Join Date: Oct 2021
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Re: Hyundai i20 N Line Review
Having lived with the i20 N Line N8 DCT for close to an year with 11,000+ Kms on the odometer, I am penning down a very short review of the car. Of all the hopes and dreams that it lived up to, and also all the frustrations which you encounter as a petrol-head who loves their two and four wheelers.
As a backdrop, I graduated to the i20 N Line from a 2014 Ritz (K12 petrol). The Ritz has been a no-nonsense, no-niggles, great Maruti service product, and I hope to continue to drive it for few more years. The frame of reference of owning and living with a car has thus been Maruti and the Ritz for me.
Back in 2021, we were looking for a second car for my family, zeroed in on the Polo GT TSI, almost bought it, and right in the end, went for the i20 N Line because it was a new, spacious product with good backseat, firm, sorted ride (Ritz spoiled me with mature ride quality) and the combination of a turbo + DCT promised engaging drives. I took multiple long test drives of both the cars, and knew exactly what I was going to get. The Polo had a great engine which seemed to prioritize fun, whereas, the i20 promised 'mildly toned down' fun (for e.g. you cannot rev the engine over 5,000 RPM when the car is stationery or in 'P').
So, with that in mind, got the Namyang + Nurburgring concoction, i.e. the i20 N Line.
Usage - Single driver (I do not like to share my wheels). 50% each for city and highway usage. Two services done (1,000 Kms and 10,000 Kms). I only refuel with Shell (for all my vehicles).
1. Driving dynamics are absolutely sorted. The car feels fairly confident in carrying speeds into and out of corners. You will absolutely enjoy driving the car in Ghat sections, and mountain twisties. Body roll is minimal (strange it's not lower still considering the low-ish height of the car, but then, much better than the Hyundai sedans and hatches of yore. Steering is very precise, and no drama on turns. Steering has a distinct disconnected feel - shoutout to Maruti and Ritz on that brilliant steering where you would feel the surface and smallest of stone chips. But the steering weighs up very well as the speed increases, and that inspires a lot of confidence. The car is quick to build up speed, and somehow, it does not do anything to mask the speed - you will know that you are driving fast in this car. But at higher speeds, the car feels planted.
2. The suspension and ride quality. Stiff - in one word. The stiffness lends a very mature ride quality in most use cases. For e.g., post rain-pebbly-uneven-tarmac of Bangalore - the same stiffness means a planted and supreme ride quality if you can drive at decent speeds. On the highway and twisties, the same stiff suspension means brilliant ride quality. But the fun ends on roads with 'white-topping' where you can feel the road and noise levels increase as well. However, tar laid roads feel good. One thing is the big THUD noise you will heard and 'feel' while going over small, 'scientific' speed breakers at speeds of 25-30 - but then you learn to live with it or drive slowly over those speed breakers. Overall, no complaints and all grins here.
3. Engine and gearbox.
3.1: The engine is a three cylinder turbo petrol unit, and engine sound or refinement isn't its forte. Nor does it claim to. There is no sound insulation provided under the bonnet, and in my eyes, that's cheap behavior from Hyundai for a flagship, premium hatchback (INR 15 Lacs on-road in BLR when I bought it). Under the hood, the three cylinder idling is an ungainly sight, and so is the engine noise. Four cylinder turbo would have been amazing, but that is wishful thinking on my end. If you do not have great expectations from engines on refinement and engine noise (not that you can hear it inside the cabin with windows rolled up), this isn't a deal-breaker. This three-pot produces 120 BHP and 172 Nm of torque, which is plenty (?) (we always want MOAR POWER, don't we!) for the weight and dimensions of this car. It is also enough on highways for overtakes and some spirited, high speed runs. There always are comparisons with the VW three-pot which just pulls and pulls and pulls (experienced first hand a few times), but then, if we tone down our expectations, and Hyundai wants to prioritize longevity over outright fun, the performance is adequate and quite acceptable. The rev-limiter engages early in D mode. Overall, quite acceptable. Highway mileage is quite good. I have consistently been getting 18.5 Kmpl or thereabouts while driving at 90 Kmph in D7. City mileage is poor, and my last year's average in BLR is ~10 Kmpl.
3.2: The gearbox is a DCT. Not quite the VW DSG in performance (getting it out straight away), but not a slouch either. Gearshifts are smooth and fast. Downshifts are NOT jerky - only D2 to D1 is a bit scruffy - but that is quite bearable. And you get used to it. In D mode, the focus is on good mileage (I guess) - the gears are eager to shift up. You can always take controls with the Paddle Shifters. Use them to shift up or down - the ECU matches your input to car speed and RPM, and if the parameters are right, will take your input on upshift or downshift. And will remain in manual mode for few seconds and will go back to 'D' and auto.
What happens though is that while in city driving in 'D', at RPMs lower than 2,000, you will feel distinct lack of power - especially if you have drive NA manuals in the past. Once you step on the accelerator, it's as if the car takes a second or two (have not timed - based on what I felt), realizes you want to increase speed, downshift, and suddenly you feel some kick and it starts to build speed. Annoyance - yes. Or, one can learn to drive with paddle shifters.
What is an absolute delight is the 'Sport/S' mode. Shift the nice feeling gear stick to 'S' mode - and (again, going by how I feel - this is not tested or timed) the car's behavior changes. Somehow, the accelerator feels much more sensitive, and the fast gear shifts become faster still. Such a response, for mild enthusiasts like me, feels twitchy. Not complaining, but it does make you engage better with the car. You can take control of the car with Paddle Shifters, and the car holds the gears all the way (almost all the way) to the redline, before upshifting. Here too, the ECU matches car speed and RPM before accepting your input to upshift or downshift to protect the gearbox. But Sport mode + Paddle Shifters are the way to drive on Ghats/ Twisties.
Much has been made of the Hyundai DCT and the lukewarm performance, but I will take this any day if it prioritizes longevity and warm performance.
4. Noise. One word - NHYCE. or Lemmy Kilmister. The exhaust makes some good noise within allowable sound limits. More of a feel good factor. No pops and bangs. But will make you smile. Incidentally, if you are puttering at speeds like 25-30 Kmph, you feel a good, throaty sound inside the cabin. Nothing loud, but nice at half speeds. One of my favorite acts is to slow down the car rapidly in Sport mode, and you can hear the engine holding RPMs, but the disengaged clutch lets the exhaust rev still creating a good noise. The exhaust is a dual setup, and looks good and adds a small level of distinctness to the rear. Heat shielding is present for the pipes running underneath the boot and belly, but poorly executed.
5. Brakes are superb. All four disc brakes. The car sheds speed quickly, and while doing so, remains planted. The brakes are nicely set up in the way that the bite does not try to stop the car immediately, rather there is a progression. Front brake calipers are painted red, which I'm told aid in the stopping power - not yet tested the hypothesis. ESP can be turned off. ESP + ABS seem to work well. Overall - no complaints from brakes.
6. Big car feel. This is a wide car. Wider than some (or most(?)) sedans. And the wheelbase is pretty good too for a hatchback. Again, comparable to sedans like Verna and City and Ciaz. And the space is there for occupants to feel and relish. Seats are generous and plush (size-wise). Rear legroom is good too. Too decently sized adults (had a generously sized colleague from Poland share the co-passenger seat) are accommodated easily. Seats are faux-leather, and make you sweat. I do not understand the appeal of faux leather over good, premium fabric seats. But have to live with it. Boot space is good too, and has a lamp which is supremely helpful in darkness.
7. Cabin quality. This is where the i20 shines again. The interior is all black, which I personally absolutely love. Keeping the insides clean is a chore, but that's okay. The steering feels great to hold. It is chunky, three spoked, with perforated faux leather. The gearstick knob is also chunky, perforated faux leather has been used here as well, and feels good to hold. All switchgear and stocks are nice and soft to touch. AC vents have a one click open and shut mechanism, and the closing click is very satisfying (ASMR-ish). Hyundai has again cheapened out by giving only one one-touch power window for driver. The buttons on driver side door panel are not illuminated, sans the driver side power window, which to me is a cheap tactic from the manufacturer. Glass panes are huge (alluding to the overall width and length of the car), and are heavy as well. Along with the sound deadening material, they do a good job of keeping NVH down. You do not hear the three pot engine, or the traffic noise, only the mild sweet throaty exhaust note. At certain speeds, especially on white-topped roads, you hear the tire noise, but that is about it. Mic is of good quality, and together with the good insulation, phone calls are devoid of background noise. There is red ambient lighting, which is useless, and manufacturers should use that money to put red warning lights on the inside of doors (but that's just my opinion). One item which we though is fancy in the beginning was the wireless charger - has turned out to be a good to have feature - now I charge my phone everyday on my office commute (both ways) and take out the wired charger only on weekends. The sun visors are the most malnourished ones I have ever seen in any car - even the Alto 800 has better sun visors.
8. Bose music system. Brilliant. The setup is a 7 speaker system, and sounds absolutely amazing. I wish I was able to afford such a Bose good system to hook to my TV. But this one lets you hear the highs and the lows and does not distort the sound at higher decibels. The bass is also just right - not too heavy. You can hear 'trinkets' which shine through the nicely balanced tweeters. There is sound staging as well which again is a good feature IMHO. Absolutely happy with the sound system.
The not so good
1. Build quality. I would not call it poor, but somehow, the car does not feel like built to last. The GNCAP has rated it at 3 Stars for adult occupant safety, and honestly, I'm glad it at least scored a 3 (was expecting much worse). The body panels feel light - I do understand rigidity requirements re: crash and collisions energy absorption - however, there are small dents here and there which honestly baffle me and point me to only one conclusion - poor build quality. Another example of poor build quality is the right side of boot floor getting warm on long drives. This, I believe is due to poor heat insulation coming from the exhaust pipe, along with the thin gauge of metal used for boot floor. There is visible flex in the hood too. Malnourished sun visors have been identified earlier. There is evident cost cutting with the build quality, and Hyundai seems to have focused on getting the interior build quality right over the exterior build quality - but this is an excuse at best. The i20 is already a decently priced (I would not agree with folks who feel it is overpriced, but then, to each unto his own), and the N Line is sold with an extra premium, but the cost cutting and cheapening is clearly evident by Hyundai. The car has Paddle Shifters, but only ONE (yes, you read it right) trip-meter.
2. Paint quality. Absolutely poor. I have a Vespa, and the painted surface on it are a case study on how to paint a vehicle. Silky smooth. But I digress. Attracts scratches easily. I have the red color, but look at any red Polo from 5-6 years ago, and see how they hold the color. PPF or ceramic coating isn't a solution for poorly painted car.
3. Ceat SecuraDrive tires. Absolutely poor for the overall profile of the car. While I am happy with the alloys, okay with the requirement of 195/55 R16 tire size, the Ceats are a disgrace to the dynamics and capabilities of the car. They are a huge letdown, and while the car can go faster and be even more fun in the twisties, the lack of confidence due to the Ceats is a bummer. Again, this is a premium product from Hyundai, and while they have built it to a price point, another 20K to the overall price could have been digested by enthusiasts. Or, Hyundai should have allowed for 'option/s' at dealer level. Just like they are pushing 3D and 7D mats, they could have put better tires as an option at least (rant over!).
4. Hyundai's service quality. This is subjective, and maybe I have been spoilt by Maruti and Bimal in Bangalore, but my experience with Hyundai and Trident has been sub-par. Folks selling the car are not aware of the features (I don't mean the fancy Bluelink stuff, but rather, the basics). Folks running the service centers are not the best either. Perhaps I should try the Advaith run service centers.
Conclusion: Good drivers car, but build quality leaves a lot to be desired.
Sometimes, I wake up at night, and think that I should have gone for that Polo GT TSI afterall. But then, I drive mine, and instantly feel better.