The EV6 brings Kia to another level as an EV maker, thinks Jonathan Crouch
So far, Korean maker Kia's offerings have been worthy, sensible, good value and, whisper it, rather dull. But that changes right here, right now with this car, the EV6. In this case, the idea is to reinterpret full-electric technology for the affordable part of the mid-sized market in a sporty, desirable fashion. Don't think e-Niro or Soul EV. Instead, think Polestar 2 or Tesla Model 3.
That's quite a challenging brief for a manufacturer not positioned as a premium brand, but Kia has gone about it with enthusiasm. The brand has developed an all-new E-GMP platform for this EV6. And readied a top EV6 GT high performance model for the very top of the range with a Porsche Taycan-like 577bhp on tap. Mainstream EV6 models will be more accessible, targeted not only at Tesla and Polestar but at sportier versions of cars like the Volkswagen ID.4 and the Skoda Enyaq iV.
Acceleration from the get-go in an EV6 depends a little on the variant you've chosen. There are two in the mainstream range, both using a 77.4kWh battery. The base rear-driven model has only just enough power - 226bhp - to make this two-tonne EV feel business-like away from rest. The sprint to 62mph time for that base variant is 7.3s but 350Nm of torque isn't really quite enough for a contender this heavy. The spec of the AWD dual motor model we tried is much more like it. Here, the 165kW rear electric motor fitted to all EV6s is joined by a smaller 74kW motor at the front, boosting total output to 321bhp. That provides for 62mph in 5.2s and nearly twice the amount of pulling power - 605Nm - on the way to the 114mph top speed that all versions of this Kia share.
It doesn't actually feel that fast on first acquaintance, which for us is a good thing, the delivery of torque and speed pleasantly linear and combustion-like. If you want an EV6 that does kick you in the back away from rest, Kia will attempt to sell you a top GT model with the same battery and AWD combo but a twin motor output uprated to 577bhp, with a thumping 740Nm of torque. You don't really need that GT model's manic speed - rest to 62mph in just 3.5s en route to 162mph; and you don't really need its standard adaptive damping system either because the passive 'frequency selective' mechanical springs that feature here (which can't be upgraded) combine with the multi-link independent rear suspension to produce an actually very well judged quality of ride over poor surfaces.
There are three drive modes ('Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport'), none of which improve the rather gloopy feel of the steering. But the six available brake regeneration settings (most operable by these steering wheel paddle shifters) are effective and careful use will get you somewhere near the quoted combined cycle drive range figures, which vary between 300 and 328 miles, depending on variant.
Design and Build
The EV6 EV sports saloon was designed under the brand's new design philosophy 'Opposites United', which apparently takes inspiration from the contrasts found in nature and humanity. At the front, Kia's 'tiger face' has been re-interpreted for the digital era. Forming part of this 'Digital Tiger Face', daytime running lights display a sleek, modern appearance and include a 'sequential' dynamic light pattern. Below this, a low air intake aims to visually widen the front of the car, aiming to accentuate its intended high-tech image.
The side profile displays a crossover-inspired silhouette and a character line runs along the bottom of the doors, curving upwards towards the rear wheel arches to visually elongate the profile of the car. The rear displays a sloping C-pillar with an integrated black glossy insert which appears to extend the window glass. Above this sits a prominent wing-type roof spoiler that channels air downwards towards a raised lower spoiler, which sits atop the car's unique rear light cluster.
Inside, one of the most striking elements is a wide, seamless high-tech curved infotainment screen, which gives the interior an open feel. The 'Relaxation' seats are slim, lightweight and contemporary, and clad in modern, visually interesting and robust fabrics created using recycled plastics - equivalent to 111 plastic water bottles. Thanks to a relatively long 2,900mm wheelbase, cabin space is similar to many mid-size SUVs. There's comfortable space for two adults on the rear bench and out back, there's a decently-sized 520-litre boot, extendable to 1,300-litres with the rear backrest folded. This is added to by a front trunk beneath the bonnet which provides up to an additional 52-litres of stowage space for 2WD models and 20-litres for AWD models.
Market and Model
Kia has decided that the EV6 range shouldn't feature the smaller 'Standard Range' 58kWh battery pack available on this car in other markets (and on this model's Hyundai IONIQ 5 close cousin). Which is why there are no EV6 variants available for under £40,000. Instead, the line-up is exclusively offered here with the brand's larger 77.4kWh battery pack. There are two drivetrain options though, a rear wheel drive model with 226bhp, priced from around £41,000; or an AWD variant with 321bhp, priced from around £47,500. As for trim options, well there's an entry-level 'Air'-spec model for rear wheel drive customers but otherwise in the mainstream line-up, with both powertrains, there's the choice of either 'GT-Line' or 'GT-Line S' levels of trim. Separately positioned at the top of the range is the top high performance EV6 GT model which has AWD and the 77.6kWh battery but uses more powerful motors, putting out a total 577bhp output; for one of those, you're looking at close to £60,000.
As you'd expect from a Kia, all models come with quite a lot of kit - dual 12.3-inch curved screens, full-navigation with Kia Connect media services, full-LED headlights and lots of camera safety technology. 'GT-Line'-spec gets you a sportier body kit, plus suede upholstery, LED ambient lighting and power operation for the driver's seat.
If you can stretch to the top high performance EV6 GT AWD model, you will of course get more equipment still. There are intelligent LED headlights, which turn with the bends. Plus through the spokes of the larger 21-inch wheels (shod with stickier Michelin performance tyres), you'll glimpse neon green brake calipers. Sporty trim features around the fascia, you get a unique sports steering wheel and a premium audio system upgrade.
Cost of Ownership
You'll want to know about range capability and the answer is that this car's long-range 77.4kWh battery can take you up to 316 miles between charges. This car's E-GMP platform allows for 800-volt capability and the EV6 accepts DC rapid charging at up to 220kWh. If you're able to charge in this fashion, your EV6 will be able to accept a 10-80% charge in just 18 minutes and 62 miles of extra range can be added in only four and a half minutes. The EV6 is also able to distribute charge to other vehicles at up to 3.6kW using it's Type 2 socket, as part of an incorporated 'vehicle-to-load V2L' function. We're not quite sure why you'd ever want to do that, but it might conceivably be useful to charge large appliances using the car's battery 'on an outdoor adventure' according to Kia.
The EV6 is fitted with energy-recuperation technologies to maximise driving range. This includes Kia's latest-generation energy-efficient heat pump, which scavenges waste heat from the car's coolant system. This ensures that at minus 7 degrees Celsius, the car can achieve 80% of the range that would be possible at 25 degrees Celsius. Also featured is the latest generation of Kia's smart regenerative braking system, which is operated by paddle shifters behind the steering wheel so drivers can quickly and easily slow the car and recuperate kinetic energy to maximise driving range and efficiency.
In summary, this EV6 takes the technology that impressed us with cars like the e-Niro and evolves it to a level appropriate for a customer looking for a faster, more premium kind of mid-sized EV.
In many ways, the EV6 is the Korean brand's most accomplished car to date. In terms of quality, style and technology, it can equal anything on offer from the German premium brands, yet do so at a more affordable price. Certainly, if you were about to sign for something like a Polestar 2 or a BMW i4, the EV6 is a car you should try first. We think you'll be surprised at what you find.