Earlier this year, in May, Hyundai officially revealed that the all-new i20 supermini would spawn a new hot hatch rival to the Ford Fiesta ST and Peugeot’s future 208 GTi. Following the launch of a teaser from the marque, test mules have hit the Nürburgring once again, now with less camouflage than before.
The i20 N will be based on the 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. Images taken at the brand’s arctic development base showed the driver, alongside engineers, put the new supermini through a series of tests, it in one instance making a distinctly four-cylinder noise not dissimilar to that of 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, 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).
As for its design, it’s clear that the body-in-white is identical to that of the standard car, which tells us that it will not likely feature any bespoke bodywork like the more expensive Toyota GR Yaris. Although previous development cars wore a set of 18-inch wheels borrowed from the non-Performance i30 N, the latest test mule is sporting bespoke items. The removal of camouflage has also revealed that it wears a new grille and marginally larger intakes over those of the standard i20, with more aggressive side sills, a larger rear diffuser, and a single exhaust tip as opposed to the two on the i30 N.
The supermini 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.