40,000 km with my modified warm hatch: i20 N Line ownership verdict

N Line is a great highway car with its punchy engine and power on tap, thanks to the quick shifts by the DCT

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Chapter 1: The Hunt and The Decision

The search for a new addition to the garage began when the youngest member of the house, yours truly, was inching closer and closer to being a government-certified driver. At the time, the garage had a relatively new two-year-old Suzuki XL6 and a Renault Kwid. It was time to buy a first car for me and my parents and I set foot in the market with a budget of thirty lakh rupees, and then, finally settled on a car worth half that. So, why?

Well, initially, at the time the three options we were considering were an i20 Asta (O) 1.0 DCT, a Kia Seltos 1.4 GT Line DCT and a Skoda Octavia Style. Having test-driven the Seltos and the Octavia, both from different segments (we were very indecisive, don’t judge) we decided to go ahead and book the Seltos thanks to our obsession with buying a top variant as the top variant of the Octavia was 5 lakhs out of budget on road Delhi.

At that time, the beginning of 2021, a chip shortage plagued not just the Indian, but the global electronics market. As a result, the booking of the Seltos would have us waiting six months as per the dealer, and the horror stories of dealers exploiting customers surfacing online only made matters worse. On booking the Seltos, I had a certain attraction towards the smaller i20. I would watch YouTube videos of the Asta (O) (The N Line was not out yet) and would question if a crossover was the car I wanted to drive as a college student as this car was going to become mine as promised by my parents (I know I sound super spoilt right now). That (and also the impatience, we just could not wait 6 months) made us take a test drive of the i20 turbo automatic. My father called for the test drive and we booked it for 6 PM, their last slot as per the dealer.

Our experience with Hyundai began with disappointment, but as they say, all is well that ends well. The customer service executive (let’s call him H, customer service executive is quite a mouthful) was supposed to arrive around 6. Come 5:45, he stopped picking up his phone which was quite irritating as I had just been on a call with him at 5:30. The clock struck 6:00, 6:30, and 6:40, no response. Suddenly at around 7:15, having given up on the test drive and this product, the phone rings. H calls and tells us about how the police had pulled him over and harassed him for a solid half hour followed by tons of trouble for the showroom and H himself (I still do not know if H was lying, but I like to think he wasn’t since he seemed pretty genuine). He pleads with us over the phone to give him a chance, promises that he will not let us down and informs us that he is waiting outside our house. My father and I decided to give him a chance and go for the drive. On driving it, coming from a history of Suzukis, the car immediately impresses us. A small car with a punchy engine and TONS of features, along with decent-ish driving dynamics was something unimaginable at the time.

On returning home, my father reminisces about how it reminded him of his 1.6 OG Baleno which he used to drive in his 30’s. We decide to still go for the Seltos due to us having the budget for it as well as the appeal of a big car. We decide to then let the Hyundai be, and go for the bigger Hyundai.

A few weeks later we get a call from H. By this time, we have grown tired of waiting for the Kia and my interest in the i20 is growing. H informs us of this new variant of the i20, the N Line, the shipment of which he will be getting in a month which comes at a very attractive price increment over the Asta (O). On careful consideration, we decide to go for it. Since we had already driven the Asta and were quite impressed by it, we decided to go ahead and book the N Line and cancel the Seltos.

The process up to the delivery was not very smooth. The dealership forced us into buying the insurance from them, or risk being denied delivery. They also could not deliver when promised and took a week extra. No issues there, we were still very eager to take delivery. The day comes, the 13th of October 2021, my mother and I head to the showroom to pick the car up and are given delivery of the car. Nothing notable, the delivery was quite well executed and the experience was nothing notable, but nothing to complain about either.

Chapter 2: The Review

For a while, things remain new, and then the fascination dies and we as individuals become used to them. That is not to say that fascination takes with it the admiration, which I doubt will ever die. For me, the fascination died after the car crashed for the first time. At around 8,000 kms, the N Line met with its first crash which was a front-end collision at the speed of 30-40 which ended up damaging the condenser, bumper and bonnet, but luckily, the headlights were unscathed and the airbags, unopened. After coming home post repairs, the car to me became something I loved, but not something new, and after that, I began to truly use the machine.

From here, starts the real review of the vehicle. The i20 N Line to me is the ultimate driver’s car on a budget. In today’s market, there is nothing available at the price of the N Line (14 lakhs on-road). The car has one of the best driving dynamics I have ever experienced, and it has honestly spoilt me. Cars that are much more expensive now feel bland and lacklustre to me, having daily driven the N Line. In fact, I have driven it about 40,000 km on the 13th of October, 2023, just two years since its delivery.

The Kit

Hyundai loves loading its cars with features, in fact, that is what sold us on the i20 and the recently bought Seltos in collaboration of course, with the punchy drivetrains. The i20 comes loaded with features that no car had at the time below 15 lakh rupees, and no car seems to come close to even now in 2024 in the price range. It comes with BlueLink (I find that very useful living in Delhi where the summers hurt and the winters bite, and in general as well. Tracking the vehicle proves to be useful more often than you’d expect), a sunroof (mother’s requirement for a car), rear AC vents, a rear armrest (removed in the facelift unfortunately), LED DRL’s and projector headlamps and much much more. This is a major plus point for the N Line with most of the features still feeling utilitarian, even after extensive usage. The only thing I found gimmicky in the feature list was the voice activation of the sunroof and the driver's side window which is cool to have but it is simply faster and simpler to use the buttons.

The Aesthetics

Inside and outside, the car has been designed very differently than what you would expect from a Hyundai.

The interior is complemented greatly by the N Line steering (the quality of which is better than the models that get steering wheels unique to the Indian market) which is straight out of the European market (However, one thing to note is the common issue with all Hyundai products where the leather wrap on the steering wheel does not last for too long. After a mere two years of ownership, you can see the steering wheel wrap is starting to show its age, to put it mildly). Another perk that the N Line gets over the Asta (O) is the all-black interior, including a black roof liner, which minimises maintenance and leads in the interior looking as good as new, no matter how careless you are with it. To me, the interior seems perfect with the tastefully done red highlights and the premium fit and finish Hyundai is well known and praised for. The interior is missing soft touchpoints (again, improved in the facelift), but, all the driver touchpoints feel premium, and even after soft touchpoints are absent, it does not feel budget, especially at first glance.

The wear and tear on the steering isn't looking too good!

The exterior was quite polarising when the product came out. I see many people on social media who prefer the Elite i20 to the current generation, but, I am more of a modern design guy (generational gap at work) so it looks just fine to me. The rear of the car feels quite polarising in the initial days of ownership, but it definitely grows on you within a few weeks, and there are plenty of elements that make up for it. The dual exit exhausts along with a high-mounted spoiler, exclusive to the N Line, only add to the sporty look and make the car feel closer to being an N Line. The front bumper also has gotten the N Line treatment with a faux splitter mounted on the bumper and red accents. On the sides, the car has red accents and N Line-specific alloys which are a downsized (17s to 16s) version of the same alloys that the European N Line gets owing to our road conditions. All these touches make the car look much nicer than the regular Asta, and make it a handsome product overall.

The Drive

The drive is planted. The car grips like anything, thanks to its stiffened suspension in comparison to the Asta, and feels stable and planted at highway speeds. It is very easy to drive, yet is engaging and the steering and dynamics are better than even a VW Polo, which used to be the benchmark of a sporty hatch at the time of purchase. The car’s in-line acceleration is not the quickest and the DCT gearbox is to be blamed for that as it simply does not let you launch or brake boost. The 1.0L TGDi is a punchy motor making 118 bhp which in no way feels inadequate, in the city or out on the highway. The motor does not feel like a 3 cylinder unless you’re idling. At that point, there are vibrations, but that also is something you will only notice if you are used to a 4-cylinder and not if it is your first car, or if you daily it. In comparison to the other 3 cylinders on the market, namely those offered by Tata and Renault, the 1.0L TGDi is a polished and refined motor. The stock rubbers (CEAT Securadrive) do not belong on this car. They limit it and are a lapse by Hyundai, but it is nothing close to a deal-breaking flaw as getting new tyres really isn’t a hassle.

Chapter 3: The Upgrades

My N Line has seen a few upgrades throughout its life. For the first 30,000 kms, nothing was upgraded except the horn which was upgraded to a Hella Chrome Trumpet horn which is basically an essential upgrade in Delhi traffic. At the 30,000 mark came the time to get rid of the sub-par Ceats, at which point I also upgraded the tyre size from 195/55/R16 to 215/45/R17 and said goodbye to the stock alloy wheels, for a set of heavier, but much better looking Infinity alloy wheels. My rubber of choice was the Michelin Pilot Sport 4, but since that is quite difficult to obtain, I went for the Primacy 4’s and boy do they impress. The grip increased tenfold, and with that, so did the confidence.

At around 35,000 kilometres, I decided to get Cobra lowering springs for the N Line and take it to the next level. The drop was 30/30 and the increment in looks and fitment is immeasurable.

Chapter 4: The Verdict

In my opinion, the N Line is the perfect car for someone who is looking for a secondary car that will only be used to transport two people at max. While the rear seat comfort is not bad at all, it isn’t the best if we are talking about a family car. The Asta (O) with its softer suspension is definitely more family-friendly. The N Line is a great highway car with its punchy engine and power on tap thanks to the quick shifts by the DCT which is further complemented by the paddles. To sum up, go for it. Even after 2 years and 40,000 kilometres with it, I still fall in love every single time I get in the driver’s seat and the omissions are things you stop noticing very quickly.

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