocharged ‘Theta’ engine that’s found in the i30 N is unlikely to be a good fit within the i20’s daintier chassis due to its size and weight. One possible alternative is a high-output version of the Kona’s 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and could integrate a mild-hybrid 48V system as found in the majority of the standard i20 range.
Power figures are purely speculative at this stage, but somewhere around 200bhp will make the car competitive with the Fiesta ST (197bhp), while not wandering too close to the standard, non-Performance version of the i30 N (247bhp).
Looking closer at the prototypes, it’s clear the body-in-white is identical to that of the standard i20, and is sat on set of 18-inch wheels borrowed from the 247bhp version of the i30 N. This tells us the i20 N will not likely feature any bespoke bodywork like the more expensive Toyota GR Yaris, instead following a more subtle, and profitable process of sharing bodywork with an incoming N-Line as found on other Hyundai models in the range.
The i20 N will be entering a tough segment though, as the Fiesta ST is as strong, willing and talented as ever. A GTi version of Peugeot’s incoming 208 has yet to be confirmed, but it might well arrive with an electric motor rather than petrol due to legislative pressures.
But the i20 N comes with plenty of momentum from within Hyundai, as the i30 N proved that the Korean brand has what it takes to develop a superb hot hatch. Let’s hope the i20 N shares some of that magic.