Kia used to be deadly serious about besting Volkswagen – now it has Tesla in its sights…
By John Howell / Thursday, October 21, 2021 / Loading comments
The Kia EV6. Could this be the battery-powered car that knocks the Tesla Model 3 off its perch? Let’s see. The Model 3 is a great EV backed up by a magnificent charging network, so it deserves to sell like hotcakes – and does. Although right now that has something to do with Tesla’s poker skills – the firm still has a pile of chips left while all the other manufacturers have lost theirs. Yet, as good an EV as the Model 3 is, it feels beatable. In the wider world of cars, it isn’t a patch on, say, the BMW 3 Series for refinement, ride comfort, handling, driving position, quality etc.
And Kia’s building a foothold in the BEV market too. Okay, the e-Niro isn’t on the Model 3’s level, but it’s pretty good if your targets are practicality and usability for a sensible price. If the EV6 can add some va-va-voom to that formula then, boom! The e-niro wasn’t even a bespoke platform, either. But the EV6 is. It’s the all-new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) shared with Hyundai and the similarly proportioned Ioniq 5. E-GMP was developed at Kia’s Korean Namyang research and development centre alongside its European team in Germany – with one Albert Biermann overseeing the dynamic development. And get used to this: the EV6 is one of 11 new Kia BEVs planned between now and 2026.
Unlike most of its rivals, there’s no battery choice. The EV6 comes with a 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery (that’s its useable capacity; total is 82.5kWh). That is a smidge bigger than anything you can get in the Model 3 but dwarfed by the big-range Mustang Mach-E’s top-end power pack. There are two powertrains, though: the 229hp single-motor RWD and the 326hp dual-motor AWD – the car we’re focusing on here. Of course, the range-topping 585bhp GT – the Model 3 Performance-rival – is the EV6 we’re all waiting to try, but that’s not launching for another year.
As is best practice, the battery pack sits underneath the floor between the two axles, keeping the centre of gravity low and minimising cabin intrusion. It can charge at up to 350kW, which is impressive; despite its size you can cram it with a 10-80 per cent charge inside 20 minutes. Well, if you’re lucky enough to come across one of the 14 (at the last count) Ionity chargers in the UK capable of supplying such a torrent of energy. A common or garden 50kW charger takes just over an hour for the same boost.
What about the all-important range? Well, if the ambient temperature is at ‘fridge setting’ or colder you’ll need the optional heat pump to get anywhere near the AWD’s WLTP range. This is quoted as 314 miles, or 300 miles if you opt for our GT-Line S on 20-inch wheels. Either way, that’s very useful but not groundbreaking. The Model 3 Long Range officially racks up 360 miles and undercuts the EV6 GT-Line S on price.
First blood to the Model 3, then, and the second is its straight-line pace. The EV6 AWD will do 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, which you don’t need us to tell you is more than fast enough by ICE standards. But in the world of EVs it looks more ponderous; the Model 3 LR knocks around a second off it. Beyond the numbers, the power delivery in Comfort mode is remarkably docile, making it an ideal daily driver. Slip it into Sport mode and it feels much sharper. Too sharp on and off the accelerator at slow speeds, yet unquestionably more energetic, even though the actual power output is the same.
Nevertheless, the EV6 seems more playful under power in Comfort. There’s a logical reason for this: the front motor disconnects until required. So mostly it’s rear-wheel-drive and awash with low-end torque, and, as you can imagine, more than ready to rotate on a slippery road. Only then will the 100hp front motor hook up, and pull you straight; in Sport mode, it is in play constantly, so it’s more stable.
On the subject of stability, the spring and damping rates are judged astutely to reign in the mass of that mighty battery. No matter if the road is strewn with all kinds of crowns and creases, the EV6 takes it all in its stride, flowing along freely where the Mach-E would buck about relentlessly. The ride is firmer than, say, the Ioniq 5, but you barely notice any more edge to it over broken roads. And it doesn’t twerk like its softer sibling, which develops a peculiar rotation at the rear over certain surfaces.
Even the brakes don’t spoil the EV6’s sense of rhythm. Whether you’re bleeding off towards an apex or commuting in stop-start queues, it’s dead easy to meter out the stopping force required. Other than the Model 3, there are few EVs that can equal its degree of deftness. Although the same cannot be said of the steering, which is probably the EV6’s weakest dynamic attribute. It’s hardly a deal-breaker, though, just a bit deadpan and off-on in its weighting between the first few degrees and the next few, so it feels rather artificial. Still, it’s easier to work with at first acquaintance than the Model 3’s hyperactive rack.
Elsewhere there are a few different sound generators to play with. One is called Dynamic and is the most engine like, but the Cyber effect, which you might imagine would be some God-awful rendition of the Enterprise heading to warp speed, is actually okay. It’s still pleasing to have the option to turn them off and listen to the sounds of silence, which are mostly comprised of motor whine and generally acceptable amounts of wind, road and suspension noise.
In other news, there is a bunch of storage spaces, most with rubberised surfaces, and enough USB’s to service the IT Crowd. You even get a 250-volt three-pin plug to charge up a laptop. And it’s easily as roomy as a VW ID.4 or Model 3. You’ll get five tall adults on board and the flat floor means the central rear passenger won’t feel like they’ve picked the short straw. The rear seatbacks recline and the only impediment to comfort is the low height of the seat squab – you’re left in an awkward knee-high seating position, although it’s not as acute as it is in the Model 3.
It’s also pretty easy to use. Yes, there’s the usual array of touch-sensitive buttons on the panel below the infotainment screen but it doesn’t stretch to the ridiculousness of the ID.4’s un-illuminated touch-sensitive temperature sliders and volume control. The EV6 has physical knobs for the temperature settings and some basic stereo controls on the steering wheel. Hurrah for common sense. Tbe EV6’s fit and finish is at a minimum on par with its EV price rivals, too.
Obviously, if you’re drawn in by Tesla’s tech, then the 12.3-inch infotainment screen will leave you underwhelmed. For everyone else, the software is straightforward to use and it has Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto, which is one thing that the Model 3 lacks. Next to that sits another 12.3-inch screen for the driver display. Why its most useful elements – the speedo and battery range – are pushed out to the extremities, where they’re blocked by the steering wheel, is one EV6-mystery that, sadly, remains unsolved.
Ultimately, the EV6 is dynamically more interesting than the Ioniq 5 and far better resolved than the wholly unresolved Mustang Mach-E. On the inside, it’s far easier to live with than the infuriating VW ID.4 and way more practical than the Polestar 2. Is it better than the Model 3, though? No. Because if you’re swayed by old-school performance or new age Netflix (and whoopee cushions), you’ll going to buy the Model 3. And even if you’re more pragmatic, will you really be able to look past 60 miles of extra range and, when that’s gone, the certainty that there’ll be a reliable Supercharger available to replenish it? Unlikely. So the Kia EV6 is a very good – but probably only enough to make it the best of the rest.
SPECIFICATION | KIA EV6 AWD GT-LINE S
Engine: Lithium-ion battery, 77.4kWh capacity, twin AC synchronous electric motors
Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected]
Torque (lb ft): [email protected] 0-2600rpm
0-62mph: 5.2 secs
Top speed: 114mph
Weight: 2,105kg (DIN, without driver)
Range: 300 miles (WLTP)
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