8
Kia’s new EV flagship could be swish, spacious and swift enough to become the pick of the electric crossover bunch
Autocar-Felix-Page
19 October 2021

What is it?

Kia has a sense of humour. Case in point: in 2017, unfazed by the German marques’ long-standing dominance of the sports saloon segment, it launched the Stinger – a 3.3-litre V6-powered drift machine that looked laughably out of place in its dealerships (especially in bright orange or yellow) but that remains available against the odds, four years later, much to the delight of car fans and keen drivers. 

The Korean firm also continues to sell the Soul, a boxy electric crossover that commands a premium over the closely related e-Niro, offers little in terms of material advantage and is outsold by its more cautiously styled sibling at a rate of about 10 to one. But company bosses remain adamant that it’s an essential part of the line-up and won’t be going anywhere any time soon. It’s fun to look at and fun to drive and some customers love it. If it fits, so the saying goes, it sits. A refreshingly good-humoured approach to product strategy in today’s generally cautious retail environment, you will agree. After all, what better marketing strategy than simply selling cars that make drivers and their neighbours smile?

And here we go again; what jokers they are. Go on, try not to laugh when I tell you that this is an electric Kia SUV that can comfortably outstrip a Volkswagen Golf GTI from a standing start, cracks more miles between charges than a Mercedes EQC and can be had for the equivalent of a top-link Ford Focus. It’s all relative, of course, and the accolades vary according to trim and powertrain, but to tick so many boxes right off the bat – on paper, at least – is not bad going for a company’s first bespoke electric car. 

Back to top

It shares its new E-GMP underpinnings with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which beat it to market by just a few months and is quickly becoming a common sight on the road. As such, it is equipped with 800V hardware for charging speeds of up to 239kW, a raft of efficiency-boosting innovations and a vehicle-to-load function that can power external devices at up to 3.6kW. 

The range is topped out from launch by a twin-motor, four-wheel-drive model, which can be had in either mid-rung GT-Line or fully-specced GT-Line S trims, the latter of which is already making up the bulk of orders. The headline-bating, full-fat GT will arrive later, wearing bright green brake calipers, packing a scarcely believable 577bhp and 546lb ft and touting performance figures that will make any prospective Porsche Taycan owner think twice. What was that we said about Kia having a sense of humour?

Anyway, we’ve driven the GT-Line S AWD, which boasts a combined 321bhp and a WLTP-certified range of 300 miles from its 77.4kWh battery. Priced at £51,945, it brings a shedload of added niceties over standard, including its purposeful 20in wheels, panoramic sunroof, flush automatic door handles, augmented reality head-up display and Meridian sound system. 

What’s it like?

It’s actually not an SUV, in truth. Kia refers to it as a ‘sports crossover’, but that makes it sound like something Pontiac would have sold in the US in the early 1990s, so it’s better to think of it more in terms of the Polestar 2 – as a chunky and higher-profile take on the traditional fastback. For reference, it measures 4695mm long by 1890mm wide – not far off a BMW 3 Series, and it stands just 100mm taller, at 1550mm. So not an SUV, really. But you do sit high up, which together with the short, steep front bonnet means it feels very much like an SUV to drive in town and on the motorway.

Back to top

So, too, does it offer ‘SUV-esque’ levels of utility: there’s a 490-litre boot, ample oddment storage provision and plenty of space for all three rear passengers to stretch out. The flat floor afforded by a bespoke EV platform such as Hyundai’s E-GMP architecture will be warmly welcomed by taxi drivers and family buyer. It’s nice and roomy up front, too, despite Kia opting for a floating centre console that takes up almost as much space as a conventional transmission tunnel, rather than the step-through arrangement the Ioniq 5 has between the two front seats. Not only that, but it’s finished in glossy piano black plastic, which dents the EV6’s premium appeal and won’t stand the test of time. Nit-picking, maybe, but this is an EV with some well-established premium marques to contend with, so it all adds up. 

Kia, ever the class clown, mocked many of its tech-addicted car-making rivals in 2019 with a 21-screen infotainment set-up in the bold Imagine concept, which previewed the EV6. The real-life system is, as expected, a much more user-friendly and well-resolved wraparound proposition, but it still feels suitably futuristic in its functionality and capability. Not integrating wireless smartphone mirroring feels a bit of a missed opportunity at this price point, but with a wireless charger, comprehensive head-up display and customisable gauge cluster on hand, it’s not wanting for kit. It’s pleasing to see Kia stick with a separate control panel for the climate control, too – even if the touch buttons don’t give helpful haptic feedback when pressed – while the most commonly used driver aids are controlled via the multifunction steering wheel. It’s a pretty easy car to get comfortable with. 

The whirring of the motors does permeate the cabin as they take the EV6 up to a cruise, and once there, the wind noise and tyre roar clash slightly with the car’s sleek and silent billing, but our test car had the biggest wheels on offer and it was a particularly blustery day, so hardly grounds for dismissal. It’s faultlessly composed at speed, dynamically, and makes utter mincemeat of slow-moving mergers, lorries and the like. 

On less open roads, the EV6’s not inconsiderable bulk (although at 2090kg, it’s lighter than a Polestar 2) makes itself known. There’s a tangible jolt through the seat base and steering wheel over larger potholes and the lower-profile tyres offered on top-spec cars don’t help in ironing out juddering over less well-maintain surfaces. 

Back to top

But it’s also on roads like this where the EV6 really comes into its own. Despite its 250bhp deficit compared with the eventual hot version, the point-to-point pace of this twin-motor car is impressive even if you’ve spent a lot of time in electric cars – especially in addictive but inefficient Sport mode. It’s unflappable off the line, including on greasier surfaces, accelerating rapidly and in a completely linear manner right up the limit of sensibility (or the law, whichever comes first), with none of the rocking or rearing that so commonly afflicts high-powered cars of this shape and size. 

Unexpected, too, is its wholly predictable and accurate composure in twistier sections. There’s not a lot of life in the steering, it must be said – almost Audi-like in its lightness and disengagement – but it is more than suitably responsive, and despite its relatively high-sided form, the EV6 doesn’t tip and roll through corners, a positive by-product of the slightly stiff suspension set-up that blights the refinement aspect of its dynamic behaviour. 

You’d have absolutely no trouble treating the EV6 as you might a more conventional hot hatch: Eco mode for motorway treks with the kids, Normal mode for running around town and Sport mode for letting your hair down on a Sunday morning. Seriously, it’s that sort of car, and that’s no mean feat for an EV, much less one that’s as accessible as this. 

Is it the new electric crossover to have?

It rather depends what else you’re considering, such is the difficulty in pinning down segment straddlers such as this. It’s cheaper than the Jaguar I-Pace but just as enjoyable to drive, it’s got more sporting appeal than the Ioniq 5 but is equally well equipped, and it has bags more kerb appeal than a Volkswagen ID 4 GTX but costs only slightly more. 

A back-to-back test with its closest rivals will be the ultimate decider, obviously, but perhaps it suffices to say that this is an electric car that brings not just pace, efficiency and utility to the table, but also character and desirability. There are a good many more cars to come from Hyundai's and Kia’s E-GMP architecture, and the EV6 has continued the good work of the Ioniq 5 in ensuring we’re very excited about those yet to be unwrapped.

Back to top