That engine, meanwhile, adds welcome drivability for the car, but not the extra audible and textural fizz that anyone ‘cross-shopping’ with a VW Up GTI might hope to come with it. There’s enough torque for at least a little urgency through the higher gears, which most city cars certainly don’t offer. You wouldn’t go so far as to call the car’s performance ‘fun’, though, since the motor doesn’t spin beyond 5000rpm particularly freely and doesn’t sound all that characterful. Beneath the new shiny gearknob, the shift quality of the car’s five-speed manual gearbox is respectable but no better.
Hyundai’s interior styling tweaks make the i10 N Line identifiable as an attempt at sporting flavour, but only just. The new N-branded seats are hardly any different from the car’s normal ones, no more adjustable and little more supportive. The chrome pedals, N-branded primary controls and red air vent adornments, meanwhile, are nice enough; although they do seem like the kind of additions so often reached for to make up for a ‘sporty’ driving experience that isn’t as clearly distinguished as it might be.
Should I buy one?
Well, the ingredients and characteristics we’ve just covered are what we might call ‘the trees’ for this car. And ‘the wood’ that the Hyundai product planners appear to have missed? That because Hyundai’s N brand doesn’t confer much desirability yet and the car’s design makeover is somewhat half-heated, none of these things makes it a credible alternative to the Up GTI. Except, perhaps, on a spreadsheet.
The N brand is, after all, only one fully fledged hot hatchback old as far as UK enthusiasts are concerned – and that car was by no means universally recognised as a world-beater. When VW put the GTI badge on an Up, it did so having developed an only marginally more compelling driving experience for the car than Hyundai has; but also with so many decades of investment having gone into what the GTI badge stands for, and knowing it would mean something to people. To put it another way, VW didn’t forget to make a lot of very memorable driver’s cars first.
Having only driven this one N Line offering, I’ll admit that I’m not the greatest authority on them. Perhaps I just expected more of a 99bhp ‘bit of fun’ city car than it was really fair to (although, to me, the ‘fun’ part was what seemed to be missing).
But for Hyundai, in contrast to VW, it seems very early days to be sweating a performance sub-brand like this – to be using it to charge £2500 more for a top-end i10 than Kia charges for a Picanto with the very same engine – when that sub-brand is still very much in the process of being built.
Hyundai i10 N Line specification
Where Buckinghamshire, UK Price £16,195 On sale Now Engine 3 cyls in line, 998cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 99bhp at 4500rpm Torque 127lb ft at 1500rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual Kerb weight 1024kg 0-62mph 10.5sec Top speed 115mph Fuel economy 52.3mpg CO2, tax band 123g/km, 27% Rivals VW Up GTI, Kia Picanto 1.0 T-GDI GT-Line S