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Until a few years ago, Hyundai was one of the last brands on the UK market you'd have associated with performance motoring. Then, seemingly from nowhere, we got the i30 N, a highly credible Volkswagen Golf GTi rival that picked up Business Car's Driver's Choice award in 2019 alongside other accolades. Now, here's the follow-up, the i20 N - a hot supermini aiming to take on the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST.
As with its bigger brother, there's no doubting the i20 N's performance credentials. A 204hp engine delivers pukka hot hatch speed, with 0-62mph possible in 6.2 seconds thanks to strong acceleration throughout the rev band. The slick manual gear change also impresses, while anyone is able to feel like a racing driver thanks to clever rev-matching technology that automatically boosts the engine's revs to match the car's speed when changing down. We also love the noise the i20 N makes, with the exhaust note rising from a low-down growl to a fantastic, full-fledged howl as the revs rise, making you never want to change gear (purists may get sniffy that this is aided by an artificial sound generator, but that doesn't bother us). It's not just going in a straight line where the i20 N impresses either. Cornering is flat, with great grip and traction aided by a mechanical limited slip diff. The brakes are also superb, while direct, weighty steering breeds confidence. And although the car's chassis has obviously been tuned towards handling performance, ride comfort isn't as bad as you might fear - it can bounce you around a bit but it certainly isn't uncomfortable.
As well as performing like a proper hot hatch, the i20 N also looks like one too, with styling features such as side skirts, a rear roof spoiler and diffuser, and 18in alloy wheels. The interior too is full of great fun, sporty features, such as the steering wheel with its big blue N driving mode buttons (five selectable drive modes are available, including the sporty N and N Custom) and red rev matching button, and the digital dash, which when N mode is selected flashes up a flame graphic before displaying mechanical info such as oil and engine temperatures, and even a stopwatch for recording lap times. The sport seats also look good, as do the blue N flashes on the doors. And of course, in addition to all these fun and games the i20 N also retains useful practical features of the regular i20, such as Hyundai's impressive infotainment set-up, a decent amount of space in the back, and a good-sized boot.
As you'd expect from a hot hatch the i20 N is far from the most frugal company car choice, and keen user choosers will have to fork out for 36% BIK payments. While at least this isn't in the highest band, it is still a band higher than the Fiesta ST, which scores slightly better on CO2 emissions and also official fuel economy. However, the Hyundai still incurs slightly cheaper BIK payments thanks to a lower P11D, and if you want to apply further sensible fleet logic for just a second, also has stronger predicted residual values. But at the end of the day, nobody is going to choose an i20 N because of its running costs. They might, however, choose it because it's enormous fun.
Hyundai i20 N 1.6 T-GDi 204PS 6 Speed Manual
Residual value: 44.4%
Service, maintenance and repair: £2,710
Cost per mile: 45.56p
Fuel consumption: 40.4mpg
CO2 (BIK %): 158g/km (36%)
BIK 20/40% a month: £148/£295
Luggage capacity: 352 litres
Engine size/power: 1,598cc/204hp