Is it efficient?
The official combined fuel consumption is 6.9 litres. Drive it as it should be driven and that will nudge closer to 9 litres, while a trip to the track is likely to see numbers in the mid-teens.
The quoted CO2 emissions are 157 grams a kilometre. One upside is this hot hatch will quite happily run on regular 91-octane fuel, which will put a smile on owners’ faces every time they fill up the 40-litre tank.
How does it drive?
Composed sums up the i20 N. This is a car that is capable of being used as a weekday commuter but comes into its own on sinuous back roads and hustling around a circuit.
There are four driving modes, including an Eco setting along with a pair of customisable modes that can be activated by pressing the blue N buttons on the steering wheel.
The possible configurations are huge, with three parameters for the active exhaust system, steering heft, engine response and ESC intervention. You can’t adjust the suspension but there’s little reason to want to - the i20 N feels planted to the road without threatening to shake your dentures loose.
Grip from the 18-inch Pirelli P-Zero tyres is phenomenal, aided and abetted by a brilliant front-end geometry that encourages drivers to dive into tight turns, while the mechanical LSD allows throttle application earlier and harder than any comparably priced front-wheel-drive car I’ve piloted.
The brakes complement the cornering, retarding momentum swiftly and repeatedly, despite multiple ABS-engaged dives into turns. Think Brembo, without the logo. The Wakefield Park circuit highlighted how effective these stoppers are and there was little sign of fade after hours of four-loop lapping.
The steering is well-weighted and conveys exactly what the front wheels are doing, right up to the point of giving an early indication of understeer. At that point, lifting off the accelerator generally sees the i20 N pull back to the desired line but the chassis balance is good enough that a light application of the brakes won’t cause any distress, though it may raise the heart rate.
It says a lot about the rationale behind the i20 N that the windscreen-mounted camera is used to identify road signs indicating curves ahead and the car then prompts the driver to switch to N mode for maximum enjoyment.
The drive exposed one of the few limitations of the i20 N: road noise. The Pirellis generate a bit of roar on coarse-chip surfaces. You don’t notice it on back roads because the engine noise overwhelms it but it is evident on constant-speed freeway motoring. Though that’s not unusual for this type of car, where you trade ambience for application and it isn’t intrusive enough to be a deal-breaking drama.
Should I buy one?
If you are looking for a performance bargain, the answer is yes.
This is a budget pocket-rocket that is a better proposition than its big brother in the i30 N. The caveat is whether you can actually get hold of one in the short term. Alternatively, hold out and test-drive one early next year against the upcoming Kona N SUV and the i30 N sedan – not a bad option, if only to enjoy the experience.