Hyundai's i20 N-Line is a style statement

4 weeks ago 20

The car, with cosmetic and mechanical tweaks, makes for an enjoyable ride in the hatchback segment

The i20 N Line marks the debut of Hyundai’s performance-focused N brand in India. Established in 2019, Hyundai’s N brand is akin to BMW’s M and Mercedes’s AMG brands developing sportier iterations of regular everyday Hyundais.

However, while a full-blown N car is still some time away, the i20 N Line brings with it some sportier cosmetics and light performance upgrades to areas like the brakes and suspension. The engine though, remains unchanged with the standard i20’s 120hp direct-injection, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol featuring under the hood. All this is accompanied by a mark-up of ₹ 50,000-1,00,000 over comparable variants of the i20. So does the new N Line spice up the driving experience?

Besides the obvious go faster styling bits, the i20 N Line features three crucial mechanical upgrades over the standard i20, and these do enhance its sportiness. The first are its dampers, which are 30% stiffer and enable the N Line to tackle corners in a flatter, more athletic manner while not detracting from overall ride comfort or feeling overtly stiff over bad roads and potholes. The car’s highway manners are much nicer too, and it feels more sure-footed at high speeds.

The second change is its steering feel, which is heavier and offers a nicer on-centre feel. The added weight certainly ups its engagement levels by making it a lot sharper to point, thus infusing a greater degree of driver confidence.

The third area of enhancement is the rear disc brakes. Not that the regular version’s brakes were lacking, but having discs at all four corners feels more reassuring. On the whole, all these enhancements made to the already capable chassis of the standard i20, has improved its driving dynamics making the i20 N Line a genuine driver’s delight and one of the nicest driving hatchbacks around.

So good is the N Line’s driving prowess, that it eggs you to drive harder and try to extract more from the motor. The turbo-petrol engine is unchanged from the regular i20 and while in standard guise it does the job quite well, in the N Line, it feels like it could have some more power, due to the capable N Line chassis. Where this motor lets you down is in its delayed power delivery below 2,000rpm, which can get annoying at low speeds, leading to sluggish off-the-line responses.

The rest, however, is fine as the engine retains its healthy mid-range performance and is rev happy. It will effortlessly spin past 6,000rpm and when you drive with a heavy foot, the new twin-tipped muffler emits a raspy note, particularly on the outside.

Paired to this motor is the same 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and six-speed iMT (semi-automated manual transmission) from the regular car and we really feel Hyundai missed the opportunity to offer a proper manual.

The DCT works smoothly and comes across as a well-sorted gearbox in most scenarios. Straight-line performance is strong and Hyundai claims a 0-100kph time of 9.90 seconds, identical to the standard version.

However, compared to the erstwhile Volkswagen Polo GT’s dual-clutch unit, it feels slower in comparison, especially when using the paddleshifters. There’s a Sport mode that holds gears for a bit longer but on a winding uphill climb, you can get caught between its short second and tall third gear ratio — the car often loses steam and breaks momentum; in such scenarios its weak off-boost performance is further amplified.

Shifting to the iMT, this six-speeder gets a proper manual shifter minus a clutch pedal. This smooth-slotting transmission is a convenient compromise for those wanting to row through gears manually without requiring to physically use a clutch pedal. What is nice is that the engine feels more responsive here and because of the better-spaced gear ratios and manual control over gears, it is a lot more enjoyable on winding roads. For all its merits, however, the iMT does not allow for quick shifts or exhilarating off-the-line launches. But between the two, this is definitely a better option.

As for the exterior, the i20 N Line gets ample enhancements. The front bumper gets minor tweaks which look more aggressive, a new all-black front grille which sports an interesting chequered flag-inspired design, new diamond-cut 16-inch alloys and red front brake calipers and red highlights on the lower bumper and side skirts. The rear gets a new bumper, twin muffler tips, as well as a roof spoiler finished in black. Additionally, Hyundai has slapped ‘N Line’ badges on the front grille, side fenders and tailgate for easier identification.

On the inside, there are a few low-rent plastics, but the N Line tweaks do uplift the cabin. The seats feature a sporty red piping and the ‘N Line’ branding, as does the new steering which feels superb to grip. Then, there are some red highlights on the air vents, door handles and gear lever. The iMT’s shift lever is so good, it will easily pass muster in a much more expensive sportscar. Continuing the red theme on the inside are new red ambient lights too. On the whole, the seats are comfortable and space, storage and practicality are aplenty.

What really grabs headlines is the base N6 iMT variant which is extremely well-equipped and priced competitively at ₹ 9.84 lakh, ex-showroom. This variant easily justifies the ₹ 1 lakh premium over the Sportz variant i20 turbo iMT. The N6 gets you a lot; including the body kit, diamond-cut alloys, front and rear disc brakes, ESP and a sunroof. Interestingly, even though this variant gets a smaller 8-inch touchscreen (compared to the 10-inch unit in fully-loaded N8), this new-generation unit gets wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while the top-spec gets wired connectivity.

The top-spec N8 variant is loaded to the gills with six airbags, a Bose audio system, LED headlamps and more. It also gets new connectivity features via the Bluelink smartphone app. Among other functions, it features voice command to operate the sunroof and driver’s side window, as well as over-the-air map updates. The N8 variant priced at ₹ 50,000 more for the DCT and ₹ 95,000 for the iMT than the equivalent i20 Asta (O) is not as good value as the N6 due to fewer feature additions over comparable i20 variants.

While the i20 is expensive to begin with, the good news is that the step-up for the N Line is only marginal and is an honest attempt to transform a regular hatchback, into an exciting sporty proposition. Sure, a three-pedal manual gearbox setup would have added a greater degree of driver engagement, and the engine’s performance should have been enhanced to match its dynamic ability, which is one of the best around.

However, the small cosmetic and mechanical tweaks have upped this hatchback’s desirability and sportiness by several notches. And with a racy persona complementing the i20’s strengths like a spacious interior and class-leading features, what you get is an appealing package — one that can satisfy both driving enthusiasts and family hatchback shoppers alike.

Engine

998cc, 3 cyls, turbo-petrol

Max Power

120hp at 6000rpm

Max Torque

172Nm at 1500-4000rpm

Gearbox

6-speed iMT/ 7-speed dual-clutch auto

Tyres (F/R)

195/55 R16

Length

3995mm

Width

1775mm

Height

1505mm

Wheelbase

2580mm

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