Electric Cars Reviewed

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review: a groundbreaking performance star

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N proves that fast electric cars can be as good, perhaps even better, than their petrol-powered performance counterparts

Hyundai’s N division has created quite a reputation for itself in a short space of time. Its first hot hatch, the i30 N, emerged almost from nowhere to challenge the very best in its class and the i20 N proved that fun was in the brand’s DNA.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the N team’s first attempt at an EV is impressive. What is surprising is just how impressive it is.

The recipe for the Ioniq 5 N is simple – take a regular family crossover, double its power, give it a load of clever chassis tech, a chunky body kit and unleash it on the world. The outcome is a car that leaves rivals from the likes of Ford, Tesla and Porsche in its wake and proves EVs can be truly fun to drive.

Design, interior and technology

The Ioniq 5’s 80s-inspired boxiness has always divided opinion but personally, I’m a massive fan of its cuboid lights, razor sharp creases and general squareness.

The 5 N takes that and gives it a steroid injection. Everything on this hot version is bigger, more pronounced and designed to emphasise its performance credentials. From the deep front splitter to the comically large rear diffuser and prominent spoiler, this is a car that wears its excess proudly.

The ride height has been lowered by 20mm and the track widened by 50mm to give it a more aggressive stance and the bespoke 21-inch forged alloys sit in flared arches which, at the rear, feature cooling vents to aid the brakes. There’s a bright orange trim line that runs all the way round the car, from a thin strip at the front to a pronounced tick with the N logo ahead of the rear wheels, and massive bright orange brake callipers.

The interior has been given a light sprinkling of N-specific touches too. The Alcantara sports seats are mounted 20mm lower than the regular car’s and are just the right blend of well padded for comfort and deeply bolstered for lateral support. The N also gets a special centre console that fills in the gap beneath the dash and gives driver and passenger somewhere to brace their knees during ‘enthusiastic’ driving. It’s actually a really smart setup and one that the regular car would benefit from.

For the driver there’s a completely new steering wheel with the N logo at its centre and three new buttons to help control the array of special features. Two customisable buttons in the lower portion can be mapped to switch between various drive functions but the third is a big red button marked NGB – N Grin Boost – which gives access to the full 641bhp for a 10-second burst.

There’s a head-up display as standard, and the infotainment system has been upgraded to feature a page dedicated to the myriad ways you can customise your drive – from the suspension stiffness to a choice of synthesised sounds ranging from petrol sports car to jet fighter.

Battery, motor and performance

Let’s get the bare numbers out of the way first. The Ioniq 5 N features two motors which give all-wheel-drive and produce a total of 601bhp in regular mode and 641bhp when N Grin Boost is activated.

That means 0–62mph in a brutal 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 161mph.

But those are just numbers and there are quite a few EVs that boast similar outputs and straight-line speeds. Where the Ioniq 5 N stands out from the crowd is how comprehensively it sets out to be a driver’s car.

This isn’t just an Ioniq 5 with the power doubled. It’s a completely reengineered machine. The suspension has been bulked up with new dampers, there are stronger front and rear subframes, reinforced motor and battery mounts, there’s a new (faster) steering rack, bigger brakes, an electronic limited-slip diff at the rear, and more welding and adhesives to strengthen the body construction. Even the battery and motor cooling hardware has been redesigned to cope with the demands of regular high-performance use.

Like any EV, there are preset driving modes – eco, normal, sport – but you can also create and save your own custom setups, choosing from four motor settings, three steering options and three suspension modes, each more direct than the last.

You’ll probably want to avoid the Sport+ suspension setting on UK roads (it’s a touch too firm), but set the dampers to Sport and turn everything else up to 11 and you’re rewarded with a remarkable driving experience.

Predictably, the throttle response is instant and brutal – even before you press the big red NGB button – but beyond the straight ahead is where the 5 N shows its engineering brilliance.

The steering is beautifully weighted, quick and precise and means you can thread this large, 2.2-tonne beast along twisting roads with remarkable accuracy. It never feels small and there’s a hint of roll in really tight bends, but it never feels anywhere near its actual size or weight, and the poise, grip and speed in bends are a revelation.

Elevating the 5 N even further is the N e-shift function which brings a new level of engagement. The system simulates an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox using clever sound design and even cleverer implementation of the regenerative braking system.

It sounds like a gimmick but in practice it’s utterly brilliant. Activate it and the motor sound spins up towards the red line, giving you all the aural cues you need to know when to shift up and punishing you with a rev limiter if you don’t. Keep your foot planted as you change gear and you feel the thump of the (wholly synthesised) upshift, and it’ll use the regen function to mimic engine braking on the downshifts. Within minutes you forget that this is a battery-powered car and what you’re feeling is all artificial. It feels utterly natural and brings a visceral engagement and fun unlike any other EV I’ve driven.

Cynics might dismiss it as fake but, like the best magic tricks, even as you know you’re being deceived you’re wowed by the outcome.

Testing the car on public roads as I was, there were certain functions I didn’t get to play. These included the N-Pedal, which uses the regen braking to create more aggressive weight transfer for even sharper turn-in; the N Launch Control and the Drift Optimiser, which do what they say on the tin. I also didn’t tinker with the torque distribution settings, which allow you to manually divide the grunt between front and rear across 11 gradations. In Sport+ mode the traction control is already dialled back enough to allow some grin-inducing squirrelling from the rear end under heavy throttle.

Of course, there might be occasions where you don’t want to explore or exploit the depths of the Ioniq 5 N’s abilities. And when that’s the case, you can simply select ‘normal’ on the drive modes and enjoy an impressively smooth riding and quiet experience just like a regular Ioniq 5.

Not that it’s likely to be top of anyone’s concerns but the 5 N’s 84kWh battery can, in theory, cover up to 278 miles on a charge, and ultra-rapid charging means a 10-80% top-up in just 18 minutes.

Price and specification

The Ioniq 5 N range is nice and simple. There’s one model, one spec and a choice of nine colours, most of which are paid-for additions. It’s £65,000 and the only option besides the paint is the £1,250 panoramic sunroof. Apart from that, you get pretty much all the tech of the regular top-spec Ioniq 5. So that means everything from adaptive LED lights and a heat pump to heated rear seats and level 2 highway driving assistance. 

Plus there’s the small matter of all the engineering brilliance that has gone into transforming this car. Odd as it sounds, it feels like pretty good value. Similar money will get you a Ford Mustang Mach-e GT, a Kia EV6 GT or a Tesla Model Y Performance. But none of them has the depth of engineering or the pure enjoyment of the Hyundai. Even the Porsche Taycan, certainly in sub-£100k variants, can’t match the grin-inducing feel of the 5 N.

Verdict

There’s been a feeling that EVs, even high-performance ones, are a little sterile, a little uninvolving. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N addresses that in emphatic fashion. It’s exhilarating, engaging but most of all fun in the way of any great performance car and in a way that no other EV has yet managed.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

  • Price: £65,900
  • Powertrain: two-motor, all-wheel-drive
  • Battery: 84kWh
  • Power: 641bhp
  • Torque: 546lb ft
  • Top speed: 161mph
  • 0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
  • Range: 278 miles
  • Consumption: 2.9m/kWh
  • Charging: up to 240kW

Matt Allan

Matt is Editor of EV Powered. He has worked in journalism for more than 20 years and been an automotive journalist for the last decade, covering every aspect of the industry, from new model reveals and reviews to consumer and driving advice. The former motoring editor of inews.co.uk, The Scotsman and National World, Matt has watched the EV landscape transform beyond recognition over the last 10 years and developed a passion for electric vehicles and what they mean for the future of transport - from the smallest city cars to the biggest battery-powered trucks. When he’s not driving or writing about electric cars, he’s figuring out how to convert his classic VW camper to electric power.

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