Hyundai is doubling down its efforts to expand its global range of high-performance N-badged models. It released images of the i20 N, its smallest hot hatch, drifting on a frozen lake in Sweden while waiting for its unveiling.
The pre-production model clinging on to winter’s last stand in the northern hemisphere is completely covered in camouflage, so the photos leave a lot to the imagination. The car is based on the i20, a Ford Fiesta-sized hatch not sold in the United States. It looks like Hyundai added a body kit that consists of a deeper front bumper with bigger vents that channel cooling air into the engine bay plus a redesigned rear bumper that likely gains a diffuser. Odds are the transformation also includes side skirts and a roof-mounted spoiler not shown in the images as well as N-specific exhaust outlets. Minor model-specific trim pieces will round out the list of changes.
Hyundai is keeping technical specifications close to its chest, but sending the i20 N into the pocket-rocket segment with less than 200 horsepower would be futile. Autocar speculated power will come from the firm’s turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. The power hike will be complemented by bigger brakes visible in the preview images, and comprehensive chassis modifications. Front-wheel drive is likely; all-wheel drive isn’t.
Engineers have a deep well of expertise to tap into as they turn a humble economy car into a serious contender for hot hatch supremacy. The N-badged variants of the i30 and the Veloster have struck a chord with fans all over the world, and the outgoing i20 helped Hyundai win the World Rally Championship’s manufacturer title in 2019.
The next-generation Hyundai i20 is due out in the summer of 2020 with a more expressive design, a sharper chassis, and more user-friendly tech in the cabin. It’s on these foundations that Hyundai will build the N-badged model. European enthusiasts will need to wait until the fall to see it in the metal, while hot-hatch aficionados in the United States are completely out of luck, as there’s no indication Hyundai will sell the i20 N in America.
On the Old Continent, the N’s main rival will be the Volkswagen Polo GTI and the aforementioned Ford Fiesta ST. The former offers a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four, while the latter puts the same amount of power under the driver’s right foot but generates it using a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. They compete in a shrinking segment, with the Peugeot 208 GTi, the Opel Corsa OPC, and the Renault Clio RS all having departed.