Welcome, Internet, to our first glimpse of Hyundai’s Ford Fiesta ST rival. The i20N hot hatch has been testing in the Arctic Circle, and this is it wearing its winter woolies.

Or more factually correct, its camouflage kit to throw us off the scent. Yeah, this first glimpse really is a little ‘un. There’s a look at its larger alloy wheels and the performance brakes tucked behind them.

The revelation it’s five-door only, unlike that ST (not to mention the MINI Cooper S and Toyota GR Yaris). And a peek at some aero-tastic new side mirrors. Unexpectedly interesting mirrors for a car with such a mundane base, perhaps, and arguably fit for the mirrors hall of fame.

Clutching at straws? Us? Oh, absolutely, because *actual* information is thin on the ground. We know the i20N will be based on the new i20 hatchback – and therefore look quite good – and will use a turbocharged petrol engine at the minimum, almost certainly with four cylinders, though don’t rule out the addition of mild hybrid tech given it’s nestled in lowlier i20s. Either way, expect something north of 200bhp to ensure it’s ready to kick the bum of its toughest foes.

It didn’t head up to Arjeplog alone; it shared a lorry to northern Sweden with Hyundai’s mid-engined RM19 concept and its i20 World Rally car (also pictured), with World Rally driver Thierry Neuville having a go in all three and only too happy to provide some wholly biased feedback about his employer’s next hot hatch.

“Very interesting car. Very precise. Very easy handling,” he said of the i20N. “The engine is revving nicely and the noise is very interesting as well. I’m looking forward to get this one to drive in WRC!”

Let’s presume it has a sports exhaust that parps as much as its i30N bigger brother’s, then. Indeed, Hyundai promises the dinkier i20N will focus on being fun to drive above all else, so here’s hoping it’s a weeny bit rough around the edges in the best kind of way.

And that a manual gearbox remains standard despite an eight-speed paddleshifter now being available.

So, in the absence of concrete info, it’s over to you. What form do you reckon the i20N should take?

STORY Stephen Dobie

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