The Hyundai i20 N takes on the VW Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST with 200+ horsepower. Is the Korean hatchback a better option?

The 2021 Hyundai i20 N is the high-performance, range-topping version of the subcompact i20 hatchback. The third N-badged model from the Korean company, the i20 N joins the slightly bigger i30 N and Veloster N.

Unlike its larger siblings, the i20 N features a smaller, less powerful engine, but it looks just as mean on the outside. Does it have enough oomph to compete with popular models like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Fiesta ST? Is it a match for the new and wild Toyota GR Yaris? Let’s find out in the review below.

Exterior

  • New front bumper with bigger vents
  • New rear diffuser
  • Bigger exhaust pipe
  • New, lighter wheels
  • Exclusive color
  • Looks sportier than the competition
  • Needs two exhaust pipes
2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943116

Design-wise, the i20 N is a third-generation i20 with N-specific upgrades that we already know from the i30 and Veloster. Because the fourth-gen i20 is more angular and aggressive than before, the N package fits like a glove and makes the i20 N one of the most aggressive looking hatchbacks in this niche.

Just like on the i30 N, the N upgrade is mostly about a sportier bumper up front.

The engine hood, the headlamps, and the main grille remain unchanged, but the bumper feature notably larger side vents and a revised lower intake. However, these larger vents aren’t unique to the i20 N. Hyundai offers something similar on the less powerful N Line model too. The latter also sports a splitter-like element at the bottom. The lowered suspension also helps with the planted stance, even though we’re talking about only 0.4 inches.

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943112

Onto the sides, the N package is mostly about beefed-up side skirts and new wheels. The lowered suspension is a bit more noticeable here. The side skirts extend a bit more toward the ground compared to the regular i20 and feature tiny winglets toward the wheels. The five-spoke wheels measure 18 inches in diameter, so they’re larger than the standard wheels on the i20. This design is also exclusive to the i20 N.

In the rear, the i20 N stands out thanks to a unique roof spoiler inspired by the WRC-spec rally car.

Most of the fascia remains identical to the regular i20, but the lower bumper is notably more aggressive. The center section is shaped like a two-piece diffuser, but unlike the i30 N, the i20 N features just one exhaust pipe to the right. This is a bit disappointing. Not only it ruins the rear end’s symmetry, but it’s also rather strange for a range-topping performance model to not have a twin-exhaust setup in this day and age.

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943124

Still, the i20 N is a cool upgrade over the standard i20. And except for the exhaust setup, it actually looks more aggressive than the i30 N. But that’s mostly because the new-generation i20 itself is sharper.

The Hyundai i20 N is available in six exterior colors. That’s a bit limited compared to the regular model, but at least you get the cool Performance Blue that also adorns the i30 N and Veloster N. Other color options include Intense Blue, Polar White, Sleek Silver, Brass, and Phantom Black. All color but black are available with a Phantom Black roof for a two-tone finish. All colors come with Tomato Red accents on the front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper.

Interior

  • Brand-new interior from i20
  • Digital displays
  • Bespoke instrument cluster
  • New, sportier steering wheel
  • Race-inspired seats
  • Blue stitching
  • Performance Driving Data system
  • Spacious trunk
2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943110
The interior of the i20 N is obviously heavily based on the standard model, which was redesigned in 2020.

This means you’ll find the same sleek dashboard with the continuous A/C vent, the big infotainment display placed atop the center stack, and the digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. It features the same clutter-free center console and LED ambient lighting. The i20 is also roomier than before and the N badge does not affect this feature.

The digital screens remain just as large as in the regular model at 10.25 inches and you have access to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The touchscreen also offers split-screen functionality for multitasking or sharing with the front passenger. The i20 N also comes with a wireless charging pad and the option to add a Bose premium audio system.

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943111

But what sets the i20 N apart from the regular model? Well, the first thing that makes a different is the design of the front seats. Significantly sportier than the standard units, they also include integrated headrests. The hatchback is also fitted with a unique steering wheel with a different control layout and a split lower spoke. The list continues with the N gear knob, sporty metal pedals, and Performance Blue accents throughout the black interior. The instrument cluster comes with extra features too, such as a variable LED red zone that shows you the best time to switch gears.

Finally, there’s a Performance Driving Data System that monitors the drivetrain to provide you with essential information and to help you improve track skills. This feature saves and displays driving data, including information on horsepower, torque, and turbo boost. It also includes a lap and acceleration timer.

Is the i20 N still practical? Yes. Just like the regular i20, it benefits from a larger trunk. Thanks to an increase of almost one cubic feet, the i20 can now carry up to 12.4 cubic feet of luggage behind the second-row seats. That’s just as much as the Volkswagen Polo and 1.7 cubic feet more than the Ford Fiesta.

Drivetrain and Performance

  • 1.6-liter four-cylinder
  • 201 horsepower
  • 203 pound-feet of torque
  • Not as powerful as other N models
  • Mostly on par with the competition
  • 0 to 62 in 6.7 seconds
  • Top speed at 143 mph
2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943109

As expected, the i20 N doesn’t feature the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine found in the i30 N and Veloster N. This engine is a bit too large for the i20, but it’s also too powerful for a subcompact hatchback (even though Toyota and its GR Yaris might not agree), so Hyundai opted for a 1.6-liter T-GDi four-banger. Usually offered in larger Hyundais, like the i30, this mill was reworked for the i20 N. Although it shares many components with the 1.6-liter available in the regular i30, it also includes an exclusive turbo system cooled by an intercooler and the water circulation of the engine.

How powerful is the 2021 Hyundai i20 N?

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943119
The unit is rated at 201 horsepower and 203 pound-feet of torque, figures that aren't far off compared to the 1.6-liter four-cylinder in the regular i30.

The latter cranks out the same amount of power, but a bit less torque at 195 pound-feet of twist. All told, the i20 N doesn’t benefit from an exclusive engine like the i30 N does. It’s just a slightly modified version of the company’s regular 1.6 Gamma II T-GDi.

How does the 2021 Hyundai i20 N compare to standard i20 models?

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943117

But this is by no means bad. It’s still a massively powerful engine compared to what’s available in the regular i20. The range-topping hatchback features a 1.0-liter Kappa II rated at 118 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, so the i20 N gets away with an extra 83 horses and 55 pound-feet of twist. The i20 N is also significantly quicker than the regular i20. The standard hatchback hits 62 mph from a standing start in 10.1 seconds in its quickest variant, while the i20 N covers the benchmark in a scant 6.7 clicks. The same goes for top speed. A regular i20 won’t take you beyond 118 mph, while the i20 N tops out at a much more impressive 143 mph.

Hyundai i20 vs Hyundai i20 N
Hyundai i20 Hyundai i20 N
Engine 1.0-liter Kappa II 1.6-Liter Four-Cylinder
Horsepower 118 HP 201 HP
Torque 148 LB-FT 203 LB-FT
0 to 62 mph 10.1 seconds 6.7 seconds
Top Speed 118 mph 143 mph

Is the 2021 Hyundai i20 N more powerful than the competition?

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943115

The i20 N is more than competitive when compared to its direct rivals. At 201 horsepower, it delivers an extra four horses compared to both the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. However, it lags behind both models in the torque department. The Fiesta ST offers an extra 11 pound-feet, while the Polo GTI comes with an additional 37 pound-feet on tap. Still, its just as quick as the Polo GTI from 0 to 62 mph in 6.7 seconds and just two tenths slower than the Fiesta ST. Things don’t look as good when compared to the Toyota GR Yaris. The Japanese hatchback comes with 257 horsepower and 265 pound-feet on tap, which is an extra 56 horses and 62 pound-feet. It’s also more than a second quicker to 62 mph with a 5.5-second benchmark.

How much does the 2021 Hyundai i20 N cost?

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943123

Specific pricing information for the i20 N is not yet available, but we do know that the regular i20 starts from £18,595 the U.K. Given that i30 N commands a 44-percent premium over the base i30, it’s safe to say that the i20 N will retail from around £26,700. This sticker will make it only £3,000 cheaper than the i30 N.

The Volkswagen Polo GTI is not available in the U.K., but the Ford Fiesta ST is and it’s significantly more affordable. Specifically, the Fiesta ST starts from £22,275. The Toyota GR Yaris, on the other hand, is a bit more expensive at £29,995 before options. But it’s also notably more powerful.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i20 N better than the Volkswagen Polo GTI?

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI High Resolution Exterior
- image 731370

The Polo GTI has long been considered the slightly more premium offering in this niche. The latest-generation Polo is actually a big step up in that department as far as interior design and tech goes, but the new i20 isn’t that far behind. As far as exterior design goes, the Polo GTI is a milder option. Under the hood of the Polo GTI lurks a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 197 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, so you get a bit more torque from the German hatchback.

Read our full review of the Volkswagen Polo GTI.

Is the 2021 Hyundai i20 N better than the Ford Fiesta ST?

2018 Ford Fiesta ST High Resolution Exterior
- image 706946

The Fiesta ST is also relatively new, so it’s packed with all the technology and convenience features you need in a small hatchback. Although not particularly sporty on the outside, the Fiesta ST packs a solid punch at 197 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. A bit less oomph than the i20 N, but an extra 11 pound-feet. The Fiesta ST is a bit quicker to 62 mph and it’s also slightly more affordable.

Read our full story on the Ford Fiesta ST

Is the 2021 Hyundai i20 N better than the Toyota GR Yaris?

2020 Toyota GR Yaris Exterior
- image 879702

The GR Yaris is the only hot-hatchback in this niche that matches the i20 N’s aggressive exterior design. So if you’re into a small hatchback with menacing looks, this is the closest thing you can buy. But unlike the i20 N and all the other vehicles in this market, the GR Yaris has plenty of power behind its sporty looks. It’s turbocharged three-cylinder cranks out a massive 257 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque and enables the small three-door to hit 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds. On the flipside, it’s also the more expensive option out there.

Read our full review of the Toyota GR Yaris.

Conclusion

2021 Hyundai i20 N
- image 943114

The Hyundai i20 N is part of the company’s assault on the performance market and a much needed addition to the subcompact segment. While the bigger i30 N makes more sense against the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Ford Focus ST, the i20 N comes in to tackle a slightly small but still important market: subcompact performance hatchbacks. While not as big as the compact niche sales-wise, the subcompact market has long been dominated by the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST. The i20 N comes in to try and brake the monopoly, but the recent arrival of the Toyota GR Yaris makes matters a bit more difficult. But while it might not have the massive power of the Yaris, the i20 N brings forward aggressive styling, enough power to compete against the Polo GTI and Fiesta ST, and a well-equipped interior with modern technology.

  • Leave it
    • A bit expensive?
    • No match for the Toyota GR Yaris
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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