Hyundai Ioniq 5 N prototype

hyunda ioniq 5 n review 202301
Can Hyundai take its fun, exciting hot hatch recipe into the electric era?

There’s plenty Hyundai won’t yet tell us about the Ioniq 5 N, its first electric performance car. Price, power, torque, weight, battery size and even how some of the modes operate are under more wraps than the exterior. But having driven it extensively on road and track, I can tell you that Hyundai’s N division, currently the maker of the world’s most engaging hot hatches, has taken to the electric era with the same commitment and provided the most fun – and, as crucially, excitement – that I’ve ever had in an EV. Plus a bit more.  As many basics as I can, then: Hyundai’s biggish, tallish crossover has had its body reinforced in places (as N did with the i20), gained new suspension subframes and been given unique kinematics, including more camber, quicker steering, a reinforced steering rack, four-wheel drive from a motor at each end and the ability to divert power as it or its driver pleases. The tyres are 235/35 R21 Pirelli P Zeros and there are 400mm front brake discs (the biggest Hyundai has ever fitted), plus improved battery cooling as N commits to making this car as suitable for track driving as its ICE hatches, plotting a repeatable 20-minute drive, 15-minute charge capability.Remember that you can select from a bewildering number of driving-mode combinations in the i30 N? Now imagine that but also with everything a four-wheel drive EV can do, including torque-vectoring and adjusting front-to-rear power distribution; plus some synthetic noises (including an ICE one) and a fake tacho and gearshift via the steering-mounted paddles. There’s even a drift mode, made unavailable to me by the engineer sitting beside me as I drove, because they knew that I would turn it on and then get so distracted that I might struggle to turn it off again. They would like to show that there’s rather more to the dynamic depths of the Ioniq 5 N than silliness. There is, and then some. When we conducted a big EV handling test last year, we surmised that we were still at the start of the process of having fun with EVs. The Kia EV6 GT finished third, because it shot a lot of power to its outside rear wheel on corner exit to make itself a bit drifty – daft and fun but a bit basic. The Ioniq 5 N has moved that game on massively, and it has genuine performance-car depths. In a straight line, it feels fast, even on a modern circuit like the GP Nürburgring. It feels at least 500bhp-fast to me. And the braking, even though it’s by wire and contains strong regen, even at really high braking levels, accounting for up to 0.6g of total retardation, is strong and consistent. It turns in exceptionally well and pleasingly retains some of the ‘tuck’ that the best European hot hatches and now Hyundai’s N hatches also display. It’s present as strongly as it can be in a car that must weigh two tonnes. That means you lift and it turns in willingly, seemingly pivoting around its middle. Then, as you roll onto the power, the Ioniq 5 N diverts some of that to the rear to straighten its line nicely, or perhaps more than nicely. In its cornering attitude, it’s not unlike a late Mitsubishi Lancer Evo – lift, turn, power, straight –  but in a less frenetic fashion. And a whole lot more refined. There’s communicative, light-medium-weight steering, a little roll, lots of grip and plenty to lean on confidently in high speed corners, where you can tweak your line on or off the throttle, wonderfully balanced, sweeping out of bends on neutral steer. It has moments of hot hatch, rally replica and super-saloon at various moments in the same corner.It’s so convincing on a circuit that I think I preferred it there to on the road – which I don’t think I’ve ever said about an EV before, except a Nissan Leaf on plastic rear tyres.On the highway, the Ioniq 5 N feels its size more and inevitably leaves you further from its limits. But even then, it’s still engaging. The fake engine sound and fake gearshift might sound gimmicky but somehow aren’t. The ‘tacho’ goes to 8000rpm and the ‘engine braking’ and throttle response change with revs – all false, yes, but cleverly mapped. There are two other futuristic synthetic sounds, too, or you can turn the whole lot off, leaving the paddles to change the regen level.So there’s loads to play with and much more to be told to us (the full debut will come at the Goodwood Festival of Speed), but the important thing to know is that the Ioniq 5 N is a new benchmark, not just for fun EVs but for exciting EVs. It has been a while coming, but finally here’s an EV that I can’t wait to drive again just for the thrill of it.
Source: Autocar

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