► The Ioniq 5 N has arrived
► 641bhp,. 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds
► Priced from £65,000 in the UK
Say hello to the saviour of the hot hatch, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Or at least that’s what the Korean firm will be hoping for with its first foray into an electric version of the ‘N’ performance brand.
Due for UK deliveries in 2024, the Ioniq 5 N features the sort of BMW M3-smashing performance we’ve come to expect of a cooking electric car (twin electric motors giving 641bhp and 568lb ft in the awkwardly titled N Grin Boost mode; 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds) but this time wrapped up in a package that should also deliver on handling appeal.
Hyundai is at pains to stress the efforts it has gone to in order to ensure the Ioniq 5 N delivers on the N promise of being both fast and great to drive. The company is well aware of the halo effect N has had up to now on its brand perception and doesn’t want to blow it with a poor offering here.
To that end, the car is 20mm lower (Tyrone Johnson, head of vehicle test and development, wanted more: ‘the car is not as low as we’d like, but we have to keep a reasonable ground clearance’), 80mm longer and, importantly, 50mm wider.
The chassis has been stiffened with additional welding and adhesives, and the 5 N also gets unique front and rear subframes. Even the battery and motor mountings have been stiffened, while extra feedback is promised through the all-new steering tune. Larger brakes (400:360mm, f:r) are fitted and the regen system is capable of generating 0.6g. 21-inch wheels on 275/35 Pirelli P-Zero tyres are standard.
As befits the hot version, the body has been worked over. Hyundai claims the rear spoiler and diffusor generate downforce and don’t merely reduce lift, while the front has plenty of air scoops and vents. Overall, it’s aggressive enough to mark it out without being too in-your-face – the large rear spoiler can almost look subtle from some angles. The matt blue paint is unique to this car.
Heat is the big issue. We got a sneak preview of the car ahead of Goodwood and Thomas Buerkle, head of design at Hyundai Europe, stressed how much work his design team had done on getting enough air circulating around the batteries so they don’t overheat on a hot lap: ‘Every element of the design is both form and function.’ There are air curtains galore at the front, including a neat looking set of vertical slats, which add to the aggressive looks but also throw air where it’s needed.
Inside, the car gets figure-hugging seats in either cloth/leather or Alcantara/leather that are mounted lower, while the steering wheel is smaller, thicker-rimmed and with a more aggressive centre boss. It also gains two ‘N’ mode buttons that are configurable and additional knee pads on the centre console, because all that g has to be braced against somehow. Much as with all hot hatches of the past, it’s enough to make the interior feel more performance-oriented than the normal car.
Software changes are arguably even more crucial. Hyundai has created N e-shift that mimics an eight-speed gearbox by pausing the torque delivery and interrupting the artificial sound. There’s even a fake rev counter in the dash.
That’s not the only ‘N’ promise: N Pedal promises to make the car ‘tuck’ into a corner more (the holy grail of ICE hot hatches and not something anyone has achieved so far with an EV); N Grin Boost gives a temporary burst of power for 10 seconds (those headline figures above drop back to 601bhp and 546lb ft in normal running); N Drift Optimiser does what it says on the tin with an integrated Torque Kick Drift function; N Torque Distribution shuffles torque around, helped by the electronic limited slip diff at the rear; N Launch Control is another obvious one.
Despite all this, weight will be the big issue. Hyundai hasn’t confirmed the figures yet, but even the standard car comes in at around two tonnes. A Peugeot 106 Rallye it is not. To be fair, Johnson doesn’t shirk from the issue, but acknowledges they’ve tried to address it: ‘You’re not going to get the impression it’s a 1000kg car, but you would never think it’s a much higher weight car. It’s a fast five door hatchback and that’s the sense you get.’
The official WLTP range isn’t confirmed at this stage, but with a larger 84kWh battery (up from 77kWh in the base car), it should hit 300 miles with a gentle right foot. Hyundai claims it can do two laps of the Nurburgring in one hit, which doesn’t sound like much but represents quite a feat for an electric car because of the heat build-up in the batteries.
With electric hot hatches proving rare so far, it’s a brave move from Hyundai. As Till Wartenberg, vice president of N brand, tells CAR: ‘I think the time has come where Hyundai can not only be a challenger anymore, but maybe leading the segment and create something new.’
Hot hatches traditionally combined the holy grail of performance for normal motorists: pace, handling, affordability. Up until now, electric performance cars have occasionally managed to combine the first two (hello, Porsche Taycan), but not so much of the latter (hello, any ludicrous 2000hp + hypercar).
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N: price and release date
Wartenberg acknowledges that value is still important, as ‘N should still be accessible and a reasonable price. But of course it will be more than the ICE car.’
And that price is £65,000 in the UK, pushing it a few grand above its Kia EV6 GT compatriot.