Hyundai’s i20 N World Rally challenger hasn’t had a proper road-going equivalent on which to rest its halo – until now, obviously.
We’re at a bit of an inflection point for small hot hatches. First to drop – as it was in 2013 – was the new Ford Fiesta ST. It’s two years ahead of new challengers from Peugeot and Renault and rejoins the Polo in the local market.
Hyundai is now clearly in the final stages of testing for its own fast hatchback, the i20 N.
There are so many reasons Hyundai needs this car. One is pride – the i30 N has obviously given rival Volkswagen a bloody nose so why not kick it in the shins by going after the Polo GTI?
The second is that the i20 N is Hyundai’s WRC challenger. I got a ride in one a couple of years ago at Rally Australia (remember that event?) and it has puzzled me ever since that there wasn’t a hot i20 on the road.
Third – and this is a local consideration – this is a car Hyundai Australia can sell. I think. If Ford can bring in the Fiesta ST as a standalone – and charge $32k plus on-roads – then there’s no reason why Hyundai can’t join the party.
I want them to join the party. Because unlike normal parties, this is a good one. So I asked Hyundai Australia if the car would come here.
“We’ve made no secret of the fact our focus is on building an N performance family in Australia, and we are likely to take i20 N – but nothing is confirmed at this stage.”
This is most encouraging.
What can we learn from the video?
So in this video, there’s a lot of Thierry Neuville piloting his i20 WRC in the snow. Lovely to look at, but the bit you want to see is toward the end where an obviously production-ready i20 N – less a few bits of exterior trim – gets a run in Neuville’s hands.
The best shot yet of the front of the car is in the video, too, rather than the moody, silhouette of the photos.
You can see over Thierry’s right shoulder that there’s a racy-looking seat, so the N treatment extends to the interior. It’s probably a 1.6-litre four-cylinder but Hyundai might surprise us and will no doubt start with a six-speed manual. And it will likely be front-wheel drive because it’s hugely unlikely a four-wheel drive system would fit in the i20.
Should I care?
If you like small fast cars, the definitely. Hyundai’s expertise comes from BMW and AMG veterans and their long runs in WRC show the company is serious about performance cars.
We’ve only got a few years of these sorts of cars left, so hopefully it’s a belter. Even more importantly, let’s hope it comes here and Hyundai sticks a fighty price on it.
And finally, when I spoke to Neuville (and Hayden Paddon) about the i30 N, the reserved Frenchman flashed a big grin about how good it was. And he was right.
There’s a shorter version of the video if you can’t cope with the longer one…
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.