By on May 6, 2020

With Hyundai promising to give the N treatment to more models in its lineup, everyone expected the new i20 to be the next performance inductee. The subcompact debuted in its vanilla format earlier this year, equipped with a modest but serviceable 1.0-liter turbo engine making 118 horsepower. While that may be ideal for saving gas on grocery runs, Hyundai wants to deliver something a bit more raucous for enthusiasts.

The automaker teased the upcoming i20 N in a winter testing video that primarily focused on the World Rally Championship car fans of the sport would already recognize. The RM19 prototype was also seen kicking up snow in the clips, before a substantially camouflaged i20 received its time in the sun. 

 

Testing was done on a frozen lake in Sweden with WRC driver Thierry Neuville at the helm. His assessment of the i20 N was that it’s sharp and enjoyable. However, as this is basically a commercial for the brand, his praise is to be expected. Hyundai framed the car as an everyday sports car offering normal driveability with stellar cornering abilities, and Neuville was inclined to agree.

“Very precise. Very easy handling,” he said. “The engine is revving nicely and the noise is very interesting as well. I’m looking forward to get this one to drive in WRC.”

Despite the prototype being obscured by dark padding, it’s clearly different than the standard i20. The N model has twin exhaust ports, bigger wheels, a much lower suspension and what look to be upscaled brakes. Technical specifications are likely to be announced soon, as Hyundai’s teasing should be indicative of the model nearing the end of development. We expect Hyundai to slot in its oft-used 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo.

That unit makes just over 200 hp in the highly excellent Veloster, but may not be tuned for the same amount of oomph in the i20 N. The smaller hatchback is also riding on an entirely new platform, so part interchangeability with its former GB-platform siblings may be more difficult. Still, the 1.6-liter seems the likely candidate. Worse still is that Hyundai hasn’t expressed any interest about shipping this baby to North America.

While there’s a distinct lack of small, exciting vehicles in our market, the Kia Soul Turbo is already there for those needing to haul the occasional box and the Veloster can be made into a truly thrilling companion (even before splurging on the N variant) by equipping it with the right engine. You can also find affordable thrills via other automakers, like Honda and Volkswagen. Toyota is also rumored to be cooking up something special with the Corolla. But the i20 N may remain missing in action until it can be rejiggered into a next generation Kia Rio, or simply not show up at all.

 

Don’t fret. The whole point of the i20 N existing is to prove that Hyundai is willing to amp up its lineup, and that ideology won’t exclude our market. Both the Kona and Elantra are supposed to get N badges eventually. It’s also trying to prove itself in motorsport, which is why the i20 WRC and RM19 were included in the teasers — that, and padding them for time.

Of the rally i20, Neuville essentially said it was everything you’d want from a hardcore WRC car. He was a little more descriptive of thee RM19, noting that it was particularly fun to drive sideways. This is something we’ve heard in the past and probably has plenty to do with its engine configuration. Often referenced as mid-engined, the lightweight RM19 actually has its 390-hp motor sitting atop the rear axle.

As it’s a prototype, aimed at showing off what Hyundai is capable of while it considers what a production version vehicle with an engine mounted behind the driver might look like, nobody really expects much to come of it directly. Still, engineers are mulling over every scrap of data produced for use in future products. We can’t wait.

[Images: Hyundai]

 

 

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