First Drive: 2021 Kia EV6 Review
The Kia EV6 is, in some ways, a Hyundai Ioniq 5 in drag. But it’s also far more than that. This is the first electric car that Kia has built on a bespoke platform, the new E-GMP platform will underpin a slew of new EV models as part of Kia’s next generation of cars. It’s also the launch of Kia’s new design philosophy and a step up in almost every area for the company from Korea.
The EV6 is a large crossover, despite looking more like a long hatchback/saloon, with seating for four adults in comfort and a massive array of new technology to play with. To be followed by a high-performance “GT” flagship this may be the most important car in Kia’s history.
- Looks sensational
- Incredible interior design
- Realistic and impressive range
We don't like
- More expensive than an Ioniq 5
- Headrest looks good but can rattle
- Headroom can be limited
Where the Ioniq 5 has gone for all hatchback looks, disguising its crossover mass with the body of a conventional slab-backed hatch, the EV6 has eschewed, well, pretty much every pigeonhole.
This is Kia’s new design language, “Opposites united” and the new “digital tiger face” grille that while complete marketing nonsense in naming turns, is a genuine attempt to push Kia’s traditional “tiger nose” into the EV era.
The good thing is that it works. The EV6 immediately manages to successfully hide its bulk – roughly as big as a 3 Series while standing taller – in a body that tricks the eye into thinking its lower and longer.
The new face is angular and angry, the blades at the lower edge almost acting as teeth and adding something of the Ferrari F12tdf into the mix. The lights are now angular and winged like an E60 5 Series while the side is unfussy and elegant, with just a single design crease running down the centre above the black trim line down below.
The rear is the most striking part of the EV6. It sits between saloon, hatchback and fastback, with more than a little of the Aston Martin DBX thrown in. But this is no straight rip-off, the rear light bar, almost a ducktail from the side, continues the design line that runs through a side reflector and down the whole base of the door, helping to elongate the car. This means there’s no traditional light cluster to speak of, instead an offshoot of the light bar angles around the bottom of the boot and contains the indicators. Other than that, nothing festoons the EV6’s rear other than Kia’s new corporate badge.
It’s unfussy and truly striking in the flesh, although the small spoiler atop the rear of the roof, which does help with aerodynamics, does upset the clean looks a tad.
Performance and Handling
The EV6 has two drivetrains at launch. One rear-driven, one all four. The rear-wheel-drive cars get a single 224PS (165kW) motor at the rear. Upgrade to the AWD car and a 74kW motor is added to the front axle giving a total output of 325PS (239kW) and 605Nm (446lb ft) of torque – the rear-driven cars get 350Nm (258lb ft). As standard the EV6 will race to 60mph in 7.3 seconds, with the AWD car completing the sprint in just 5.2.
It’s an impressive set of numbers and no less impressive when you experience it for real. The EV6 weighs in at 2,090kg, an impressive 200kg less than the BMW i4, helping its acceleration. The initial insta-torque from those electric motors flings the EV6 at the horizon as if chased by a pack of rabid dogs, and while it can’t sustain that force with such violence as it charges on it’s no less impressive.
There are three driving modes, Eco, Normal and Sport, selected through an on-wheel button. Stick the EV6 in Eco mode and the front motor in an all-wheel-drive car will remain just dead weight, all the power being provided by the rear to save energy. It’s only when you move to Normal that the front motor will jump into action, and only when you request full beans. Sport relies on every wheel to extract performance, with the fronts scrabbling to find traction.
The EV6 sits on passive dampers, and Kia claim it’s the stiffest car in its class. Which makes its composure even more impressive. Show the EV6 a corner and it will weight up and take it – you can lean on the outer front tyre quite significantly and still expect it to grip. On a cruise it remains composed and unruffled by all but the most unholy of potholes.
Kia has claimed, boldly, that the EV6 will feel like the Stinger GT, and while that just isn’t the case, they’re not entirely lying. Even in AWD mode the drivetrain is naturally rear-biased, so you will, if you try, get some movement via the throttle. Nothing lairy, but enough to add a level of engagement you might not expect from a non-performance crossover.
This is futuristic interior design turned up to the max, and an attempt to fully utilise the sheer amount of space created by a bespoke EV platforms. All infotainment and dials have been moved onto a pair of frankly giant screens. Each is 12.3-inches and holds a gentle curve in an attempt to wrap around the driver. It works very well, and the screens are excellent, but I do wonder what it does to the passenger experience, tilting the screen away from them.
The wheel is a two-spoke unit, holding the only physical buttons in the entire car. That might scream out as a warning sign that ergonomics have been sacrificed for tech, but the reality is more nuanced.
The centre console sits at elbow height and floats, almost literally, between dash and seat. It’s not connected to the dash at the front and there is no connection between it and the floor, exposing a huge amount of extra storage room. On the centre console is a single rotating control for forward and reverse, and at the front, if specced, controls for the heated seats and steering wheel. It gives a feel of being Captain Picard on the Enterprise, tapping away the armrest to give instructions, except you just want to warm up your hands.
The dash itself has no more buttons, but has retained a pair of knobs for twiddly functions, a bit of a godsend. There’s a lower set of touch buttons that can be switched between climate and other controls and they all work well, but as usual with touch buttons, you’ll need to look to locate. While it’s one of the better implementations of such buttonless dashes – the positioning is the real strength – it still has many of the usual drawbacks.
Interior space is excellent, and the seats are good, although the clever headrest design does rattle onto its housing if in the lowest setting, which becomes irritating very fast. Importantly though, material quality is excellent and mostly holds up throughout. There are scratchier plastics if you hunt for them, but the majority are of a high quality. All leather in the EV6 is vegan and the dash is made in a large part from recycled bottles, helping the EV6s sustainability credentials.
Technology and Features
Let’s talk batteries first. Each EV6 has a 77.4kwh battery, so the only changes in range come from power and spec. The base Air and GT-Line RWD cars will achieve 328 miles of range, which lowers to 314 miles on the AWD GT-Line when the front motor is added. A move to GT-Line S will drop the range further in either AWD or RWD as the S’s bigger 20-inch wheels slash a good 15 miles of range. The top GT-Line S will run out after a square 300 miles.
What Kia are keen to emphasise is the city range. Given how much of their lives EVs will spend in cities this is pretty important and the figures are impressive. The two-wheel-drive Air and GT-Line cars will manage 459 city miles before conking out. To put it in perspective if you drive five miles a day it’ll take around 91 days before you need to top the EV6 up. Even the average 20-mile round trip will see the best part of a month pass before you need to recharge. The range is also realistic, with no sign on our test drives of those terrifying sudden mass drops in range that EVs can provide from time-to-time.
The EV6 can charge at 800V, similar to some offerings from Porsche and Audi, meaning that if you find the right charger you can get from 10 to 80 per cent in just 18 minutes. Or, perhaps more crucially, if you are in need of a quick splash of charge to get home, the EV6 can grab 62 miles of extra range in just four-and-a-half minutes. Barely enough time to grab a Ginsters and a cappuccino.
As for in car tech, the list is impressive. Even the base Air model comes with LED headlights, electric and heated door mirrors, automatic headlights, rain sensing front wipers, smart keyless entry, heated front seats and wheel, auto dimming rear-mirror, dual-zone climate control, smart cruise control, 60:40 split folding seats, multiple USB charging points and 12-volt sockets in car and boot, all for £40,945.
We spent our time in the top-line GT-Line S, which will set you back from £51,945, and adds the larger 20-inch wheels, cooled front seats, heated rear seats, powered tailgate, Merdian speakers (the subwoofer for which deletes 10-litres of boot space) wireless phone charging, 360-degree parking camera, blind spot view monitor – basically a small camera to show you your blind spots when you indicate – and a variety of safety systems.
Long gone are the days when television programmes could make long segments laughing at what that funny Korean car maker did. But even recent Kias, establishing themselves as a very solid choice in the family market, have not had ambitions quite like the EV6. This is a Kia that has an interior better than Mercedes’ current EV line-up, looks like pretty much nothing else on the road and boasts real world driving figures that might make you think twice about your EV reservations.
Sure, for the price, – min-£40k, over £50k with ease – there’s the odd downside. Not every plastic is perfect and if you spec the panoramic roof then a taller driver will struggle for headroom even in such a large car. But the EV6 is a better place to be than almost any other non-premium EV. We’d probably look to opt for the rear-driven car, just for the added range, and even the step down from GT-Line to Air doesn’t rob the EV6 of its high spec.
Perhaps the sister Ioniq 5 will be the EV6’s biggest issue. Starting about £3,500 below the base price of the EV6 it’ll be a toss-up probably based around spec as to which one you go for. But even with the Ioniq 5 in existence, the EV6 is a car, alongside the Polestar 2, that should make you view an EV is a real world prospect.
|Powertrain||Single or dual electric motors, 77.4kWh battery|
|Power||329PS (239kW) AWD or 229PS (165kW) RWD|
|Torque||605Nm (446lb ft) AWD or 305Nm (225lb ft) RWD|
|Transmission||Single-speed, all- or rear-wheel-drive|
|0-62mph||5.2 seconds AWD, 7.3 seconds RWD|
|Range, efficiency||300 miles, 3.45 miles/kW (GT-Line S AWD) – 328 miles, 3.76 miles/kW (Air or GT-Line RWD)|
12.5 hours from 10-100 per cent with a 7.4kWh charger, 18 minutes from 10-80 per cent with a 350kWh fast charger
|Price||£40,945 (GT-Line S as tested £51,945)|
Reviewed by Ben Miles