19.10.2021Kia EV6 first drive
With Kia pitching the EV6 as one of the most important models in the company’s history, there is a fair amount riding on the carefully sculpted shoulders of the electric crossover. A long range, quick charging times, and sleek styling look to tempt in buyers, with Kia’s already substantial electric line-up strengthened further by the new EV6. We test the new model on its European launch in Spain.
Review by Chris Lilly
KIA EV6: PERFORMANCE
There are two different versions of the Kia EV6 due to arrive in the UK, both featuring the larger 77.4 kWh battery. There’s a rear-wheel drive model with 168 kW (229 hp) or an all-wheel drive version with 239 kW (325 hp) - and we tested both. The raw figures see the more powerful model achieve a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds, whilst the RWD model completes the same sprint in 7.3 seconds.
On the road, there doesn’t seem too much between the different power options; certainly closer than the near-two second gap would indicate. It is only on full-bore sprints where you would really notice the added power; though of course this was all tested out on dry Spanish roads - soggy British ones may show the AWD system’s strengths more. Pace is good, and more than enough for most drivers, with neither providing a true ‘performance’ option; think being pinned back into your seat acceleration. Instead, a GT model will arrive late in 2022 with 430 kW (580 hp) and a 3.5 second 0-62mph time.
Although the EV6 shares a platform with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia is at pains to point out that the two are very different cars. To be fair too, they are. The EV6 is pitched as a sportier alternative to the Hyundai, but I would say sporty is the wrong word for it. Grand Tourer is a far better fit, with the ride and handling not sufficiently set-up to seriously attach twisty roads. The EV6 feels fairly heavy too, so agile sports car this is not.
That said, the EV6 does a decent job at dealing with the winding mountain roads experienced on the event, and the car remains fairly level through the bends. It’s a good drive, though there isn’t enough feedback through the wheel or the suspension to feel properly dialled in to the driving experience. More familiar examples of driving environments see the Kia perform better, with the suspension well suited to soaking up ruts and bumps in the surface. The steering is light enough to be useful in town too, but adds weight at speed so that motorway driving feels like a real strength for the KIa.
What Kia and Hyundai have done with this new EV-specific platform is distinguish the models brilliantly. Unlike the VW ID.4/Skoda Enyaq/Audi Q4 e-tron for example, the shape, design, aesthetics, and themes are distinct. Only the broad dimensions would give onlookers any clue as to the shared chassis and powertrain beneath.
Kia’s design might not be as immediately as striking as the Ioniq 5’s which draws heavily on a concept car. Well, that may be true from the front end, which looks sleek but not as distinctive as the Hyundai. The rear however has more than a few hints of Aston Martin DBX, with haunches on the shoulder-line, winglets off the roof spoiler, and a sharp crease across the rear, housing a light bar and creating a fastback-style end. Interior space is excellent, with a good-sized boot rather than huge, though there is also load space under the bonnet. The EV6 would be comfortable acting as a family workhorse.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Inside, the Kia EV6 loses a little to the Ioniq 5’s cabin, in my opinion at least. It’s difficult to stop comparing the two EVs, but then, when they use the same driver instrument display and share infotainment features, it’s clear why that may be. There’s a useful, large head-up display, an excellent ‘dynamic bar’ to use beneath the touchscreen system which switched functions depending on what you’re wanting to control - one dial will change the volume or the temperature for example, whether you’re in the media or air conditioning section respectively.
Down sides include a set of seat and steering wheel controls on the top edge of the centre console, which are fine except it’s easy to rest your wrist on when using the dynamic bar and accidentally turn something on - the steering wheel suddenly turned more toasty that I would like in 20+ degree Spanish weather when my co-driver was exploring the infotainment systems. The quality of materials used doesn’t feel quite as nice as the Ioniq 5’s either, and the dark interior of the test car certainly contrasted with the bright, airy cabin of the Hyundai that I’ve previously driven. There’s nothing wrong with that though, and I’ve only early impressions of both vehicles.
KIA EV6: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
The headline range available for the Kia EV6 line-up is 328 miles on a charge, from the entry-level RWD version. There’s no smaller-capacity battery due to come to the UK - Kia reckons the interest in the smaller capacity e-Niro, or rather lack of it, makes little sense currently in offering a cheaper, shorter range version currently. Most pre-orders are of the more expensive models too, so this is seen my Kia as a conquest model from premium brands, rather than a value, EV proposition.
Other trims bring about 314 miles on a charge for the AWD model, or the top-of the range versions have 313 miles or 302 miles attributed to the RWD and AWD versions respectively. As such, all models get a range over 300 miles on a charge, until the GT version arrives at least.
On the test event, an hour-long route in the AWD model took us into the mountains, via some fast motorway roads, with few chances for town work or urban driving. As such, a range (calculated from the distance/percentage used) of 196 miles was far from surprising. It’s significantly down on the official figures, but was driven in unusual circumstances.
A second stint in a RWD car, starting out near sea-level, climbing to the top of a mountain, and returning again, showcased both the efficiency of the brake regen system, and also gave a closer figure to the official range. A simple-to-work-out 50km trip was completed using 10% of the battery, giving a range of 310 miles on a charge for this version. It’s closer to what I would expect from the system, with 300 miles or so a realistic aim once on UK roads I suspect.
As mentioned above, the brake energy recuperation system is very good - in fact I reckon the Hyundai/Kia system is one of the best on the market. It allows for coasting, one-pedal driving, manual settings with around a couple of levels between light re-gen and strong, and an auto setting to let the driver leave the car largely to its own devices. It’s flexible, excellent for an experienced EV driver to extract the maximum range from their car, or able to welcome an EV newcomer and let them eke more miles out of a charge without difficulty.
Charging the 77.4 kWh (net) battery can be carried out at up to 250 kW DC on ultra-rapid CCS charge points, and Kia’s PR team have extensively tested the car on Ionity points during a trip down to Germany and back. The quoted 18 minute 10%-80% top-up time is realistic and reliable according to the team. AC charging is possible at 11 kW, and Kia also offers vehicle-to-load (V2L) charging, allowing the owner to draw enough power to charge an electric bicycle, run a fridge, or even charge another EV… generally an ideal emergency power supply.
The UK will see three trim levels across two powertrain configurations. EV6 Air is the entry-level to the range, available with RWD only. GT-Line is the mid-level trim, available on both RWD and AWD, whilst GT-Line S is the top specification, also available in RWD and AWD.
Available kit includes heated front and rear seats, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, a Meridian audio system, dual 12.3-inch displays for instruments and infotainment, smartphone connectivity, sunroof, heat pump, driver assistance systems, powered tailgate, vegan leather seats, augmented-reality head-up display, remote parking assist, and V2L charging.
KIA EV6: MODEL SUMMARY
Kia’s electric options are hardly below scratch before the EV6 arrives on the scene. The e-Niro and Soul EV are excellent EVs, but the EV6 is the next generation - and feels like it. A very useful driving range, good performance and road manners, practical interior, stylish design, and quick charging times all ensure the Kia is right towards the top of its class. Up against some excellent options from VW and Ford, as well as group stablemate Hyundai, the EV6 more than holds its own.
Model tested: Kia EV6 AWD
Body-style: Mid-sized SUV
Engine / CO2: 168 kW or 239 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Air, GT-Line, GT-Line S
On-road price: from £40,945.
Warranty: Seven years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 5 Stars