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[CARTHRUST EXCLUSIVE] Hyundai i20 N-line first drive impressions!

Just as we don't confuse the BMW M-Sport variants with the M3 or M4 or M5, don't confuse this N-line's cosmetic and SLIGHT performance improvement with a full fledged i20 N.

Hyundai had unveiled the i20 N-line recently and well, it had garnered a lot of traction to say the least. Even when we knew this was not the i20 N, we were expecting something bigger of it. And as they rightly say, expectations hurt the most. The i20 N-line is clearly not the Tiago JTP like overhaul we wished for but, it is definitely better than the RS treatment for the Baleno from Maruti Suzuki. As good as a Polo GT or the Abarth Punto we had? Hmm… this is just the impressions so, can’t say!

Now then, before I start, I will divide this story into two segments. Pros and Cons. We won’t be talking about each aspect of the drive just yet. That’ll be another story as a full review. The i20 N-line is available only on Hyundai’s Platinum dealers or Signature outlets so this one is quite exclusive and special. Without any further procrastinations, let’s talk!

The Pros

Well, the pros of Hyundai are even more enhanced with this one. No doubt! The feature rich cabin now feels even more plush with the red accents on the door handles, bumpers and the stitching on the seats. The N-line badging all over also makes it feel quite special. At least it did to me! The newer alloy wheel designs, aggressive styling and this amazing blue color with red accents makes it stand out for sure!

Moreover, the look of the exhausts shows serious ‘performance’ business and the sound does justice to it as well. If you’re wondering whether there’s any change in the sound, there definitely is. The exhaust note is raspier and the car will feel alive. If you’re used to the silent Hyundai cabins, this one’s gonna feel different. But good different.

The buttons, Air-con controls, indicator/wiper stocks, etc. are all exactly the same as the ‘regular’ i20 DCT variant. I was expecting different graphics on the MID and the infotainment but again, too many expectations! Overall, the feel is pretty nice. You sit nice and low just like the regular i20 and the ugly looking poor man’s Audi-esque vibe continues. Why couldn’t Hyundai remove that fake vent from the passenger side? WHY? The red-accents would take your sight away from it and the interiors looks best at night when you can’t see it.

    The difference is in the steering wheel. The design is a new one similar to what you’d see on the Kona EV. Definitely sporty. And DO NOT miss the flappy pedal shifters behind it. Although now that I’ve used them, they appear to be just a ‘feature’ and don’t add any improvement performance-wise. That brings me to the DCT. The DCT is all too similar to the regular i20. In fact, I felt the regular one was somewhat better?

    The cons

    The problem with the DCT was that while it was up shifting after taking full revs till the 2nd gear only and the downshifts were not as good. I went up into the 3rd gear at just 40 KPH and braked hard thanks to traffic. The car started picking up from 8 KPH in 3rd gear and it just did not downshift. Not only will this affect the mileage, the driving comfort is also not great. And if this is how it’s supposed to be, I don’t think it will be fun to drive for enthusiasts because it still does not pick up from the get go! There still is turbo lag but that was expected considering the engine is exactly the same as the regular i20.

    The car doesn’t shift as quickly as an N-line model should and as soon as you reach the 3rd gear, the car shifts from high revs to low revs picking up slow and easy. Of course take this with a grain of salt because I drove it for only an hour or so and didn’t test it enough on open roads.

    There is no change in the output of the engine or its performance. I didn’t feel any change in the tuning either. As I said before, I feel the regular i20 DCT model is much better because even if you don’t get good enough performance, you get the comfort. Here, the suspension is much stiffer to make it track-friendly and increase its cornering abilities. Something a LOT of Hyundai vehicles need.

    The stiff suspension is not well suited for our Indian road conditions and the same exact tire profile of 195/55 R16 doesn’t justify the N-line badge either. Seriously Hyundai? In fact, Hyundai doesn’t even offer Hankook or Michelin rubbers, they offer Nexen tires on it. They’re not BAD but definitely not the best out there. Especially for a performance oriented car. So… while there is very minimal body roll and cornering is straight up brilliant, the ride comfort for daily driving isn’t.

    Hyundai also does not offer full LED headlights and no additional features in this one which is strange considering the asking price. Yes it gets LED projectors rather than full LEDs like the Verna SX(O). More strange stuff about Hyundai’s feature list is that this INR 13 lakh (On-road) car does not get wireless android auto/apple carplay. Hyundai has been doing it for a while now. The Hyundai Verna SX gets wireless apple carplay AND android auto while the top spec SX(O) does not. Similarly, the i20 Sportz, a mid tier model of the i20, gets wireless apple carplay AND android auto with its 8″ touchscreen but, the top spec Asta and Asta(O) variants with a 10.25″ touchscreen do not have it wireless. That same ordeal is followed here with the i20 N-line.

    Moreover, I didn’t understand why Hyundai couldn’t add more performance enhancing drugs to it? If they are going to charge the premium for it, it should justify. You can add on all these after-market for much less AND get your ECU tuning. Just a cosmetic update and calling it an N-line vehicle? Well, good marketing and capitalism does lead you to this. After all, a company runs on profit. But, even BMW’s M-Sport line offers much more and it is actually worth the money most of the times.

    Conclusion

    All in all, if you’re looking for a premium hatchback that is loaded to the brim with features, has a company fit raspy exhaust and the looks to make you feel special, go for it. If you’re expecting it to be as good as the 8 year old Polo’s GT line, you should stay away. This is not a variant for enthusiast drivers, just like the Seltos X-Line isn’t an off-road oriented variant. Both are marketing products destined to bring in huge cash to the companies. Alas I thought India finally gets the performance hatchback market.

    The i20 N-Line is better than the Altroz iTurbo and it feels like it will stay much more planted on highways due to the new suspension setup. But as planted as a Tata? You shall wait for the full review. And as for the price, we have some info that this might actually be priced at some discount for the early few pieces. Maybe around INR 12.75 lakh OTR? Wait what? Really? Fingers crossed!

    Check out more photos of the i20 N-line below:

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      Prakhar

      Editor-in-chief and 4-wheel fanatic

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