If you’re in the market for a “hot” hatch, the only option you have right now is the Hyundai i20 N Line since the Volkswagen Polo bid us farewell in its well-worn fifth-gen avatar earlier in the year.
An N Line model is not to be confused with an N model. The former is like a slightly sportier variant as opposed to a full-blown performance model, a variation also seen in the portfolios of luxury marquees like Audi (S Line and RS) and BMW (M Sport and M) among others. The i20 N Line gets sportier cosmetics over the regular hatchback along with a fruity dual-exit exhaust, stiffer suspension, heavier steering and disc brakes all around.
The i20 N Line gets the same 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine as the regular i20 and the output remains unchanged at 120hp and 172Nm. Hyundai offers it with the choice of a 6-speed iMT (clutchless manual) or a 7-speed DCT.
Hyundai is selling N Line models through select dealerships only. Being in a metro, it was fairly easy for me to find those that would have this particular test car. Unfortunately, it’s only available to experience with the DCT. The first dealership I approached tricked me by sending the regular i20 turbo-petrol with the iMT for a test drive and then never sending the N Line version. Eventually, I went around to another nearby showroom that had the N Line test drive model.
While the dealership executives were fairly good hosts on that busy Sunday, I have to mention the rather dirty condition of the test drive vehicle. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s certainly an off-colour start to the experience.
The roads around this particular Hyundai dealership were fairly wide and straight. This meant I had no chance to really test the retuned suspension or the steering feel. However, I was able to immediately feel the difference between the sportier N Line setup compared to the regular i20. It inspired confidence at the wheel while still being easy to manoeuvre.
I also got a taste of the stiffer setup while crossing some speed-breakers. While not uncomfortable, you can feel the difference especially if you go over a pocked patch without slowing down.
The Hyundai DCT with the three-pot 1.0-litre T-GDi engine is peppy and loves to climb the revs, but it doesn’t compare to the refinement offered in the good ol’ Volkswagen DSG. It picked up pace briskly and the fruity exhaust note encourages you to put your foot down quite often. The paddle shifters behind the steering wheel don’t have the best tactile feel but add to the experience.
The cabin of a premium Hyundai model is rarely a problem. Even in this dealership test mule, the top-spec N Line N8 had a very inviting cabin. The leather upholstery for the all-black cabin with red highlights offers a nice sporty vibe, the seats were comfortable and supportive, and I saw no immediate ergonomic issues from the driver seat.
The large 10.25-inch touchscreen makes the cabin feel fairly upmarket while the digitised instrument cluster is quite a letdown. All the N Line emblems around the cabin make it feel like an occasion along with the metal pedals.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a factory-built and warranty-covered peppy hatchback, the i20 N Line is your only and best option right now. You get a fair bit of kit for the money and the performance is adequate for a daily driver. While it’s not a full-blown hot hatch, it does have mechanical improvements over the stock version for a sportier experience.
There’s not much sense in opting for the lower-spec N6 version unless your budget cannot be budged. The N8 trim, even in its top trim, will cost you less than Rs 14 lakh on-road.
Let us know in the comments what you make of the Hyundai i20 N Line. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Auto Loons blog for more cool updates from the car world. You can also follow us on Instagram for more automotive content.