Set off and despite the springy sensationless clutch pedal, the gearchange is an unexpected delight. Fairly light, but with a short throw and a well-defined action, it’s a pleasure to row through the gears. That’s a necessity, though, because while 118bhp sounds healthy for a supermini, the long-ish ratios, the laggy nature of the engine and the strange throttle calibration, which only seems to give you the last 20bhp if you mat the pedal, mean that it feels rather listless. Thankfully, it’s keen to rev, but more low-down grunt would be welcome. The automatic version has 20lb ft of extra torque, but you miss out on the nice gearchange.
Taking it out of Eco mode, which it defaults to every time you restart the car, definitely helps, but it doesn’t solve the issue entirely. Sport mode will even rev match on downshifts, but with the pedals so nicely set up for heel-and-toe, it’s satisfying to stay in Comfort mode and do it yourself. If only you could have Sport’s heavier steering in Comfort.
After all, the i20 N Line is genuinely good fun to rag around B-roads, with a taut chassis, direct steering, supportive seats and keen turn-in thanks to 215-section Hankook Ventus Prime tyres. There’s not much in the way of throttle adjustability, but that might be a bit much to expect. The ride quality is not overly firm, particularly since you do get some driving dynamics in return.
The interior is mostly familiar i20 stuff, but with better seats and a nicer steering wheel and gearknob. Our full road test of the regular i20 has all the details, but in brief it’s fairly roomy, the infotainment system is excellent and the dashboard looks modern but is made entirely of hard plastic.