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First drive: Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.

First drive: Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
A watershed moment for EVs, this Ioniq 5 N is a masterpiece of a high-performance machine.


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Hyundai Ioniq 5 N

5 5 5 5 5

This is a truly exceptional car, a watershed moment in the electric vehicle (EV) history and a quite phenomenal performance machine, no matter what's under the bonnet. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is an engineering marvel and one of the greatest all-wheel-drive machines we've ever had the pleasure of sampling, but we're aware that many naysayers will be immediately going 'it's too heavy/big/SUV-ish', 'it's electric and therefore boring', and/or 'it's too expensive for a Hyundai'. Here, then, is our attempt to persuade you not to cut off your own nose to spite your face and therefore miss out on the Ioniq 5 N's blinding attributes because you're staunchly anti-EV. Let's begin...

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N
Price: Ioniq 5 range from 43,445, N from 65,000, car as tested 66,250
Motor: 478kW dual electric
Battery: 84kWh lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed reduction-gear automatic, all-wheel drive with e-LSD rear
Power: 650hp (time-limited overboost phase)
Torque: 740Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: c.280 miles
0-62mph: 3.4 seconds
Top speed: 161mph
Boot space: 480-1,540 litres
Kerb weight: 2,235kg


The first thing we need to get out of the way is whether this is a hot hatchback or not. Again, those determined to find a reason to dislike the Ioniq 5 N will cite the fact it is a huge car, physically speaking. And that's hard to deny, given it is 4,715mm long, 1,940mm wide (excluding the mirrors; with them thrown into the mix, it's fully 2.15m across the beam), 1,585mm tall and possessed of a goliath 3,000mm wheelbase. Those are SUV-ish dimensions, of course they are, but it also can't be denied that the Ioniq 5's basic shape is obviously hatchback. People do call both this car and the related Kia EV6 'crossovers', but we've never considered them as such - they simply don't sit their drivers high enough to feel like SUVs when you're behind the wheel of them.

Then there's the kerb weight. Because it's an EV with a mammoth 84kWh battery pack, it's 2,235kg. We can't sugar-coat it, that's enormous. And with weight being the killer of driving fun, it doesn't augur well for the Ioniq 5 N's chances, especially if you are going to consider it a hot hatch. Anything even remotely ideologically similar to this, such as an Audi RS 3 Sportback, Mercedes-AMG A 45 S or the late, lamented third-gen Ford Focus RS, is considerably trimmer - the Hyundai is giving away 590-, 575- and a scarcely believable 711kg respectively to those AWD hyper-hatches.

So if you want a stick to beat the Ioniq 5 N with, dimensionally and physically you've got your first weapon. But we happen to think it looks absolutely marvellous. The regular Ioniq 5's retro-futuristic body really does wear the sporty N addenda quite beautifully, such as the gorgeous 21-inch alloys with Pirelli P-Zero rubber, that fantastic rear diffuser and rear spoiler combination, and the application of 'Much Black' around the lower bodywork, all highlighted with an orange pinstripe. Sitting 20mm lower and being 50mm wider than a standard Ioniq 5 helps with the menacing stance, too, and for the best possible results you want to finish it in the Soultronic Orange Pearl you can see here. The best news about that? It's the only standard, no-cost paint for the Ioniq 5 N. All of Abyss Black, Cyber Grey and Ecotronic Grey are pearlescents at 700 a pop, while you can have either Atlas White or N-signature Performance Blue in either pearl (700) or matte (900) finishes... but we'd stick with this lovely Soultronic, thanks.


Another big tick for the Ioniq 5 N in here. The underlying architecture is already impressive and built to a high standard, so bolting a pair of superb bucket seats into it and then adding the deep-dished, N-branded (and, admittedly, a little button-busy) steering wheel into the mix hardly harms things. The chequered-flag like motif, which ties into both the performance nature of the N and also the regular Ioniq 5's Morse code 'H' pattern on the steering wheel's boss plus its square-pixel LED lights, is repeated in various places, such as on the door-mounted armrests, for the pedals in the driver's footwell and again on the vehicle's sill plates; it also forms the Hyundai's rear reflectors in the outer edges of the diffuser, if you look closely. So overall, the ambience within is just about spot on - about our only criticism is that in this particular Ioniq 5, we could do with those front seats being mounted about an inch lower than they currently are.


As the exterior is massive, so it follows that you will travel in few performance cars which are as resolutely practical as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. The passenger compartment is simply vast, with acres of space between the front-seat occupants and then that gigantic, flat-floored second-row area meaning there aren't really any cheap seats inside this Korean rocket. Storage solutions inside the vehicle are commendable too, that central construct where the transmission tunnel would normally be on a hot hatch instead managing to house a few neat details, such as the pad for wireless smartphone charging. By hatchback standards, the boot is a whopper as well, although those still insisting the Ioniq 5 is a crossover will say 480 litres is not that decent at all. Either way, considering what primary users of the N are going to be doing with it, the cargo bay is certainly more than spacious enough for the vast majority of owners' needs.


Well, for the first part of this subheading, Ioniq 5 N drivers will have ample resources to call upon. Indeed, an embarrassment of electrical riches. Seriously, once you've experienced what 650hp and 740Nm feels like thumping into all four wheels in an instant, any reasonably minded person ought to never crave more straight-line speed than this thing can deliver. What's most likeable about it, though, is that Hyundai N seems to have tuned an ever-so-slight bleed-in of the Ioniq's massive power - in that, unlike some other mega-output EVs we've been in, the Korean hatch doesn't instantaneously smash your head backwards if you deploy full throttle, nor does it make you nauseous if you're feeling brave enough to plant your right foot all the way. It just whips up into big speeds in a smooth, linear, organic-feeling fashion and we absolutely adore it for that. The 3.4-second 0-62mph time and 161mph top speed, by the way, seem - if anything - a touch pessimistic. This Hyundai is mental-quick.

Economy might not be quite so hot, of course, as we saw around 2.4 miles/kWh from the Ioniq 5 N during a fairly spirited 70-mile drive around the picturesque parts of the English midlands, so a real-world range of roughly 200 miles (in nice weather) is probably going to be your lot. What we will say, in the Hyundai's defence here, is that its distance-to-empty range readout didn't start tumbling dramatically when we were enjoying its mammoth performance, and the car had plenty more than 50 per cent battery left after we were done with it. And, if you think about it, once you start driving any 300hp-plus petrol-powered hot hatch with any sort of vim and vigour, we can't think of a single one of them that would give you much more than 200 miles from a tank in such circumstances.

Naturally, anyone still clinging onto any negativity they can find to fling metaphorical mud at the Ioniq 5 N will immediately claim that if you were in, say, an Audi RS 3 Sportback and you'd had your fun with it, emptying its reserves of Super Unleaded in short order, it would only take you about three to five minutes to fill it back up and be on your way again - whereas the Hyundai has the usual EV battery-replenishment shortcomings to work around. And, y'know... it's a fair point. But the Ioniq 5 N, sitting on advanced 800-volt architecture, is at least almost as fast at recharging its battery pack as it is hitting 62mph from rest (subjectively speaking). It'll do 10-80 per cent in as little as 18 minutes, if you can find a 350kW DC charger, although at the more common 50kW DC hook-up you'll be looking at more like one hour ten minutes. Overnights to 100 per cent, meanwhile, are around seven-and-a-half hours at 11kW AC, or 11.5 hours for the more typical 7.4kWh domestic wallbox.

Then we need to talk about noise. Specifically, N Active Noise and also the N e-Shift arrangement. Both of these have the capacity to set true petrolheads' teeth on edge, we understand that. With Ignition, Evolution and Supersonic choices to go at, replicating Hyundai's own turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot, the RN22e lab concept and the jet engines from Top Gun: Maverick respectively, you might loathe the inauthenticity of these. We went into the drive thinking we would, too. And yet, we didn't. Quite the opposite, in truth.

If you keep N e-Shift off, Evolution and Supersonic are interesting sounds that are defiantly something only an EV could emit, a bit like a certain German manufacturer's alluring Porsche Electric Sport Sound. And we admire that. OK, they may be gimmicks that owners will try a few times and then switch off, but the sense of engineering fun that has gone into this car that these audio systems convey makes their inclusion more than worthwhile in our eyes. Neither of them works anything like as well with N e-Shift engaged, understandably (whoever heard of a Boeing F/A 18F Super Hornet doing flat upshifts or rev-matching blips when going down the 'gearbox', eh?), but if you can put aside your cynicism then you'll be glad they exist.

You can turn all of these noises off and just drive the Ioniq 5 N with that eerie background whirring of potent electric motors that is the most 'natural' EV soundtrack if you prefer, which has an acoustic appeal all of its own, but the real bone of contention will likely come with Ignition plus N e-Shift engaged. This is where the Hyundai pretends it has both a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-banger plus an eight-speed DCT transmission, breaking the power delivery during 'upshifts' to mimic the sound and feel of an internal-combustion performance car as best as it can. It even does the full pops, crackles and gurgles of unburnt fuel thundering down exhaust pipes on the overrun, the speakers of the 5 N moving the noise from front to back in the cabin as it does so to give the most authentic effect.

Writing it down like that will likely have some people now raging at the fakeness of it all. And we understand that, we really do. So please bear in mind that we drove down to sample the Ioniq 5 N in a Ford Mustang Mach 1, which needs no such synthetic nonsense to enhance its 5.0-litre V8 pipes; acoustically, it's a ridiculously hard ICE act for any EV to have to follow. And yet we still reckon that the Hyundai with both Ignition and N e-Shift engaged is a total delight. It's so brilliantly calibrated in both regards that we kept both of these systems switched on permanently for the latter half of our test drive, because the engagement, reassurance and natural feel it brings to the 5 N party is incomparable. The best way we can describe it is that it's like having the mechanics of an illusion described to you in great detail by Penn and Teller, and then still believing the same magic trick when you see it in action in front of your own eyes. And we think that's an astounding achievement by the Hyundai N engineers, in all honesty.

Ride & Handling

If you want to feel the difference between this Ioniq 5 N and what is merely a very fast EV, try the related, 585hp Kia EV6 GT out for size. Or cast your net further afield and have a go in both the MG4 XPower or even the Tesla Model 3 Performance. All of these are electric cars with monster motors fitted to them, plus a semblance of some kind of dynamic focus mixed in. And they're all fine, in their own ways, but the comparison between these three EVs and the Hyundai is absolutely night and day.

The Ioniq 5 N is a car in which it becomes shiningly obvious, within the first 50-100 metres of driving it, that the developmental engineering focus behind it was utterly absorbed, above any other corporate consideration, with making this car as enjoyable as it could possibly be for the lucky so-and-so behind its wheel. And no matter what's under the bonnet (or not, as the case may be), it is this overriding dedication to kinematic acuity which has marked out the truly legendary drivers' cars of antiquity. It is also why this Ioniq 5 N is such a seismic shift for the EV brigade: the first zero-emissions vehicle which can genuinely mix it with some of the finest internal-combustion leading lights of the past, because it's so bloody phenomenally good to drive.

It starts with both the steering and the damping. The former is magnificent, beautifully weighted across all its modes and genuinely blessed with some wonderful, informative feel. Yet the latter is even more exceptional. There are three levels for the shock absorption yet, on rucked-up Cotswolds roads, you can use the 5 N in any of them and not be disappointed in the slightest. Yep, there's a small degree of lean to the body when you start throwing the car through fast, flick-flack left/right turns at speed, and there's always an informative, underlying firmness to the springs which tells you that you're in something with a maximum 650 horsepower to play with, but at no point does the Hyundai's ride comfort ever degenerate to the point of being uncomfortable. In fact, you can drive it in N mode on even poor B roads and it doesn't become skittish, something we couldn't always say of the company's pioneering i30 N. Its rolling refinement and suspension are magnificent in this regard.

It also disguises its not-inconsiderable mass remarkably well; freakishly so, in retrospect. Certainly, this particular writer has not yet had the chance to sample the Ioniq 5 N at its ultimate limits on a track so there may be rare occasions where you can sense all of the Korean's bulk as you're trying to muscle it into a tight, downhill hairpin after a long straight (say), but we're happy to go on the record as saying this: when you're driving it on the public roads? You will never, ever think this is a 2.2-tonne car. Its sprightly agility, its exquisite steering and damping, its comprehensive reluctance to understeer in any situation, they all add up to a vehicle that feels about 400 to 500 kilos lighter than it actually is. You don't even subliminally sense it's a big car physically, until you're aware that on narrower country roads any traffic coming the other way is actively stopping rather than trying to squeeze past the Hyundai in the opposite direction. With its N e-Shift system engaged and N Active Sound systems engaged, we spent most of our time subconsciously thinking we were in nothing larger nor weightier than an i30 N. And we can't pay the Ioniq 5 N much more of a glowing compliment than that.

With grip aplenty, an innate sensation of throttle-adjustable balance (you don't even need it in its drift mode to ascertain that its tricksy e-LSD will permit slide from the rear under power, long before it will scrub off easily won speed from the front), the majestic steering and the first-rate damping, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is a glittering jewel to drive. It slaps a massive, immovable smile on your boat race from mile one and then refuses to let you stop grinning for every millimetre you travel in it after that. Yet it also has the feedback and complexity to make you understand, as a driver, that there's a heck of a lot to learn about its handling abilities. It feels like you could drive it for a thousand miles and more, and still have more layers to peel back to allow you to discover new attributes of its dynamics. In short, it has all the rich driver reward and deep joyousness of Hyundai's own i20 N... and quite a bit more besides. Again, astonishingly high praise for any performance car, never mind a chunky EV.


Those of you who think we have already lost our marbles for eulogising about a 2,235kg EV 'hot hatch' that isn't actually a hatch because it's so big, and oh lord, it also makes fake noises like a combustion-engined car... look away now. At 65,000, the Ioniq 5 N is a bargain. Yes, bargain. You categorically will not get this level of driver involvement and searing performance blended into one package for anything less than that these days, and when you can already drop 54,445 basic on an Ioniq 5 Namsan (the next model down the specification tree), the fact the N is only ten grand more than this seems almost criminal. Further, everything fitted to the car is standard, barring the paints we mentioned earlier and a 1,250 Vision Roof (panoramic lid), so this is not a 65,000 car which'll suddenly turn into an 80- or 90-grand machine come ordering time if you want to get it into the spec you desire most. It'll be 67,150, tops, which we think is a modest amount for something so sensational to drive as this.


If we say the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is easily the most desirable EV on the planet right now, taking the crown from the likes of the Porsche Taycan and Volkswagen ID. Buzz which probably held it previously, then that feels like damning this Korean vehicle with the faintest of faint praise. So let's put it this way instead: put aside your electric vehicle pre-conceptions and prejudices, and accept this car for what it is - one of the all-time greats when it comes to driver engagement, pure excitement and an ingrained level of petrolhead desirability. It is the moment the first genuinely thrilling EV performance car has arrived. It is phenomenal. Sublime. There's next to nothing about it we would change, apart from making the driver's seat a bit lower. It is, as we said up top, a true watershed moment in motoring - which means it's very, very easy for us to give a fully deserved five stars to the fabulous 5 N.

Matt Robinson - 8 May 2024    - Hyundai road tests
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2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.

2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.2024 Hyundai Ioniq 5 N. Image by Hyundai.


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