Fun to drive hatchbacks are almost a curiosity, and rightfully so. The segment has been thinning out for the past few years what with the Abarth Punto and Maruti Baleno RS confined to the history books and the VW Polo GT TSI getting tamer than it was. Well, thinning or no thinning, when Hyundai sees a segment, it wants to dominate it and to do that, they have got in quite the contender. It’s not just a product that has been introduced though. It is a whole line. More specifically, the N Line. Hyundai’s performance division that was conceived in Namyang and developed at the famous Nürburgring has spruced up the i20 to make the i20 N Line. Now don’t confuse this with the i20 N that is available abroad. This is the standard car with some sporty goodies on it while that is a full-blown monster.
Still, it isn’t as if Hyundai has just stuck on some accessories to the i20 and called it a day. To begin with, is the design that is noticeably sportier. The bonnet gets strong power lines that give it that aggressive look, and lower down you have the huge grille with chequered flag motifs and N Line badging. Further down the dual-tone bumpers look sharp and the contrasting bright red element too adds to the sportiness.
Over to the side, the first thing that jumps at you are the wheels. They are still 16-inches like on the standard car; however, they look sharper and even get red brake callipers. There has been no change to the dimensions, so the length and wheelbase remain the same. However, with the N Line, you also get rear disc brakes which is a good addition on Hyundai’s part given the driver-centric nature of the car. A red strip also makes its way on the side sill and look closer, and you will also spot a spoiler. The larger spoiler with winglets is purely aesthetic but compliments the overall design.
The rear is again, subtle, but with interesting details like the faux diffuser. What isn’t subtle are the twin muffler tips for the exhaust. They give the rear end plenty of character and can be noticed from a mile.
The interior on the i20 N Line is much like the exterior. Nothing will shock you, but you will be amused by the small details. The first is the new three-spoke steering. It too gets the N Line badging, and the traditional switchgear, but it is nice and chunky, and has perforated leather as well. Then you have metal pedals and red inserts on the AC vents and doorpads and it even has N Line carpets.
What is extremely desirable though is the gearknob for the 6-speed iMT. The chunky and sporty looking knob years to be shifted, but sadly both the versions of the i20 N Line miss out on a clutch pedal. Somewhere a purist is weeping. Still, on the 7-speed DCT version, you have similar perforated leather on the shifter and paddleshifters that assure some sense of engagement.
The seats too are sporty looking thanks to racy graphics and red contrast stitching and it being a Hyundai, nothing is skipped In terms of equipment. You get a sunroof, wireless charging, 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple and Android connectivity, BlueLink system with 58 features, BOSE speakers and a lot more. It is all too impressive. However, what isn’t that impressive is that there has been no change to the engine. The 1.0-litre turbo-petrol is the same as the standard car with 120bhp and 172Nm. While those numbers are enough to zip about, we wished it at least got the 1.4-litre engine from the Creta for that extra bit of oomph.
That said, the driving dynamics won’t exactly be similar to the standard car thanks to stiffer suspension and a retuned steering, The damping is said to be stiffened by up to 30%, but we will wait to see how that turns out once we drive it out on the roads.
Bookings for the i20 N Line have opened for an amount of Rs 25,000 and you also get plenty of peace of mind thanks to the warranty options. The WONDER warranty program gets you a 5 years/40,000km or 4 years/50,000km or 3 years/100,000km with 3 years free Road-Side Assistance and 3-year BlueLink subscription.
To those who were scratching their mind over the VW Polo GT TSI now have a very strong and promising hatchback. We shall wait for the first drive reviews, but as far as first impressions go, the i20 N Line is a very strong contender for someone who wants a fun-to-drive yet practical and feature-packed hatchback.