Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review – sensational performance, but seriously …
Verdict - Is the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N a good car?
Who said you can’t have some fun whilst saving the planet? Clearly not Hyundai’s N performance division, which has spent the last few years fettling the popular Ioniq 5 family EV to create its first zero-emissions performance car. With more power and driving tech than a Tesla Model 3, Hyundai clearly wanted to make a statement. The result is a seriously fast car with more tricks in reserve than Penn and Teller. It also has a practical side, but with a price tag of £65k, it will prove too expensive for many.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N models, specs and alternatives
Electric cars have become somewhat notorious for their uncanny ability to leave most other cars in their dust in a straight line. It’s a neat party trick and makes for entertaining YouTube videos, but making an EV that’s fun to drive on a back road, or even a track, has proved a lot more difficult.
Hyundai’s N division hasn’t backed away from the challenge, though, and the more time we spent testing out the Ioniq 5 N, it became clear Hyundai wants to convince petrolheads the future isn’t bleak. Not only can the 5 N accelerate like a falling anvil, it can fool your brain into thinking you’re driving an old-school hot hatch using a synthesised engine sound and even simulating gear changes as you drive – if you want it to. Like most things in the 5 N, how it drives is almost endlessly customisable.
While other EVs like the Tesla Model 3 Performance, Polestar 2 BST and BMW i4 have offered big performance already, none have been quite as overt as the Hyundai, with its hardcore approach to sporty driving.
After drinking in its stocky exterior and big rear wing, the first thing you’ll notice is the heavily sculpted bucket seats that hold you in place. Like a few of the surfaces in the 5 N, they’re trimmed in Alcantara for a motorsport feel, and it does help to set the tone for the driving experience.
Alongside this, a sports steering wheel with satellite controls for its various N modes, and a few other tweaks, the cabin isn’t too far removed from the standard car. Some may find that galling for a car costing over £60k, but as former Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evo owners once had to understand, most of the cash has been spent elsewhere, on the bits of the car you can’t see.
- Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
- 641bhp dual motor all-wheel drive
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N alternatives
“Mighty performance cuts its range figure to below 300 miles, but it’s no slouch at a public charger”
It might have well over 600bhp, but if you’re circling the M25 on a wet and windy evening, you’ll probably be more interested in the Ioniq 5 N’s range figure than its top speed. Luckily, despite all the go-faster-bits, it’s not too bad – Hyundai says around 280 miles is realistic in normal use. That is some way behind the 318 miles of an entry-level Tesla Model 3 though, so you are making a sacrifice for all that performance.
Don’t click away yet, because the Ioniq 5 N does have a riposte. Thanks to its clever electrical architecture, it can charge almost as fast as it laps the Nurburgring, going from nearly empty to 80% in just 18 minutes. Take a quick break for an energy drink and it will be ready to hit the road (or track) again.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
Its precise insurance band hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the Ioniq 5 N is ticking all the boxes for a pricey premium. Given its massive power output, considerable price and huge complexity, we wouldn’t be shocked if it lands in the top group 50. For this reason, we’d suggest it’s best to get an insurance quote before signing on the dotted line.
“Sure it’s fast, but there’s a lot more to the Ioniq 5 N than that. It handles superbly and can even mimic combustion-engined cars”
So here it is, the first all-electric model to wear Hyundai’s ‘N’ performance badge, and one of the first electron-powered hot hatchbacks to hit the market. In fact, with up to 641bhp on tap, can it even be called a hot hatch? “Searing” might be more appropriate. The Hyundai does at least stick with the ethos of a performance hatch that more emphasis should be placed on handling than straight-line speed. Unlike some past Tesla models, we found the Ioniq 5 N is far more than just a missile at the drag strip.
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The presence of two electric motors (one for each axle) and all sorts of mechanical and electronic wizardry means that the 5 N can do things a 2.2-tonne family car probably shouldn’t be able to. Not only can it change direction in a way that beggars belief, it can even give the sensation of gear changes in a combustion-engined car. While this might sound a bit silly for an EV that never actually needs to change gear, it adds up to a zero emissions model that sets a new enjoyment benchmark for driving enthusiasts.
One caveat is that while Hyundai told us the Ioniq 5 N is its most comfortable N model yet, that’s not really saying very much. Even in its softest suspension mode, we found the 5 N was quite sharp over bumps on the roads of South Korea, so we’ll be interested to see how it copes with British tarmac when it arrives on our shores next year.
0-62mph and top speed
Switching to electric motors has allowed Hyundai’s N division to unleash serious firepower, now it's no longer hamstrung by the 2.0-litre turbo petrol of the Hyundai i30 N. While that (otherwise excellent) hatch had a mere 276bhp, the dual electric motors of the Ioniq 5 N provide…wait for it…601bhp in normal usage, and 641bhp for brief bursts in its N driving mode. It’s a frankly absurd level of power usually associated with supercars.
The result is that – despite its admittedly hefty weight figure – the 5 N can wind the horizon towards the windscreen at an alarming rate, whenever you feel like it – laws and conditions permitting, of course.
Another benefit of such an embarrassment of riches in the power department is that it has given N engineers options to have fun. For instance, there are settings that replicate the feel of a petrol engine, and even the sensation of lag as an old-school hot hatchback’s turbo would kick in. It might not make the car faster, but it’s just one more way to help it appeal to customers.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
“Lots of gizmos and Alcantara, but it struggles to match its £65k billing”
We’ve come to expect stylish and tech-filled interiors from Hyundai, but as you’ve probably noticed, the prices of its cars have shot up too. While there’s not much wrong with the Ioniq 5 N’s cabin, it feels more closely aligned with the £45,000 price of a regular Ioniq 5 than the lofty £65k the N version commands.
The biggest differences we could spot during our test were Alcantara trim for the steering wheel, sculpted bucket seats and lots of N badges. It feels suitably motorsport themed then, but the BMW i4 still feels more upmarket.
Infotainment and navigation
That’s not to say the N is poorly equipped, because it’s loaded to its roof spoiler with kit, starting with the neat 21-inch alloy wheels it stands on. There’s also crisp LED exterior lighting, heated and cooling front seats, and a head-up display so you won’t have to take your eyes off the road as it zooms towards you. One of the few optional extras is a panoramic roof, costing around £1,200.
Tech fans should also be happy with the twin 12.3-inch screen setup that spans much of the dashboard. We’ve tested this extensively in lots of Hyundai models, and it’s impressively responsive to finger presses, while shortcut buttons make accessing common functions a bit quicker and easier. There’s also a touch-sensitive panel below the media screen for adjusting the climate control, which is a nice touch if your passenger decides they want warm feet as you’re studying the sat-nav.
“Despite its go-faster bits, there’s still a deeply practical family car hiding in plain sight”
Is it a hatchback or is it an SUV? It’s a debate that’s raged on within Carbuyer’s team of experts, but whatever the Ioniq 5 is, there’s no denying its size. There’s no delicate way of putting this; it looks like a family hatch that’s been blown up in scale by 10 or 20%, and the advantage is masses of interior space.
That’s no different for the Ioniq 5 N, which still has acres of space in the back seats and five doors with generous openings for getting in and out. Like the best hot hatches, it means you can ‘race’ on a Sunday and pick up your nan to take her to the shops on the following Monday.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
Polestar 2 hatchback
Tesla Model 3
The standard Ioniq 5 has a vast boot measuring well over 500 litres, and aside from a greater risk of breaking all your eggs on the way home from a shop, the 5 N is virtually as practical. It’s still possible to fold down the back seats too, so this remains a car you can buy with your head as well as your heart.
Boot space comparison
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
Tesla Model 3
“Hyundai has lots of EV customers, helping it unlock even more reliability for its latest models”
Hyundai has become something of a pioneer in electric car technology, so it should provide reassurance that it’s far from being the new kid on the block. In fact, its Ioniq 5 represents its second generation of EV models, following early cars like the Ioniq Electric and Kona Electric that were still rooted in cars designed primarily for petrol and hybrid engines. Hyundai has gained valuable real-world data and knowledge from the countless miles driven by its EV early adopters, and these learnings have culminated in cars like the Ioniq 5 N.
Along with its massive brakes and freakish ability to accelerate if you need a burst of speed to get you out of a pinch, the Hyundai is also loaded with active and passive safety features. Its radar sensors can detect cars, pedestrians and cyclists to help prevent collisions around town, even when dealing with junctions.
This helped contribute to a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when the standard Ioniq 5 was crash-tested in late 2021, and we expect this score to be carried over to the performance N version.
Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.