The latest pocket rocket to join the Hyundai N family – the i20 N – might just offer the best bang for the buck of the lot.

The Hyundai N family has only kept on growing since the launch of the i30 N in 2018. There’s now the i30 Fastback and sedan variants to accompany the hatch, along with the Kona N SUV and the Veloster N in the North American market.

But with that growth of the family, there’s also been a rise in prices – a base manual i30 N hatch now costs $4510 more than it did back when the model launched.

Those after cheap thrills in a hot hatch ought not fret, though, as the latest new tacker in the family is an absolute bargain. Meet the 2022 Hyundai i20 N – yours for just $32,990 before on-road costs.

While the last-gen i20 was ditched from the Australian market in 2015, don’t think the model is making a comeback as a whole – the i20 N is currently the only version Aussies get, and ever will get.

I don’t think anyone’s really going to be bothered by that, though, as while the normal version would no doubt be a good little runabout, the poor compact car sales in this country speak for themselves.

The Hyundai i20 N is, then, a niche product within a niche market; for hot hatch enthusiasts, that’s actually a very good thing.

For starters, while the i30 N has softened and gained a dual-clutch automatic transmission, the i20 N is strictly a manual-only proposition.

It also means it comes with a seriously strong level of equipment as there’s no need to pinch pennies to make the model competitive with other small hatches as this is a proper hot hatch. Its only meaningful competition is the Ford Fiesta ST – similarly, the only version of the current Fiesta offered locally.

I actually prefer the cabin of the i20 N to that of the i30 – it’s roomy enough for me to fit in the back seat at 6’2″, but small enough that it feels more sporty and locks you in more.

It feels more driver-focused, too, with the central 10.25-inch infotainment screen wrapping around you and absolutely perfect shifter placement.

It’s better-equipped as standard as well – no i30 N model offers a fully-digital driver display, yet it’s standard in the smaller i20.

There are more splashes of colour throughout the cabin as well, and its cloth bucket seats with leather bolstering are absolutely ideal.

With a Bose stereo and wireless phone charger also thrown in, don’t think you’re making any sacrifices when it comes to daily creature comforts.

Where you do make a concession, though, is under the bonnet. Rather than feature the N-specific 2.0-litre turbo you’ll find in the i30 N and Kona N, the 2022 Hyundai i20 N features a smaller 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder you’ll find in a multitude of other Hyundai and Kia models.

Its been around for ages, this engine, but its 150kW power output (from 5500-6000rpm) still holds up, while an extra 25Nm has been eked out of it to give it 275Nm of torque from 1500-4500rpm.

Better yet, there’s an overboost feature as well, giving it 304Nm from 2000-4000rpm for short periods of time in N mode.

Couple that engine with a six-speed manual gearbox with auto rev-matching in a nimble front-wheel drive chassis, and it’s a surefire recipe for fun.

Certainly, the i20 N doesn’t disappoint for thrills in the corners. While adaptive suspension is one of the things it does lose in the favour of its affordable price, it simply doesn’t need it.

For daily driving, it’s more comfortable than an i30 N ever is; in the corners, it’s easier and more forgiving without lacking engagement. Yes, it’s not quite as razor-sharp as its big brother, but it’s not far off it – especially thanks to the bespoke Pirelli P Zero tyres.

Nothing beats the engagement of the manual gearbox in this thing, either. The throws are snappy and tight, the clutch is nicely weighted and forgiving, and the auto rev-matching is brilliant for those inexperienced with heel-and-toe.

For a corner-carving weekend car you can still drive to work, it really doesn’t get much better than this thing.

However, there is one catch that must be noted – the engine in the i20 N really does lack the character you may have come to expect from Hyundai’s N division.

Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with it at all. It’s plenty punchy when you step on it – its claimed 0-100km/h is a very respectable 6.2 seconds – while remaining incredibly smooth and refined.

That’s sort of the problem, though. Smoothness and refinement isn’t what the N division made a name for itself off – rather, raucousness and massive amounts of unruly boost is what I, at least, have come to associate with the brand.

However, if you live in the real world – which most people do – this makes the i20 N a much better daily driver than an i30 N. People in traffic won’t hate you for your loud exhaust, and your wallet won’t hate you as it used just 7.8L/100km during my 593km of testing against a claim of 6.9L/100km. The last i30 N I drove used 11.4L/100km driven the same way.

Given the price point and stripped-back nature of the i20 N’s underpinnings, many will no doubt modify these things for track work (or showing off in carparks) making the lack of engine character a moot point with that crowd also.

Again, though, this is a good engine, and I’ve been impressed with it from a performance standpoint both here and in everything else I’ve tested it in. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like the complete work of the N division, but rather the rehashing of leftovers that it is.

Leftovers often taste better the next day, though, and just how much additional torque has been squeezed out of this engine is proof of that.

The 2022 Hyundai i20 N is a seriously brilliant car, and even if the engine lacks a bit of flair, it’s no harsh mark against it.

If you’re looking at an i30 N, just ask yourself before you sign the dotted line – do you really need the extra power and space?

The $11,500 you’ll save could get you a hell of a holiday – or a hell of a lot of mods.

2022 Hyundai i20 N List Price: $32,990 | As Tested: $33,990
  • 8/10
    Performance - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Ride & Handling - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Value for Money - 9/10

Pros: Better-equipped interior than the i30 N, more comfortable and forgiving as well, more spacious than you’d expect, extremely good value for money, you can only get it with a manual gearbox
Cons: Engine lacks character compared to the N division’s 2.0-litre turbo mill, boot space isn’t the most generous

In a nutshell: Save yourself $11,500 and get this over a base i30 N. Unless you’re truly set on the extra power, the savings make stepping down a notch more than worth it. The 2022 Hyundai i20 N is a brilliantly fun car. 

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Hyundai Motor Company Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel. All additional fuel costs were covered by the author.

Patrick Jackson
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