Ioniq 5 N combines supercar pace and hot hatch handling for a laugh out loud experience.
The Ioniq 5 N is a car you’d wish Hyundai would bring to India. A proper N car with 650hp in boost mode, a stiffened chassis, redone suspension, smart torque distribution, and a whole host of fun features and never seen before EV tricks, many of which actually work pretty well. So what’s it like?
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N performance
Performance EVs are quick. You are normally drop-kicked off the line, SLAAM, and then, while that initial burst tapers off, the car still carries on pulling hard. This is sort of true here as well. Only, when you are catapulted forward by motors on each axle, four big sticky tyres and upwards of 760Nm, hitting the right pedal feels like going to the chiropractor… it straightens your back in an instant – snap! And as long as you are ready for it, it feels great. What’s the claimed 0-100kph time? How’s 3.4 seconds? And while the initial punch tappers off, I’d love to see what the 0-40 kph or the 0-60kph times are. I’m sure few ICE cars can keep up, especially when you engage the launch control.
Eco mode – yes, there is one – is also great for everyday driving. The N division (named after Hyundai’s R&D centre in Namyang, South Korea) says one of the objectives is that it has to be an everyday sports car. Set it in Eco and it really does calm down nicely, delivering linear bursts of acceleration and even strong bursts of power as and when you need it. And since the throttle isn’t trigger happy and much more progressive, you can drive it without getting a neck ache.
A performance EV with an Eco mode sounds odd, but even then, there’s enough shove.
What makes ICE cars more fun? The gearshifts, the exhaust noise, rev-matching on downshifts, pops and bangs from the throttle on overrun… the Ioniq 5 N has all these. No, seriously. Of course, the systems are fake or simulated. The thing is, they work so well and are so convincing they actually add more driving pleasure. And these apart, you can adjust regular motor response, steering weight, damper stiffness, stability control sensitivity and diff lock settings.
First up, the exhaust noise. Yeah sure, it’s simulated, and you can tell, but the thing is, it’s been synced so well with the right pedal that after a bit, you forget it’s fake and actually begin to enjoy it. It’s actually much nicer than any synthesised Star Wars spacecraft sound – this actually feels natural.
What adds to ‘tactile’ driving pleasure, and I’m smiling here, are the fake gearshifts. Yeah, that too! Pull the right paddle and this EV goes up a gear. And it does a proper simulation. There’s a bit of a pause as you hit the right paddle, the engine noise drops in perfect sync, and then as the car ‘engages the next gear’, it gets back on the power and pulls forward again. It actually does feel like you’ve gone to a higher gear. Even better are the downshifts. Pull the left paddle and it even feels like the car has gone to a lower gear. What makes it so convincing is that Hyundai’s N division has used regen to mimic the mechanical drag created when you execute a downshift, and when you approach a corner this even helps slow the car down nicely and stabilise it. While it isn’t perfect, it does such a convincing job that after some time, you just begin to enjoy the experience and roll with it. Even better, switch the fake exhaust sound off and you’ll immediately want it back on.
Simulated gearshifts and fake exhaust notes add to the driving experience.
So what does it sound like? Here’s the clever part; while the guys and gals at N could have chosen any soundtrack – from a big, hairy-chested V8 one to a howling V12, or even a snarly V6 – they’ve chosen to make it sound like a regular four-cylinder with a mild exhaust on it. So it sounds fruity, fun and not over-the-top.
You can even change the torque distribution front to rear, and there’s a ‘drift optimiser’ mode for doughnuts and drifts; but we didn’t get to try that on Korea’s sanitised roads.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N ride and handling
Country roads, ghat sections, mountain passes – that’s where this hot-hatch, or super hatch, wants to be driven and that is what its suspension is optimised for. Yes, it weighs 2.2 tonnes and it rides higher off the tarmac than it ideally should, but load up the suspension, get the chassis nicely warmed up, and boy oh boy does it bring the smiles out. The N division says it’s tuned to be a corner rascal, and it is.
The brakes, and the regen, of course, together work fabulously. You can brake hard into corners and turn in crisply as you roll off the brakes. The steering delivers some real feel and get back on the throttle, complete with exhaust noise streaming in, and what you have is a genuine hot-hatch driving experience. Yes, it rolls a bit more than you expect; when you brake, the nose dives in marginally and throttle responses are a bit too snappy and sudden as you apply power on the way out of a corner, but what makes you forget all that, however, is just how playful and keen it is to attack corners. It also has a lot of grip with 275/35 R21 Pirelli P Zeros at each corner, and what evens things up is that the rear motor pushes out much more power than the one at the front.
The Ioniq 5 N is grippy, but does display body roll in the corners.
The ride, however, is a bit too stiff. Some of the roads we drove on were far from perfect (good for simulating our roads though) and the Ioniq 5 N does really toss you around. The suspension feels a bit too reactive over big bumps and dips, and if you go over sharp-edged manhole covers and it isn’t too happy either.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N interior
Imagine if you will the perfect hot-hatch cabin. Racing bucket seats (or what look like them) lined in high quality suede or Alcantara, with tall headrest and metallic inserts. A steering wheel covered in matching materials, festooned with shortcut buttons and dials, with big chrome paddle shifters behind. A padded dash, a big N on the steering boss, all finished in black and five shades of grey, with splashes of colour thrown in. Yes, if you are a driving enthusiast and hot-hatch fan, you’ll love the cabin. It’s also very comfortable over long drives, the theatre seating at the rear hits the spot – it is wide and roomy as well. There’s no sunroof, but boot space is good so it’s sort of practical too; just like a hot-hatch usually is.
Theatre seating at the back ensures occupants are comfortable over long drives.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N verdict
Wouldn’t it be great to have an electric performance car or hot-hatch? Plug it in at home, pay almost nothing for the electricity, and then go out and really juice it. The running costs will be nothing. And you can go out and drive it hard every day. So, while the Ioniq 5 N isn’t really slated to come to India anytime soon, no one has said anything about future N electric cars. Electric N Line models with a bit more power and handling, and full-fledged N versions of Hyundai’s upcoming range of locally produced electric cars could shake up the market. Come to think of it, the N division could prove to be a real differentiator, a USP, something most rivals don’t have. And that could make all the difference.