The Hyundai i20 N-Line has real rally car vibes to it, as it should, considering Hyundai's N division currently runs an i20 in the WRC
The Hyundai i20 N-Line has real rally car vibes to it, as it should, considering Hyundai's N division currently runs an i20 in the WRCShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Great Driving Roads: Hyundai i20 N-Line takes on the Amritsar-Jamnagar expressway

Expressways aren’t renowned for excitement but can the right car change that? We head to Rajasthan to find out in the Hyundai i20 N-Line

If you keep up the news, it’s hard to miss the frequent updates on newly inaugurated roads and ambitious infrastructure projects across India. The country is in the midst of a significant infrastructure transformation, witnessing the construction and upgradation of railways, roadways and airports, and personally, I couldn’t be happier. Sure, the inconvenience of every road being a construction site does grind my gears every once in a while (ok, more often than that), but as an enthusiast, the convenience of an expressway cannot be overstated, which is exactly why they have been the subject of our great driving roads series. For this instalment, I asked myself: What is the best way to travel on an expressway? I could do it in our long-term Hyundai Tucson like my colleague Mandar did last month. With big diesel torque, ADAS and a cavernous cabin, I could waft along in absolute comfort while admiring the scenery – an excellent choice to cover ground with the least amount of effort. But I wanted to see if I could inject a bit of excitement into the expressway run. This would require something fast, something nimble, perhaps something with a bit of motorsport blood in its veins – this led me to the Hyundai i20 N line. I also found the perfect expressway to conduct my little experiment – the brand new Amritsar-Jamnagar Expressway. Much of the expressway is still under construction but in July of this year, a 500-kilometre stretch was opened to the public, making it the second longest expressway in India. Upon completion, it will span a whopping 1,256 kilometres. And these aren’t two-laned roads that crumble at the first sight of a dark cloud. I’m talking about smooth, high-speed, access controlled corridors with a minimum of four lanes. As it stands today, the expressway runs through rural farmlands in central Rajasthan and connects Khetlawas to Jakhrawali. I flew into Jodhpur, which is around 90 kilometres from the expressway where I was greeted by a brand new i20 N line. Now, I’ve always been an advocate for buying a car in a bright colour but the N line looks so right in Atlas white. It has real rally car vibes to it, as it should, considering that Hyundai’s N division currently runs an i20 in the World Rally Championship.

Hearing the turbo spool and the exhuast roar is more effective than a double shot of espresso
Hearing the turbo spool and the exhuast roar is more effective than a double shot of espressoShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

In fact, the previous-generation i20 won back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020. I wasn’t kidding about the motorsport blood in its veins. Adding to the visual drama is a full body kit in contrasting black with red highlights, a tailgate spoiler, extended rear windscreen surrounds and a set of 16- inch diamond-cut alloy wheels. The interior too gets the N treatment, with an all-black theme with red highlights and an N line-specific steering wheel, gear selector and pedals. The upgrades aren’t just skin deep but we will get to that later. Jodhpur was enveloped in thick fog the next morning as I made my way to the expressway. In my haste to get off the pothole-ridden internal roads as soon as possible, I chose what looked like the shortest route. Big mistake! The road did take us to the expressway, but then we passed right under it. What Google Maps told us was an on-ramp turned out to be a dirt road. We skipped that and headed north, parallel to the expressway. This was not ideal but it gave us an idea of what life before the expressway was like in this region. This section is a greenfield corridor, meaning that it was built on newly acquired land and isn’t simply an upgrade of an existing road. The tiny villages and even tinier kids waiting for school buses have never had this level of connectivity before. This expressway must be like a ray of sunshine in their lives, bringing with it limitless possibilities and opportunities. Speaking of sunshine, the fog had finally started to clear up and the expressway was within touching distance. We passed right under the expressway three more times before finally making it to the correct entry point. This might seem inconvenient but this level of access control ensures that the expressway remains free of slower-moving traffic. At the entry point, you are handed a slip, which you hand over when you exit, paying only for the distance you have travelled, eliminating the traffic snarls you normally experience at toll gates.

The speed limit on the expressway is 100kmph and the Hyundai i20 N Line can get there in under 10 seconds
The speed limit on the expressway is 100kmph and the Hyundai i20 N Line can get there in under 10 secondsShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

The 180-degree ramp joining the expressway was my first opportunity to test the handling of the i20 N line, and boy was I impressed. Pick a line and the car lets you stick to it with incredible precision. Body roll is well controlled and the steering inspires confidence to push hard and lets you know when the tyres are at the limit of adhesion. This comes courtesy of suspension that is 30 per cent stiffer than the standard i20 and a reworked steering system. However, the handling prowess came as no surprise, as all N-badged cars are tuned to be corner carvers. The true test would be on the arrow-straight expressway; could the N line still excite there? The speed limit on the expressway is 100kmph and the i20 N line can get there in a smidge under 10 seconds. But that isn’t the whole story. It’s the way the i20 N line builds up speed that is most impressive. From the get-go, the 1-litre three-pot feels turbocharged in the best way possible. While the power delivery is smooth, you definitely feel the turbo come on song and thrust you forward. This gives the i20 N line a dual personality; below 2500rpm, it’s somewhat docile but from then onwards, it surges forward on a wave of boost. This dual personality has its merits on the expressway. You can leave the DCT in D and let it cruise in seventh gear, but if you need to make a quick overtake, flick the left paddle a few times, bring the engine into its power band and make your move. It has the innate ability to make every overtake feel like an event. Hearing the turbo spool and the exhaust roar is more effective than a double shot of espresso. Speaking of the exhaust, the dual-tip exhaust muffler is my personal favourite upgrade on the N line. It has a nice bassy burble that transitions into a growl as the revs rise. The benefit of being a factory fit is that the sound is tuned to perfection – never too loud, never intrusive, none of the drone associated with aftermarket fart cans, just the right amount of noise to let you know you’re in something special. The same applies to the suspension and steering too; they have an air of sophistication to the way they are tuned.

The Z-shaped LED
taillamps border the
fuel fliller cap
The Z-shaped LED taillamps border the fuel fliller capShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

The stiffness does not imply harsh ride quality; instead, it eliminates floatiness, improves damping control, and gives the i20 N line the feel of a much larger car. Similarly, the steering isn’t artificially heavy; it maintains its low-speed manoeuvrability but adds a touch more feel, feedback and crucially, control when you push harder. My morning grogginess had disappeared and I could happily make the twelve odd hours jaunt to Amritsar. In fact, I could have had breakfast in Jodhpur, lunch in Bikaner and dinner in Amritsar. This level of ease not only benefits us enthusiasts but trade and tourism will also see a substantial boost thanks to the expressway. Nevertheless, I decided to focus my exploration on Jodhpur and doubled back after a couple of hours. On a road like this, the temptation to gun it and see what it will do is high. The i20 N line feels rock solid, barely noticing the cross winds that affect smaller cars on these elevated corridors, built in the middle of nowhere. Lane changes are more precise too and expansion joints don’t unsettle the car. Together, these traits instilled in me the confidence to maintain a high average speed. All the while, the N line felt alive beneath me, brimming with character and egging me on to drive even harder. But I resisted; despite the i20 N line being capable of staying steady well into triple digits, going banzai on an expressway is one of the least responsible things we can do. India’s road network is getting faster but this also calls for restraint on our part. This is highlighted by the amount of damage to the guard rail on this brand new expressway. Thankfully, every variant in the i20 range now gets six airbags, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management as standard. Hyundai has also replaced the standard rear drum brakes with discs on the N line for improved stopping power in emergency situations. The enthusiast in me wants a higher 120kmph speed limit on this expressway but the concerned citizen in me is worried about the safety standards of most of the commercial vehicles plying on these expressways. Sitting at 100kmph on such expansive expressways is a yawn, only cured by the enthusiastic nature of this N line. That’s what makes the i20 N line a great expressway car – it provided boatloads of thrills without the need to go up to illegal speeds. Despite having sporty intentions, its daily usability isn’t compromised either. Once you’ve had your dose of adrenaline, the i20 is happy to just cruise along.

The updated infotainment system gets a volume knob and the 7-speed DCT gets a sporty shifter and paddles
The updated infotainment system gets a volume knob and the 7-speed DCT gets a sporty shifter and paddlesShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Set the cruise control, connect your phone to the 10.25-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and belt out your favourite tunes through the Bose speakers. Later that evening, we took the i20 into the narrow streets of Sardar market, explored the century-old Ghantaghar, and feasted on some fabulous lal maas while taking in the views of Mehrangarh fort at night. In the end, we managed to pack quite a lot into a short trip. The same can be said of the i20 N line. It packs quite a lot in a small package and has a character that shines whether the road is windy or dead straight. This brings me back to my earlier question: with the right car, can you inject a dose of excitement into an otherwise mundane journey? The answer is a resounding yes!

Related Stories

No stories found.
Evo India