Hyundai i20 N Line is on sale and we drive it to find out what’s changed!
Words: Neeraj Padmakumar Photography: Sarath S
It’s been a while since Hyundai India launched the i20 N Line here. We had then told you what’s different in this car, and its prices. Now we finally got to drive it for an entire day, and came out impressed after clocking a few hundred kilometers on the odo. Before we dive into the deep details, here are some quick thoughts and a brief preview of the i20 N Line.
Hyundai i20 N Line: Is It A Proper N Car?
As most of you might already know by now, the i20 N Line is not an N car in the strict sense, but an N Line car. Now what does that mean? Well, N cars and N Line cars to Hyundai are what M cars and M Sports could mean to BMW! Proper N Cars are track focussed, high-performance machines with unlimited fun and adrenaline on offer. N Line cars, on the other hand, have significantly improved aesthetics and slightly reworked mechanicals. Though these are not mere cosmetic packages, N line cars can many a time offer better liveability on daily runs than full-blown N cars. The i20 N Line is the first of the range to hit the Indian shores and surprisingly has minimal mechanical changes gone into it!
Story Behind The Name
Wondering what the ‘N’ in N Line signifies? Some say it stands for Namyang, a place in South Korea where Hyundai has its most important R&D center. Others say it signifies Nurburgring, the iconic track where these vehicles are tested and tuned to perfection.
What’s Under The Hood?
There are a few changes in the overall design and cabin experience of the NLine i20, but we will come to them in a while. Mechanical changes on this car are fairly limited. The i20 N Line is powered by the same 1.0L turbocharged 3 cylinder petrol engine from the regular car, mated to the same set of 6-speed IMT and 7-speed DCT transmissions.
The exhaust note is the best during cold starts and at idles. The engine being a 3 cylinder turbo clearly calls for ample vibrations at idles, which strike beautiful chords with the exhaust sound, making the overall experience enjoyable.
How Does It Drive?
Since the powertrain remains unchanged, there is no big deviation in the way the N Line pulls. The 1.0 L turbo petrol engine is quite capable around mid-rpms. However, you do get to experience the familiar delay in delivery below 2000 rpm, and hence ‘launches’ can be less exciting. Floor the pedals and you will feel a slight delay in getting the i20 N Line off the line.
However, things change as the revs build up. This engine continues to have a meaty mid-range. You can rev this car till around its red line, milking every bit of its juice, and be still happy with the experience. We drove the i20 NLine with the 7-speed DCT gearbox. Distinguishing the NLine from the regular car distinctly is the pair of good-looking paddle shifters. These greatly improve the overall drive experience. You will feel these to be slightly sluggish in responses, but will not get bored either!
The DCT offers decent shifts in general. In the D mode, the shifts are quick and timely while in the Sport mode, the car holds on till the red line before upshifting and the downshifts are quite quick as well. The lower gears are widely spaced and this reflects well in low-speed scenarios. Attempting quick overtakes would not give you headaches, however, you would wish for a slightly better low-end performance.
The straight-line performance of the N Line is identical to the regular car, despite an additional 10 kilograms of kerb weight. 0-100 kph is claimed to be achieved in 9.90 seconds. But from our time with it, we believe the NLine to do this sprint in around 10 seconds.
It Doesn’t Handle Like A Hyundai At All!
You read that right! The i20 N Line doesn’t handle like a modern-day Hyundai. It is significantly sharper and more composed than the regular i20. The suspension and steering have had evident improvements over the regular car. Specifically, the suspension on the N Line is around 30% stiffer than the one on the regular car. Thus, the car feels planted at 3 digit speeds. You can easily push it to 130+ kph and still be comfortable inside. The chassis handles these speeds like a pro. There are no vertical oscillations felt, nor are there any floaty feel around corners.
The steering has had extensive reworks as well. It now offers more connect to the road. You can easily slam this car into corners and come out without losing much speed. There’s no more floating feel to it while you take corners, no more drama while you come out of it. The weight and precision have had huge upgrades from the regular car. On a very personal note, a diesel i20 with this level of handling prowess would’ve been just the perfect daily driver for me!
The i20 N Line gets disc brakes on all four wheels. These are quite good and offer good bites and stopping power. Hard-braking is done without any drama. Noteworthy is the grip offered by the tyres. The car gets the same CEAT highway rubber as the standard i20. While I had felt these to be slightly on the lower side in terms of traction on the diesel car, somehow I don’t get to feel it that way on the N Line. The grip seems just right here!
I am not sure as to what extent this would be a concern for this car’s target audience. The 1.0 TGDi engine on the N Line delivers identical fuel efficiency figures as that of the regular Turbo car. On the most eco-conscious runs, and with cruise control engaged, our test car with the DCT box delivered around 12 kmpl, on highways. However, when we drove it the way it is meant to be driven: enthusiastically, ramming into corners and carrying speeds, all we could manage to get was around 8-9 kmpl. People who are into the N Line wouldn’t always be bothered about these, cos enthusiasts don’t mind spending on enthusiasm!
3 Quick Remarks On The i20 N Line
- It could have had a more powerful engine !
The N line chassis is definitely capable of hosting a more powerful powerhouse. It is grown and mature enough to handle a few extra hps. On a rough note, I believe it can take upto 140 hps comfortably. Thus, it would anyway be rational enough to wish for an engine with more juice.
- It needs a proper manual gearbox
Pitched as an enthu car, the fact of not having a proper manual gearbox is definitely a let down. The iMT is nowhere near a proper manual in terms of fun or flexibility. ( You cannot even pop the clutch there!) I would highly appreciate a proper 6-speed manual box on the i20 N Line, if that were to actually happen.
- What if it had a diesel engine too ?
This might sound awkward to most. But, the diesel engine on the new i20 is a gem. It is torquey, punchy, refined and fuel efficient. We had told you more on this, in our i20 diesel review. Well, if the N Line had the option of a diesel, it could have appealed to a wider audience than it does now. Afterall, you would then be getting ‘cost-efficient’ fun!
Another way of putting this would be ‘ I wish the diesel i20 was as good as the N Line in handling and road manners!’ (Mouth shut!)
Thoughts On The Cabin Experience
The overall cabin experience is quite appealing. The interior looks sporty and has many bits and treatments highlighting the same. Black remains the theme with multiple red accents underlining its sporty nature. The Red ambient lighting and metal pedals take things higher, and the seats feel quite premium with their upholsteries and stitches.
The DCT variant gets paddle shifters that look and feel nice. The 3 spoke steering design is quite good to grip as well. The infotainment software seems to have had minor updates and now feels faster and more responsive. Another interesting bit inside is the auto-dimming rearview mirror (electrochromic mirror). This is something that even the top-spec variant of the regular i20 misses out on!
Prices And Should You Buy One?
The i20 N Line DCT is priced at Rs 11.75 lakh, ex-showroom. This if you might remember, is around Rs 50,000 more than the i20 Asta Turbo DCT which has a sticker price of Rs 11.25 lakh. You get the same engine and transmission on both cars. However, there are still a few things distinctly different on the N Line, from the standard car. It is more stylish, has a few additional features inside the cabin, and handles significantly better than one. It is on the handling that you would be putting those additional bucks on! Should you desire to have a Hyundai which doesn’t handle like the stereotype often associated with the name, go for this!