Hyundai Ioniq 5 N review: very hot, hugely entertaining

David Linklater
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No ordinary Hyundai Ioniq. No ordinary performance car, either.


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sport utility vehicle
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  • Genuinely entertaining as well as fast
  • Doesn’t take itself too seriously
  • Incredible breadth of talent
  • Needs an N-menu shortcut
  • Brittle ride on bumpy roads
  • Ioniq 5’s shallow boot

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is not the first battery electric vehicle (BEV) to be designed with the enthusiast in mind. You might have heard of the Porsche Taycan; even some of Mercedes-AMG’s EQE stuff is designed with a fanatical attention to technical detail.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
A huge amount of work has gone into creating the Ioniq 5 N. So much that they forgot to polish it.

But the Ioniq N is pretty special all the same. Partly because it’s from a mainstream maker, partly because it has some truly incredible features like N Active Sound+ (NAS+) and partly because Hyundai N is just so…cheeky. How many cars use road sign recognition to warn you of an approaching corner so you can have some fun, or offer a pushbutton max-attack mode (478kW!) called N Grin Boost?

The $135k price seems steep, but it's not so outrageous when you consider an Ioniq 5 Limited AWD is $117,990; it’s still a $17k step, but you’re going from a family model to a very specialised performance car. It really is the Hyundai equivalent of moving from a mainstream Audi to an RS, or a BMW to a full M. 

The N is not just an Ioniq 5 with the electric motors turned up to 11. It’s 20mm lower and 50mm wider. It has a stronger chassis, new suspension subframes, a different steering rack, some really serious brakes, a special battery setup… the list goes on. 

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
N body addenda gives the Ioniq 5 an even wilder edge. And it was pretty weird to begin with.

The straight-line performance is staggering at 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds: this N has over twice the power of the next-fastest Ioniq 5 (0-100km/h 5.2sec).

How many cars use road sign recognition to warn you of an approaching corner, so you can have some fun?

But that’s not surprising for a powered-up EV. What is surprising is that Hyundai is adamant this car is not simply about incredible acceleration, but also entertainment. And it delivers.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Paddles behind the steering wheel can be used to shift fake gears... that sound very real.

But the first thing everybody wants to talk about is the noise: NAS+. You can have EV-silence if you want, but among the three artificial sound options is one called Ignition; when you pair that with N e-Shift (fake gearchanges, basically) you get a pretty accurate representation of the soundtrack and sensations of driving a rorty dual-clutch petrol car like an i30 N.

If a rorty engine note is your thing, does it really matter where the noise comes from?

Sound silly? It is. But it’s a brilliant piece of sound engineering. The system extends to retarding acceleration if you select a “gear” that’s too tall for the road speed, or it will slap you in the back under hard acceleration as the e-Shift swaps steps. So it's not simply noise, it's also talking to the motors.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
N is wider and lower than the standard Ioniq 5. And bluer.

None of it is real and of course it does all make the car a bit slower. But there is function to go with the fun. First, if an enthusiast argument against EVs is that the lack of aural sensation makes them one-dimensional, this brings the noise back. And if that’s your thing, does it matter where the noise comes from? Many performance petrol cars also have some soundtrack enhancement to make them sound more interesting.

The level of customisation available is initially bewildering and undeniably comprehensive; not unlike a BMW M.

Second, if the goal is entertainment above actual speed, that artificial engine note and selectable gear-step feature does help the driver judge cornering speed, give more car control and make the experience more engaging. You have the choice.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Just a tiny taste of the drive-mode menus on offer.

But N-Shift is just one feature in a car that contains multitudes. The level of customisation available is initially bewildering and undeniably comprehensive; not unlike a BMW M, which is not surprising given N boss Albert Biermann is formerly of M-town. 

You get the expected Eco, Normal and Sport modes. But you can also individually customise motor, steering, suspension, stability control, e-LSD, NAS+ and even head-up display settings, then save your favourite combinations under Custom menus, which you can link to either of two N steering-wheel buttons.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
That red button says NGB, for 'N Grin Boost'. It's a fun car.

But wait, there’s more! When everything’s wound up properly you can also access track-specific modes, including Race, N-Pedal (which ramps the regen up to a phenomenal amount), N Torque Distribution (front-to-rear) and N Drift Optimiser. You can also condition the battery for various track activities, including drag racing.

That big red button on the right of the steering wheel is N Grin Boost, which gives you maximum everything for 10 seconds for overtaking or whatever. It’s an idea shamelessly ripped off from Porsche, but it certainly does what it says on the box.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Curvaceous sports seats have logos that light up, BMW M-style.

There’s so much to explore and trust us, you’ll want to. So we can’t understand why there isn’t a shortcut button to the N menu, which is instead accessed via a series of clicks and swipes on the infotainment screen. Sure, you’re sweet once you’ve set one of the Custom menus on the steering wheel, but this is not really a set-and-forget car. You'll always want to be fiddling around with the settings.

The danger is this could all feel a bit gimmicky, but the reality is that it’s icing on the cake. Strip all of that away and the Ioniq N is still a brilliantly executed, beautifully engineered hot hatch.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Monster 21-inch wheels and high-performance brakes are standard.

The steering is a bit video-gamey but it’s precise - as it needs to be, because the Ioniq 5 N feels pretty wide on narrow backroads. It's astonishingly grippy, but the sheer amount of power available at either end, and the sheer speed at which an electric powertrain can respond to throttle inputs, means the N can also be beautifully adjustable in corners. 

What’s not to like? You could argue some of the exterior styling is a bit cartoonish, but a lot of it is functional: the extra inlets serve as cooling for brakes and (especially) battery, for example. And it looks more low-key in a less lurid colour than our car’s Ioniq 5 N-specific Performance Blue Matte.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Hyundai says many of the exterior add-ons are functional. But they're also showy.

Beyond that, the stuff that irks is really just the same as any other Ioniq 5. The ride isn't brilliant on bumpy roads, but neither is any other 5 in the lineup; and the N’s adaptive suspension means it’s not noticeably worse, even on those monster 21-inch wheels.

The Ioniq 5 cockpit is not terribly driver-centric with that expanse of screen, although N touches like that special steering wheel and sports seats set 20mm lower certainly help. And while the boot looks okay on paper at 480 litres, it’s pretty shallow (there’s EV hardware underneath) and not as useful as it should be for a family SUV.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
Boot has good volume, but it's a bit shallow for a family vehicle. Even a super-fast one.

You get a little less range with the N despite a slightly bigger battery, but it’s not major. Especially when you consider the performance focus.

The remarkable thing about the Ioniq 5 N is the way it has stretched its talents so far in opposite directions. It can be a refined EV around town or on the motorway, delivering sensible and pleasant transport in much the same way as any other model in the range.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N.
All lines and dots. But then that's the Ioniq 5 way.

But it can also awaken to be a top-level road-and-track performance car, to be spoken of in the same breath as Audi RS, BMW M and Mercedes-AMG. The Ioniq 5 is already one of the best EVs on the market; in N form it’s also one of the best performance EVs at any price… and a great enthusiast car, electric or not.

BATTERY: 84kWh with dual electric motors POWER: 448kW/740Nm (478kW/770Nm with N Grin Boost) GEARBOX: Single-speed, AWD 0-100KM/H: 3.4sec RANGE: 448km (3P-WLTP), max charge rate 350kW PRICE: $134,990 ($129,990 RSP)

What are the key statistics for the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N?

There's a big 84kWh battery, but more importantly two very powerful electric motors making a combined 448kW (or 478kW for short periods of "Grin" boost). It'll do 0-100km/h in just 3.4 seconds.

Is the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N efficient?

The official range is a little down on regular Ioniq 5s and obviously, it'll be really down if you choose to use all that performance. But the beauty of the N is that still has Eco mode and if you drive it gently, it'll be almost as efficient as a standard model.

Is the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N good to drive?

We love it. It's not just fast, it also really handles and the bewildering array of drive-mode options gives you the ability to make it into just the kind of car you want - once you get to grips with it all.

The selectable N e-Shift (fake engine noise and gearchanges) seems cheesy, but it's brilliantly executed and great fun.

Is the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N practical?

Like any Ioniq 5, it's super-spacious inside thanks to that long, long wheelbase. But also like any Ioniq 5, the boot is okay for volume but a bit too shallow to be SUV-useful.

What do we like about the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N?

Above all else, it's made to be fun. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but when it really comes down to it, this car has extraordinary dynamic abilities without sacrificing too much in the way of practicality compared to any other Ioniq 5.

What don’t we like about the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N?

We'd love a more direct route to the N settings in the infotainment screen, instead of having to scroll through other menus. No Ioniq 5 has a great ride (this one's not greatly degraded though) and no Ioniq 5 has a truly useful boot.

What kind of person would the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N suit?

Somebody who likes tech and interesting EVs, obviously. But actually, also any enthusiast who loves high-performance cars.

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