Hyundai i20N | PH Used Buying Guide

Hyperactive Fiesta ST rival was much shorter-lived than expected – and than it deserved

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 17 December 2023 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for £21,500
  • 1.6-litre inline four petrol turbo, front-wheel drive
  • Three- or even two-wheel cornering in the best hot hatch tradition
  • Ride not plush on poor roads
  • Fast enough, and mechanically strong, but a few quality issues
  • They’ve stopped making them, boo  

Boxing is a tough sport. At the pro level, it’s not just about being able to take repeated punches in the mush for three-quarters of an hour. It’s also about picking the right fights, i.e. the ones that maximise your purse while minimising your pain.

All credit to Hyundai, then, for challenging cars like the GR Yaris and Fiesta ST with its i20N. Taking on these champs of the sporting supermini class looked like a quick way to hit the automotive canvas but, emboldened by the warm reception given to its i30N in mid-2017, Hyundai clearly felt it was worth a go. 

The i20N – N standing for Nürburgring – was revealed to the European market in October 2020. At its heart was an N Turbo Smartstream G engine, which in English was a 1.6 turbo four with 204hp and 203lb ft powering the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox (no auto option) and a mechanical limited-slip diff. The i20N featured a significantly stiffened-up body and stiffened passive suspension (the i30N’s was adaptive). Its geometry was aggressivised, the ride height lowered by 10mm and the brakes embiggened by 40mm. Hyundai threw a lot of equipment into the N’ed-up cabin along with lots of driver info and driving modes. 

It all sounded like a bang-up recipe for a small bundle of fun and so it proved. The i20N charmed the pants off the press, who found that it sat comfortably alongside the Fiesta ST in a class of two below the GR Yaris, and somewhat above the rest (208 GTi, Polo GTI, Cooper S etc) in terms of sportiness. The Fiesta was nominally £3k or so cheaper than the Hyundai but that was because it didn’t come with an LSD as standard. With the optional diff fitted to the Ford there was only £500 or so between them, at £24.5 and £25k respectively. If you went for the top-spec Edition ST with the diff and manually adjustable coilovers you’d be up to nearly £29k, whereas there was really no need to spend any more than the standard RRP of £25k on an i20N because they were so well equipped out of the box. 

Small wonder that it won so many awards and garnered such a scramble of orders. Unfortunately, the i20N was destined to have a short lifespan, in Europe at least. At the end of 2022 Hyundai announced that Euro 7 emissions laws that were due to come along in July 2025 were going to force it to kill off most of its N models here. For UK enthusiasts that meant the i30N as well as the subject of this buying guide. 

At the time of writing (December 2023) you couldn’t place an order for a new i20N. You could get a new one from existing stock or from the ‘Pipeline’, which we guess is Hyundai-speak for cancelled orders, but apart from that your only option is to go used. Would that be a clever move though? Let’s investigate. 

SPECIFICATION | Hyundai i20N (2020-23)

Engine: 1,598cc 16v inline four turbocharged petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 201@5,500-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 203@1,750-4,500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 6.7
Top speed (mph): 142
Weight (kg): 1,190
MPG (WLTP): 40.4
CO2 (g/km): 158
Wheels (in): 18
Tyres: 215/40
On sale: 2021-2023
Price new (2021): £24,995
Price now: from £21,500

Note for reference: car weight and power data is hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.


For more mature PHers especially it might seem a bit mad that a supermini should weigh nearly 1,200kg, but that is indeed what an i20N weighed. Before you get too angry about it though you should realise that it was actually lighter than a Fiesta ST or a Polo GTI. Even the godlike RenaultSport Clio 200 Cup of the late 2000s was in the same weight ballpark as the i20N. Signs o’ the times, and a long way from the featherlight days of early Golf GTIs (810kg) and 205 GTis (850kg).

One fix for the perception of excess weight (although not necessarily for fine handling) is of course excess power. 200hp in a small car, even a 1,200kg one, should be good for thrillls aplenty, and that was definitely the case with the i20N. It went through the 0-62mph in the mid-six second bracket, going on from there to a top speed of more than 140mph.

Besides eco, normal and sport modes and launch control the i20N offered you the opportunity to set up two custom modes from your own mixture of engine, steering, stability control, auto-blip rev matching (something you didn’t get in the Fiesta ST) and exhaust sound settings. Once programmed in, either of these two custom modes could be instantly engaged by the two sky-blue ’N’ paddles on the steering wheel. All good so far. 

In truth, the engine was workmanlike rather than wondrous. It didn’t really encourage you to build lots of revs, and if you did it was quite slow to shed them. Standard auto-blip got you around that heavy flywheel effect on downchanges by smoothly matching engine revs to road speed as long as you had the rev-matching function in one of its two sportiest settings. In the other modes, it wasn’t 100 per cent accurate. If you thought your feet might be better at it, the blipper was switch-offable. When cold the motor did have a slight roughness at idle but that went away as the temperature rose. The manual gearbox is slick and sturdy but some owners did notice sometimes less than sweet engagements of first or reverse gears. 

If an exciting engine note was important to you, the spitting, parping, sound-enhanced exhaust that Hyundai fitted to the i20N was just the job – but only if you were sitting on the ground next to it. A fair-sized chunk of aural excitement seemed to get lost somewhere between the tailpipe and the cabin, and going into one of the more extreme driving modes didn’t really restore it. The spring used for the exhaust opening valve revealed itself to be weak, causing a rattle. Hyundai would either replace the full exhaust under warranty, in which case it would probably happen again, or you could opt for a more permanent solution by buying a better aftermarket spring for around £65. 

Jerky throttle response in slow traffic was noticed by some. One owner fix for this was to remove the exhaust valve fuse in order to, well, de-restrict the gas flow. You be the judge. Otherwise, the drivetrain seems to have been very reliable although we did find one owner whose fuel pump had expired at six months. Owners’ experiences with the Hyundai dealer network have varied between superb (that being the norm) and, less frequently, ‘not very helfpul’. One owner was complaining about having to top up the coolant twice when the engine was hot but he got little more than shrugs from the dealer. 

Hyundais come with a five-year warranty so even the oldest used i20Ns will still be covered. Even though they didn’t really need to do buyers any favours because demand was exceeding supply, some dealers did offer free i20N servicing for the first three years and zero per cent finance. Three-year servicing add-ons were available from £299.

Everyday fuel consumption would be in the high 30s to low 40s. Hypermiling would take you into the 50s. Even an energetic driver could easily top 35mpg. Getting those numbers in the relatively thirsty i30N wouldn’t be so easy. 


Back in the mists of time, it was a motoring fact that you couldn’t have good handling and a good ride at the same time. Jaguar broke that mould with its first XJ6 and Ford brought top quality driving characteristics to the masses in the Focus. However, as car weights have crept up with the addition of more and more safety, emissions and cabin tech equipment, that handling/comfort sweet spot has been moving away from the affordable cars in a manufacturer’s range and towards the more expensive models which can more easily bear the extra costs of active damping systems. 

The i20N achieved its tight, flat handling without expensive suspension. Instead, it went down a more traditional route involving bigger anti-roll bars, aggressive camber angles, a mechanical limited-slip differential (the i30N had an electronic one), stiffer springs, a stiffer rear torsion beam, and a chassis stiffened at twelve points. All that stiffness led to a raft of internet videos showing i20Ns being earholed around various circuit bends with the inside rear wheel or indeed both inside wheels waving about in the air, just like in the good old hot hatch days.

Or, to use an appropriately old word, it was very chuckable. If you get a minute, check out Misha Charoudin’s Ring lap here. For a more road-based view here’s Dan Prosser comparing it to the Fiesta ST.  

The price that’s usually levied for stiff-chassised fun is a firm ride, and that’s what you got in the i20N. The dampers were passive, unlike the i30N’s adaptive ones, and the ride was not plush. That wasn’t a problem for most 20N buyers who relished its keenness to rotate into corners, egged on by instruments that actually told you there was a tasty bend ahead while suggesting that you might want to engage N mode for extra laughs. The ride quality thing is only worth bearing in mind if you’re averse to being jiggled and your local council hasn’t invested much money in the roads you’re going to be using.   

Steering was interesting. More than one long-term tester set the numb-ish electric helm to maximum lightness on one of their custom N modes and found it very liveable. In sport modes, it weighted up by quite a degree, maybe too much for some, but on a track the steering squirm under power despite (or maybe more accurately because of the tugging of) the limited slip diff only added to the feeling that this little Hyundai would not only look after you but also entertain you when the copious grip eventually started to peter out. 

18-inch alloy wheels, Pirelli P Zero tyres specifically developed for the i20N and red-calipered ’N’ brakes were all standard. The discs were 320mm at the front and 262mm at the rear. They worked really well in the dry but some owners weren’t so keen on the extra stopping distance required when it was raining. The handbrake was an old-school metal stick between the seats. 

Not everyone was impressed by the Pirelli tyres either, citing early degradation or poor grip in wintry conditions. That lack of cold-weather grip was more of a problem in the UK where owners were perhaps more inclined to use their i20Ns on the same rubber all year round, whereas drivers in some parts of Europe are obliged by law to change to winter tyres. Anyway, Michelin Pilot Sport 4s or 5s usually solved that problem. Replacement tyres from an outfit like Blackcircles will be around £50 for budget, around £100 for mid-range (Kumho, Falken, Toyo etc) or £135 for P Zeros or Pilots. 

The N20’s turning circle was pretty large and there could be a fairly shocking juddering and noise from the front end during the application of full lock when cold. This front diff-related issue was by no means exclusive to Hyundai. On the i20N it was reportedly much less pronounced when Michelins were fitted. 


You could only have an i20N as a five-door, which didn’t boost its appeal among those who felt that performance hatches should only ever have three doors. At least the front vents were real, which hasn’t always been the case with more expensive cars, but no number of N wings, side skirts or diffusers could disguise the fact that the basic i20 body shape wasn’t massively inspiring. Once you’d noticed the odd position of the rear door handles and the general confusion of lines in that rear-three-quarter area it was hard to love or forget it.

The Performance Blue (PB) paint that has become associated with ’N’ cars was a £550 extra, and it was another £500 to get the contrasting black roof. If you didn’t go for that, the non-colourmatched black sharkfin aerial could look a bit Halfords. lf you didn’t like the red stripe accents on the bodykit parts you could go for Dragon Red body paint which got rid of them, but then you might regret having accepted middle age quite so readily. 

Some cars came out of the factory with paint missing in various places, leading to rust. These were usually PB cars, although black and red ones were also affected. If you spotted the defects Hyundai sorted them out under warranty, though not always all that promptly. 

The i20N wasn’t a big car so the boot wasn’t big either at 352 litres. The headlights were annoyingly feeble on dipped beam and condensation could be an issue in both the front and rear lenses. There were also instances of water ingress past the plastic trim piece between the rear lenses. At least one owner reported a clunking noise from the back of the car that happened on corners in cold weather. It sounded suspension-y but another owner confidently stated it was the tailgate rattling because of looseness in the lock mech. 


You can’t have everything, as someone who had everything probably said. In the case of the i20 the things you couldn’t have were peerless cabin quality or award-winning interior design, but on the plus side you did get a lot of equipment on top of the normal driver assist gear stuff you’d expect like cruise control and lane-keeping. Highlights of the supplementary N list were heated seats, a heated steering wheel (a bespoke ’N’ one with those paddles for the modes and a big red button for the auto-blip), parking sensors and a reversing camera, and wireless device charging. 

The info screen included various real-time tracking circuit maps, including of course the Nürburgring, but you had to pay £500 extra for Bose audio. This added two more speakers and a sub-woofer as well as the Bose amp and was well worth having, but ticking that Bose box added between three and six months to the new car delivery time so quite a few buyers gave it a swerve. Used cars that have it therefore command a small premium. There have been reports of the wireless charging system only working intermittently. It does appear to be quite finicky about the positioning of the phone on the pad. Well forward and well centralised seems to be favourite, along with taking the phone out of its protective case. Some USB sticks have not been discovered by i20Ns, some horns have not always worked, and some infotainment screens have blanked out. The screen issue would usually respond to a software update that you could download from Hyundai’s website. 

The seats were comfy enough and very well bolstered for enthusiastic bend-swinging, but some i20Ns have had to go back to dealers to rectify early-onset wear to the bolster material. In the rear, a Polo GTI had a bit more headroom for passengers than the Hyundai. If i20N back-seaters wanted a view ahead they had to lean over to peer around the integrated headrests on the front seats. The rear passenger occupancy warning beep went off on some cars even when there was nobody there.  

There was a fair bit of tyre and wind noise, pointing up the car’s humble origins, but the cruising refinement was more than acceptable thanks to a usefully high sixth gear. Although one or two owners have noticed some seat squeak, the i20N has acquired no reputation for trim rattles even when it’s been constantly beasted on corrugated roads such as those found in Australia. Or the UK, come to think of it.


Anyone in the market for a seriously good, no-expense spared sporting supermini would probably have one car on their shortlist, and that would be the Toyota GR Yaris. Unfortunately, if you didn’t get onto the GR waiting list as soon as they were announced you were immediately too late. As this piece was going to press in December 2023 Toyota was winding up GR Yaris production with a load of outstanding orders still to be fulfilled. Of course, you could buy a used one, but unsurprisingly given how brilliant they are these are thin on the ground. 

If you don’t fancy the idea of hunting down and then paying £28k or more for a used GR, the i20N is surely worthy of investigation. Like the GR it too has come to an end, but the difference between it and the GR is that it is a lot cheaper used. The Hyundais start at £21k-£22k, and you’ll have a wide choice in the UK with 70 or so examples available at any given moment. A 15,000-mile car should cost you around £21.5k, while £22.5k will drop the miles down to the single-figure thousands. New, zero-miles i20Ns are available for under £27,000 but as mentioned earlier they will be on a stock inventory/cancelled order basis only. 

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