Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review: EV hot hatch driven in the UK (2024)

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►CAR’s first UK drive of EV hot hatch
►641bhp, 0-62mph in 3.4sec
►Hyundai Ioniq 5 N costs £65k

Hyundai came from nowhere to establish itself as a serious player in the performance car world. Its i30 N and i20 N are both among the best modern hot hatches, but it recently took the bold decision to axe its petrol-powered N models for good in Europe and now focus on electric pocket rockets – led by the new 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.

It’s a brazen move, especially given its core petrolhead audience, but Hyundai is also a leader when it comes to EVs – not least with the Ioniq 5. This space-age hatchback/crossover (it’s one of those cars that’s tough to pigeonhole) serves as the base for its first electric N model.

It’s not just taken the usual sporty EV method of doubling the power and leaving it at that, though it’s not exactly lacking with 641bhp. No, it has given it some genuinely meaningful differences that aim to make it appeal to petrolheads. It’s peppered with features such as some synthetic engine noise, a simulated dual-clutch gearbox and an incredibly talkative chassis setup. It sounds daft and gimmicky right up until try it.

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Anyone on the CAR team that’s touched the Ioniq 5 N so far has been left delighted, but that’s purely on track and smooth overseas tarmac. So can it impress in quite the same way on the UK’s challenging roads?

At a glance

Pros: Hugely entertaining, mega performance, you actually forget you’re driving an EV
Cons: Interior quality could be better, the size of it

What’s new?

To cope with all this extra poke, Hyundai combed through the Ioniq 5’s chassis fitting beefier dampers, tougher front and rear subframes, stiffer battery and motor mounts, bigger brakes and a completely new steering rack that’s faster from lock to lock. Oh yeah, and the body is stitched together with an additional 42 welds and 2.1 metres of structural adhesive so it won’t tear itself apart on a racetrack.

You’ve probably noticed the styling changes, too. The massive rear diffuser and sticky-out chin spoiler make the N 80mm longer than a regular Ioniq 5. It’s also 20mm lower and 50mm wider to make space for some girthier tyres (275/35 21-inch Pirelli P-Zeros).

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But those vents, wings and louvres are much more than a designer’s passion project. They’re mostly functional, channelling air around the body to cool the brakes and the battery pack, as well as helping to keep the car glued to the road when you’re pedalling it hard.

Upgrades to the cabin are comparatively minor. You get a pair of Hyundai N seats positioned 20mm lower, a sports steering wheel littered with buttons and a new centre console with knee pads to give you something to brace yourself against on the track.

What are the specs?

The Ioniq 5 N has two electric motors with a combined output of 641bhp and 546lb ft of torque. That’s enough for a 0–62mph of just 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 162mph. For context, that’s exactly twice the power of the usual most powerful Ioniq 5 with 321bhp, and it’s 1.7 seconds quicker to 60mph too.

Battery capacity is quoted at 84kWh (compared to 77.4kWh in the standard car), and you get DC rapid charging speeds of up to 350kW. That means a 10 to 80% charge should be conquered in around 18 minutes. Hyundai also reckons the N can go 278 miles between trips to plug, although that figure depends entirely on how heavy your right foot is. We averaged 210 miles during a fairly enthusiastic test drive.

What’s it like to drive?

Driving modes are central to the Ioniq 5 N’s appeal and that’s where Hyundai has really invested its efforts. There are of course three regular presets – Eco, Normal and Sport – but the latter seems largely pointless when there’s a vast array of settings to be accessed in the N modes. Each one is selected via a button on the steering wheel, in much the same was as BMW’s M1 and M2 drive modes on its spiciest performance cars.

Once you find the N menu on the infotainment screen, which there should be an instant shortcut button for but isn’t (note for the facelift, Hyundai), you can customise the experience to your heart’s content. Here, you can tweak the settings of the electric motors, steering weight, damper stiffness, electronic limited-slip differential and more.

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Hyundai’s N e-Shift function is worth a special mention. This turns the paddles behind the wheel – usually used to adjust regen settings on EVs – into ‘gearshift’ paddles that rattle through a simulated eight-speed DCT transmission. Hyundai even wired in a simulated rev limiter that the car will crash into should you leave the upshift too late. Amusingly, it’s been set at 6700 rpm on the digital dashboard but could, of course, have been placed at any number.

N Active Sound+, meanwhile, simulates engine noise in the 5 N’s cabin with a choice of three different settings. Ignition delivers a traditional (and incredibly amusing) ICE soundtrack, Evolution offers up a futuristic EV whine from Gran Turismo and Supersonic is supposed to mimic a fighter jet. Why? Well, the engineers developing the car’s soundtrack were doing so at the same time Top Gun Maverick came out and they thought it would be amusing to shoehorn the noise into their Active Sound+ tech.

N Torque Distribution is the next feature to grab our attention as it allows the driver to switch the car from being entirely front-wheel drive, to fully rear-wheel drive or any of the nine settings in between. We’ve seen ICE cars flirt with this sort of thing before (the Mercedes-AMG E63 S could shut off torque to the front wheels in its Drift Mode for example), but nothing that offers this level of choice. Simply put, this is a feature that is only possible in an EV.

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Speaking of drift modes, the Ioniq 5 N has its own. Labelled N Drift Optimiser, it does exactly what it says on the tin and primes the car for optimum sideways action. It’s even got a built-in clutch-kick (or as Hyundai calls it, Torque Kick Drift) that, when you pull back both steering wheel paddles, suspends the power and then re-engages it with a thump when you release. Nice idea, but it requires the driver to have hands at nine and three in order to activate – not ideal when you’re about to apply armfuls of corrective lock.

Finally, the N Pedal setting takes one-pedal driving to the extremes, with any lift off the throttle delivering significant (up to 0.6G) regen braking. That’s enough to shift the weight over the nose and create an incredibly pointy front end.

Finally, N Grin Boost (yes, that’s really what they called it…), gets its own button on the steering wheel. Press it and you get 10 seconds of 641bhp lunacy for optimum straight-line performance. Otherwise, the motors only produce a piddling 601bhp.

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If that all sounds confusing, you’d be right, but you quickly learn the settings you like and the result is exceptional. The Ioniq 5 N is an EV with a sense of humour and it’s addictive to drive. The way the car violently jumps as you upshift at full throttle, bounces off and is accompanied by a faux exhaust sound that you can hear move down the car is the best kind of silly. Even though it’s all simulated I found myself explaining it to people as if I had an actual engine, which shows just how well-engineered it is.

There was always the worry that it would all fall apart on UK roads, but delightfully this isn’t the case. Granted, it’s a bit firm and that’s no surprise for a car on 21-inch alloy wheels, but it is pliant on all but the roughest roads. The ‘normal’ suspension setting is the one you should leave it in for most of the time, and ‘sport’ if you’re on your own for a hoon. ‘Sport+’ is just a bit too brittle, keep that one saved for a circuit.

It’s the most fun EV I’ve ever driven by some margin with incredible brakes that are amplified even further with the N Pedal to help deliver exceptionally strong regen, while the steering is precise and always feels very connected – impressive for a car of this size. Speaking of size, the 5 N’s dimensions could be considered a drawback. It’s 2.2 tonnes and as long as a Mercedes GLC but wider.

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Yet for a car of these dimensions, it hides its bulk well, and is easy to place even on narrower British roads. There is the feeling that Hyundai didn’t need to give it 640bhp – at least from the start of production. Performance is dazzling, but that’s not central to the 5 N’s appeal. With 200bhp less, it would have helped the range and likely made it seem even more balanced than it already does.

What’s the interior like?

It’s typical Hyundai N inside. Nice seats, lots of blue stitching but aside from that, really just a standard Ioniq 5.

The seats are a real highlight, almost bucket-like in shape and with an illuminated N logo. The support they offer is fantastic and they’re even heated and ventilated. This might be a performance car, but it’s one intended for daily use. The steering wheel is unique to it, too, and littered with two buttons, including two for specific N settings that are configured. There’s perhaps a bit too much going on the wheel; 18 buttons or knobs including the ‘gearshift’ paddles and that’s not including the drive selector on the steering column.

Though the seats are excellent, the quality falls short in places, and some of the materials don’t feel the most hard-wearing. It’s a slight issue, and one that won’t bother those buying them – an i20 N or i30 N never felt plush inside – but when you’re charging £65,000, are harder to ignore.

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But this Ioniq 5 would make an exceptional family car. Like the standard Ioniq 5, there’s masses of room. Hyundai’s EV platform means you get a nice flat floor in the rear, loads of useful storage and a big boot. Yes, your 640bhp electric track weapon could easily be used for the school run.

Before you buy

Some might scoff at the thought of a £65,000 Hyundai, and while no means cheap, when you consider how much physical car and performance you can get for your money, it’s not bad at all. More so when you consider a top-spec version of the regular Ioniq 5 costs £57,945, and that’s with half the power.

The level of standard equipment is lavish too, with those Alcantara bucket seats included, along with heated seats for all occupants, a full complement of driver assistance tech, and all the fancy N gadgets of course.

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In fact, the only options you can get are a £1250 glass roof (worth having as the cabin is a bit dark otherwise) and the paint colour. A striking ‘Soultronic Orange’ is the free shade, with the N division’s trademark Performance Blue a £700 option, or £900 if you want it matte.

Verdict

There’s a big difference between a car being quick and a car being fun. Fast EVs are so often one-trick ponies; ballistically quick in a straight line but after that, well, just a bit dull. Hyundai has addressed that with proper imagination and perfect execution. Use the e-Shift and the ‘Ignition’ soundtrack and you can quickly forget you’re in an EV altogether.

The Ioniq 5 N is a big and heavy car, though it disguises the latter well, so don’t think of it as a hot hatch as such, but more of a benchmark for performance electric cars that could easily double up as an everyday family car. Given Hyundai’s progress with cars like the i20 and i30 N, it shouldn’t come as a surprise as to just how capable this Ioniq 5 N, yet the brilliance of this EV is the more you try it. If this is a blueprint for electric performance cars of the future, it’s exciting indeed.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review: EV hot hatch driven in the UK (2024)
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