Hyundai i20 N Line: First Drive Review

Published On Sep 09, 2021 By Nabeel for Hyundai i20 N Line

Is the i20 N Line an actual change of heart for the i20 or just a fancier set of clothes?

Hyundai’s N division is responsible for their success in the WRC and touring car championships. And when they get their hands on a road-going hatch, the results are a boy racer’s dream. Like the i20 N, which packs a 204PS punch from a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine mated to a 6-speed pure manual. And if you are one of those cribbing as to why did Hyundai not launch the i20 N in India, the answer is an approximate Rs 20 lakh price tag. 

So, just as how the BMW M’s less sporty cousin is the MSport, and the Audi RS has a more sensible S Line, what we get from Hyundai is the i20 N Line. Performance of the i20 turbo wrapped in an N Line body kit along with some sporty enhancements. Questions to answer today are threefold. A, what are these updates? B, do they make the i20 feel sportier? C, can they justify the Rs 50,000 premium that Hyundai is asking for?

Looks

We already know what the i20 looks like, and the base car has not changed at all. You still have the same silhouette, lights and stance. But Hyundai has added a racier looking body kit over it. The grille is new and has a chequered flag-inspired pattern. It even wears the N Line badge and looks distinct. This is complemented by a sharper lower bumper and a red lower lip. 

Move the camera lens to the side and it will first focus on the new 16-inch alloys wheels. These are sporty-looking wheels with “N” badges and look different from different angles with the dual-tone paint. They even hide red brake callipers, a must-have for the sporty variants. Then comes the door handles which are not chrome but body-coloured, and a red side skirt. The rear wheels hide the brake callipers as well, but they are not red. And the enthusiast reading this would have figured out that all-4 disc brakes are exclusive to the i20 N Line. The dual-tone paint is available with the blue and red body colour for an extra Rs 15,000. 

At the back, the spoiler is tweaked and also gets wings along the side of the windscreen. Lower down, the bumper is tweaked and then comes the shiniest element of them all: the twin-tip exhaust. And they aren’t just for show. Overall, the i20 N Line isn’t loud, but will surely grab your attention. The N Line kit complements the sharp design of the i20 better and this becomes the go-to choice for looks in the i20 family. 

Interiors

The i20 turbo always had an all-black cabin along with red accents on the AC vents and climate control switches. The N Line kit adds a sportier steering wheel with an N badge. This is the same wheel that the European N Line gets and feels better to hold, and even the mounted controls feel more premium and tactile. In the DCT, you also get paddle shifters behind this wheel.

Another element borrowed from the international model is the gear shifter. The DCT gets a leather-wrapped shifter with the N badge and red accents. I personally prefer the shifter of the iMT which is a round knob with sporty red and silver accents. It feels good to hold and shift, while also saving you close to Rs 90,000 in the process. More on the variants slightly ahead in the review. 

Apart from these key changes, you also get leatherette seat covers with N logo and design, and red ambient lights in the door pads, footwell and wireless charger. These were earlier in a blue shade. Hyundai did not just stop at cosmetic updates and went ahead and added a few more features to the list. The i20 N Line gets an auto day/night IRVM and voice commands to control the sunroof and driver side window.

While the interiors do not stand out as the exteriors do, the changes are enough to make you feel a bit special. The missing key here is the key itself. It’s the same beige unit as the regular i20, and it should have had an N Line badge there as well. We were told that it could not be incorporated as a special key is reserved for the i20 N. All other elements like space, practicality and features remain similar to the standard i20. You can check them out in our set of reviews and comparisons below.

Variants

The i20 N Line is being offered in two variants - N6 and N8. The N6 is only offered with the iMT transmission and is a mix of the Sportz and Asta variants for features. The N8 is offered with both iMT and DCT transmissions and is based on the Asta Option variant with a few add-ons as discussed below. Have a look at the key features of each variant.

N6

N8

iMT: Rs 9.84 Lakh

iMT: Rs 10.87 Lakh / DCT: Rs 11.75 Lakh

Exterior

Halogen Headlamps

LED Projector Headlamps

Projector Fog Lamps

Cornering Lamps

Red Brake Callipers

Puddle Lamps

LED Tail Lamps

 

Chequered Flag Grille

16-inch Alloy Wheels

Twin Tip Exhaust

Spoiler with side spats

Red / Gloss Black Accents

Shark Fin Antenna

Interior

Height adjustable driver seat

Red Ambient Lighting

Tilt & telescopic steering

Sliding Front Armrest

Black interiors with red inserts

Rear Seat Armrest

Leatherette Upholstery (w/ N logo)

Rear Adjustable Headrest

3-spoke steering wheel (w/ N logo)

 

Sporty metal pedals

Fixed Armrest

Infotainment

Digital cluster with multi-information display (MID)

10.25” Touchscreen

8” Touchscreen Infotainment System

7-speaker BOSE Sound System

Apple CarPlay / Android Auto

Wireless Charging

6 Speaker Sound System

Hyundai BlueLink Connected Car Tech

Steering-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls

 

Voice Recognition

Comfort and Convience

Electric Sunroof

Keyless Entry

Cruise control

Push-button Start

Electrically adjustable and folding mirrors (with auto fold)

Auto-dimming IRVM

Manual AC

Automatic Climate Control

Rear AC vents

Rear Wiper + Washer

Safety

Front + Rear Disc Brakes

Side and Curtain Airbags

Dual Front Airbags

Height-adjustable Seatbelt

ABS with EBD

 

ISOFIX Child Seat Mounts

Height Adjustable Seatbelts

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

Electronic Stability Control

Hill Assist Control

Reverse Parking Camera

Automatic Headlamps

Rear Defogger

Engine And Performance

Hyundai’s engineers have refrained from making any changes to the 1.0-litre turbocharged engine of the i20 N Line, the only one it is available with. Probability because it already has the best in class output of 120PS and 172Nm. What adds flavour to this engine, though, is the new exhaust. Even at idle, it sounds sportier. Hyundai has managed to tweak the sound just enough to make it bassy without being outright loud. And this will certainly be appreciated by the more sensible members of the family. 

The strength of this engine is its city performance. It does feel slightly sedated while picking up and there is also a bit of a throttle lag, which gets pronounced in bumper to bumper traffic. But as soon as the turbo hits, the i20 N Line picks up cleanly. There is a lot of torque to play with and city overtakes are done with a sporty stride. And this is where the exhaust sounds the best as well. A slight hint of the bass also creeps into the cabin but can be missed if you have fired up the 7-speaker Bose sound system. I wish the exhaust would be more audible in the cabin for some more drama. Because outside, it does garner attention. 

While there is a lot of usable power for overtakes, the engine does not feel hot-hatch-exciting. The top-end performance leaves a bit to be desired as the acceleration past 5,000rpm isn’t strong. The sound also flattens out and gets out of the drama zone here. It's because of this trait that the i20 turbo (10.88s to 100kmph), despite being more powerful than the Polo GT TSI (10.79s to 100kmph), was marginally slower to 100kmph in our test. Hyundai claims a time of 9.9 seconds to 100kmph for the N Line, which, not to mention conveniently under that legendary 10 seconds number, sounds a bit of a stretch and will be put to the test soon in a road test.  

For maximum drama of sound and acceleration, short shift at 4000rpm. And if you have picked the DCT, this can be done with the help of the paddle shifter. These are surprisingly quick and a click almost immediately gets the gear changed. There is very little lag between you demanding a shift and it happening, and this does feel sporty. 

The DCT transmission has a split personality. In Drive mode, it upshifts at a lower rpm to help the turbo sip less fuel. The i20 feels like any other hatch to drive in this mode and power only comes in if you demand it with heavier throttle input. However, shift to Sport and the throttle response becomes quicker. The shifts now happen at a higher rpm and this makes the car feel more eager to drive. You still have to short shift to be playful, but the quick response makes it feel more fun. 

If you pick the iMT, which is the clutchless manual, the physical feel of shifting gears is quite engaging, especially with the new round shifter. And it is quick as well. However, in traffic, the iMT requires you to shift quite a lot to stay in power. And this does take a toll on the whole automatic and the fun experience. This is why the DCT, especially with the paddle shifters, is the better allrounder. 

Ride And Handling

While Hyundai India engineers have left the engine alone, they have been busy tuning the suspension and steering. On paper, it is 30 percent stiffer in damping. On the road, this means a much flatter ride. On well-paved roads, the setup feels sportier as you do get more communication from the surface. The initial firmness is dialled up and the smaller bumps and level changes, especially at lower speeds, are more pronounced. However, if you are driving at 40-50kmph, the damping feels quite sophisticated and isolates you well from these surface imperfections. 

If the roads around your locality are in good shape, the i20 N will be a delight to drive. It feels more planted, stable and the way it deals with speed breakers is sporty, not harsh or uncomfortable. But if you live in a place where the roads are broken, then the low-speed ride can become jarring. More so for the rear seat passengers. 

When it comes to handling, the i20 N Line does offer more confidence. There is less body movement in corners, which will allow you to carry more speed. However, the steering has only been made heavier, not quicker. Hence while it feels more confident, it does not feel sportier or more engaging. Also, with the rear disc brakes now on offer, Hyundai claims that the 100-0kmph distance has been reduced by 1.4 metres. While they did not feel sharp, emergency braking should be safer as it should stop in under 40m from 100kmph.

Verdict

Time then, to answer the three questions. What’s changed? It definitely looks sportier with the N Line kit and sounds a lot better too. However, the exhaust note should have been slightly louder in the cabin. Interiors feel more special too and the added features offer convenience. 

Do they help make the i20 feel more sporty? Partly yes. While the engine could have done with a bit more power and the steering still doesn’t feel direct, the handling has improved. The ride comfort will be appreciated in metros and on better roads, but the low-speed sacrifice in comfort might irk your family members. The exhaust note too will grab a lot of attention from onlookers. 

Can it justify the Rs 50,000 premium that Hyundai is asking for? Oh yes! These changes, especially the bigger ones like the disc brakes, suspension tuning and the new features help the i20 N Life feel like a proper sportier variant, and not a half-hearted cosmetic job. Overall, this package does feel more special than the standard i20 and will add drama to your daily drives. 

That said, the on-road cost for the N8 DCT will be close to Rs 14 lakh. And at that price, you can get compact sedans and SUVs which will be a whole lot more practical. Hence, your mind would surely want to buy a bigger car, possibly 2 segments up. But buying the N Line is the heart’s decision, and the i20 does enough to convince it. 

Hyundai i20 N Line

Variants*Ex-Showroom Price New Delhi
N6 iMT (Petrol)Rs. 9.84 Lakh*
N6 iMT Dual Tone (Petrol)Rs. 9.99 Lakh*
N8 iMT (Petrol)Rs. 10.87 Lakh*
N8 iMT Dual tone (Petrol)Rs. 11.02 Lakh*
N8 DCT (Petrol)Rs. 11.75 Lakh*
N8 DCT Dual Tone (Petrol)Rs. 11.90 Lakh*

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