- What is it?
- What are the numbers?
- How did they do that?
- OK OK. Enough hardware and software. What does it do for the meatware behind the wheel?
- And how is it as a car for the rest of the time?
- What's the verdict?
- What is it like to drive?
- How quick is it?
- That acceleration is becoming EV-normal. What about the handling?
- Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review: mind-blowing and heartening in equal measure
- What is it like on the inside?
- What should I be paying?
What is it?
Easy question to ask, hard to answer. This isn’t exactly an electric hot hatch. It’s too big and expensive to fit that template. An electric sports crossover? Strictly speaking yes, but that sounds too serious-minded.
It’s a riot, is what it is.
Which is just what you’d expect from Hyundai’s N division. Fun cars aren’t about logic. So, apparently, logic has been cast to the four winds here. It’s got a fake engine sound. It’s even got fake gears. It’s got torque vectoring that’s calibrated not to be fast but to be joyful. All of which sound like silly gimmicks. Or might they actually provide a newfound depth of engagement for an EV?
Rivals among EVs include the Jaguar I-Pace, which is the same size and surprisingly involving. Or the Tesla Y Performance and Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, both of them fast but one-dimensional to drive. Or the Porsche Taycan and BMW i4 M50, which are expensive and show the height of the bar Hyundai is aiming at.
What are the numbers?
The twin motors kick out 650bhp between them, for a 0-62mph time of 3.4 seconds.
It runs Hyundai’s 800V platform, which, say the engineers is vital to give it track-day capability. This they define as running a circuit pace for 20 minutes, then getting enough charge in 20 minutes to do another 20 minute session. In turn to make that possible, N is installing ultra-rapid chargers in circuit pits worldwide.
It’ll do a Nurburgring lap in about 7m 50s in its most full-on mode, but you can also select an endurance mode that slightly shaves off the motor peaks, to give two of those laps – 25.9 track miles – at under eight minutes a lap without de-rating.
The battery capacity is 84kWh, for 280 miles WLTP full-to-flat. That’s pretty ropey compared with the standard Ioniq 5, but then look at the size of the tyres and the downforce measures and you see why efficiency has taken a hit. Cake, eat, prohibition.
How did they do that?
This starts life as an Ioniq 5, a soft, roomy and soothing five-seater. The N model gets a painstaking go-over in all directions: mechanically, aerodynamically, cosmetically, electrically and in the software.
The bodyshell is welded and glued to be stronger, its suspension subframes reinforced, the whole wider-track suspension given new arms as well as springs, adaptive dampers, bushes and so on. The steering column mounts are stronger and the rack faster, with remapped assistance. The rear motor is attached to an electronically controlled limited-slip diff. The tyres are 275/35 21. Brakes are bigger. That’s the mechanical base.
Aero next: it’s lowered, and has new bumpers and a rear spoiler to cut lift, plus air control around the wheels for brake cooling. Battery and electronic cooling is better too, of course. The Cd has risen to 0.313 and frontal area is up too.
Now the electrical parts. The motors are stronger than standard, duh, but so are the power electronics, including an extra inverter so that it can harvest an astonishing 435bhp regeneration, for 0.6g of braking force.
Then the software. We’ll talk about this more in the Driving tab. But in short, you can select a thoroughly plausible engine-like sound generator (or an implausible sci-fi one), and equally plausible ‘gearbox’ simulation, so you can estimate your speed into corners and modulate wheel torque out of them. You can vary front-rear torque bias. Vary the way it brakes to turn into corners. Drag strip fans can select from three levels of launch control according to the available grip. Drifters have a special – and frankly tricky – skid assist mode.
OK OK. Enough hardware and software. What does it do for the meatware behind the wheel?
It’s huge fun, and can be set to match your mood. On great roads you can set it up to feel like a good petrol hatch. Maybe closest to a Mercedes-AMG A45. It sheds weight and the engine sound and ‘paddleshift’ involve you deeply in the sense of speed. The torque vectoring and brake regen give it an agility that belies the two-and-a-quarter tonnes of mass.
Honestly it lightens up miraculously. But most of all the joy lies in the feel and interaction coming through the steering and chassis: you meld with it, feel its efforts, adjust and trim its moves.
On a track you can fiddle with the modes to sweep tidily through the apex kerbs, or play with oversteer.
Click over to the ‘driving’ tab of this review for much more.
And how is it as a car for the rest of the time?
It’s in no way insufferable for urban or motorway running, slotting happily into the traffic and demanding little of you. Turn off the noises and it’s smooth as the basic Ioniq 5, and even the ride’s acceptable.
As with the standard Ioniq 5, there’s remarkable space in the cabin, especially out back. The front is re-trimmed to be sportier, and has touches like knee bolsters to help keep you in your seat in hard cornering. The front seats are special buckets too.
But it doesn’t neglect storage space and comfort, and none of the assistance or connectivity features have been chucked overboard in the transition to N.
What's the verdict?
“Many of the talents you expect from an electric car, and many more that so far are unique in EVs. A new and brilliant chapter”
Yes, it’s heavy. But mostly it doesn’t feel it. Hyundai engineers say they needed the company’s big EV platform because the 800-volt rapid charging is vital for its ability to do track laps in quick succession. We do wonder what would have happened if they’d allowed themselves to abandon that article of faith and make a smaller lighter cheaper EV. It might have been just as much fun if slower to recharge. But that’s a possibility for another day.
Right now, the Ioniq 5 N is an electric car that’s as involving as a really good petrol car. In some ways it does that by brazenly impersonating a petrol drivetrain. The surprising thng is that’s absolutely not just a gimmick.
Then in corners it has some original tricks of its own. It’s not just fast, it’s confident and playful so it’s fun even when it’s not going fast. It’s useful and versatile too.
So it has many of the talents you expect from an electric car, and many more that so far are unique in EVs. Which makes us call it a new and brilliant chapter.
What is it like to drive?
How quick is it?
No doubt the video sites will be populated with drag races of this and rival EVs, or even petrol supercars. Frankly we don’t care. Straight-line speed is immense, possibly not as immense as some, but point is it pales besides this car’s other talents.
Anyway, it’s 609bhp unless you press the ‘NGB’ (N grin boost, honestly) button on the steering wheel, which unlocks another 41bhp for a few seconds to take it to 650. You can’t have that power all the time because it’d overheat, but anyway it’s less than seven per cent extra.
So… precondition the battery temp using another screen setting. Press the NGB. Deploy the simply accessed launch control. Then you have 0-62mph runs of 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 161mph.
That’s with both motors on full alert. You can also change the front-rear torque bias, but with independent motors this is a different thing from doing it on a petrol car with centre diff. All you’re doing here is staunching the motor at the opposite end to the one you’re favouring, so you get less power overall.
That acceleration is becoming EV-normal. What about the handling?
It’s hard to talk about the handling without mentioning the simulated gearshifts and noises, because they bring your extra senses into play, and fun is about sensation.
You have two N buttons on the steering wheel. I’ve got one configured for N custom mode, the other for something called N e-shift. My N custom mode has sport accelerator, heaviest steering, sport torque distribution on the rear e-diff, and ESC in its middle setting. So far so orthodox – it could be a Golf R.
N e-shift is anything but orthodox. It simulates a paddleshift gearbox. You even get a rev-counter, redlined at 8,000, an arbitrarily chosen number. Blip the throttle when stopped in neutral and the ‘revs’ rise (they don’t; actually the motors are still).
Head off in ‘first’ and acceleration is ballistic, but when the tacho hits the red you hit a wall of ‘rev limiter’. Shift to ‘second’: acceleration drops slightly but you can go faster. So on up through the ‘gears’. So you use them just like you normally would: go to the red-line in each for maximum acceleration – and it’s epic.
Or short-shift if the road looks a bit slippery. Shift down on the way into a corner for extra engine braking. The whole effect is brilliantly realistic and involving, even if it isn’t strictly the fastest way of getting about because just after the gearshifts it limits your torque until the ‘revs’ climb again.
The separately switchable N Active Sound simulates an engine noise. Sound generators are usually rubbishy out-of-phase gimmicks that you switch off after a mile. This is brilliant, utterly in sync with your foot position and ‘gear’. The ‘engine’ goes the gamut, changing tone with your foot position and pitch with ‘revs’, using all the speakers to simulate induction noise in front and exhaust behind.
Compared with any other EV, these sound and shifting effects give you critical extra dimensions in control of, and perception of, your speed and acceleration. It isn’t only super-involving, it helps you drive better.
But even without this, the handling is terrific. In tight roads the Ioniq 5 N seems to shed about 400kg. It sniffs into a tight bend as keenly as a sports car should, using an e-diff, plus front-rear vectoring of torque and regeneration, to remarkable advantage.
Traction is stout as you like, yet it’ll tuck in its nose if you lift, or depart the apex with a nifty little loosening of the tail under power. In quicker bends, it’s properly locked on. All the time you know just what’s happening.
Or you can instead opt for N pedal, although note it’s incompatible with the ‘gears’ function. It calls up extreme and vectored regenerative braking to swing it even more sharply towards the apex. On a track, it means you can do a swiftish lap without touching the brake pedal at all.
With the dampers in the most tensed setting, the 5 N controls its body and puts an iron resolution into the cornering. The limit is friendly and the wheel and accelerator give you options to trim the line. OK, you sense a little gummy squirm from the tyres on track – given the weight and power, they’re being given an unconscionable amount to do. And no, it isn’t supercar-fast round a lap. But it’s colossal fun.
We ought to mention N Drift Control, even though it’s hard to find a use for it. It chucks the tail out with the back motor, then brings in the ESP and front motor to hold the angle. Well, so they say. In a wet empty car park it still has frankly too much power and a load of rotational inertia, so once a spin begins it’s already beyond me to stop it. And they admit that drifting in the dry is an extremely short cut to rooted tyres.
What is it like on the inside?
In most ways it’s like any other sports saloon, all black faux-suede and brand-specific blue stitching. The front tombstone seats do their job, both for long-distance comfort and cornering support, plus they’re heated and vented, if manually adjusted. By the way they’re not Recaros, just as the brakes aren’t Brembos – the N engineers say they can do this stuff themselves and save you money.
The N version has a pebbledash of specific switches on the steering wheel. You get two customisable N modes that’ll set up your own shortcuts with combinations of sound, ‘gearshift’, accelerator map, ESP, damping and more. Then there’s the red power boost button, and one that gives you simplified comfort-sport-sport+ modes. Useful to quickly relax back to comfort after a twisty section.
In any case, the Ioniq 5’s regular switches survive, for driver assist, climate, navigation and stereo. Together with the screen menus it’s all very customisable, and a bit of a learning curve, but once set up remarkably easy to use.
A big helpful head-up display is standard. It shows graphics of the lane markings and the traffic around you, and it’s nearly always right, so you feel more comfortable using the driver assist.
The rear, as in the base car, is super-accommodating thanks to sliding reclining seats with big legroom, plus loads of lights, vents, USB ports and storage. The boot is 480 litres, but it grows if you slide the rear seat forward.
What should I be paying?
It’s £65,000. A lot for a hot hatch. Not a lot for a car that’s got the size and power to outrun the fastest Porsche Macan on sale.
Every bit of kit mentioned so far is standard. The only extras are paint that isn’t metallic reddish-orange, and a glass roof.
On Hyundai’s own three-year PCP at 8,000 miles a year the balloon payment is about half the initial price. With a £15,000 down-payment it’s £765 a month.
The 84kWh battery takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get to 80 per cent on a 50kW charger. If you find a unit that can take full advantage of the car’s high-voltage system, that can fall to as little as 18 minutes with a peak draw of 240kW – which we have seen in reality.
We drove quite a long way in many conditions, and each charge gave us a real range of 200-220 miles. OK that didn’t include the track portion, but even so if you go easy you’d do better. A heat pump is standard, as is battery preconditioning.
Warranty is five years unlimited mileage for the whole car, plus 12 years anti-rust and eight years/100,000 miles for the battery to maintain 70 per cent capacity.
Specs & Prices
Keyword: Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review