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Kia steps up its game for the electric era with a distinctive and dynamic family EV

Quietly, Kia and Hyundai have become forerunners in the electric car race.

With electric versions of the Kia Niro and Soul and the Hyundai Kona, these stablemates proved they had the talent and know-how, demonstrating that EVs with a decent range could look pretty normal, drive in a familiar fashion and needn’t be prohibitively expensive. As a result, while some other manufacturers struggled to shift their EVs, Kia and Hyundai amassed substantial waiting lists for theirs, even before the current supply chain issues started wreaking havoc.

Kia enters the electric age with a new logo and a bold design language. Thankfully, the latter doesn’t include too many fake grilles. This top one is ornamental, but the one lower on the valance actually does cool the battery.

So far, though, these trailblazing Korean-built EVs haven’t been very exciting. They’ve looked like their conventional counterparts (which was entirely the point), they’ve left keen drivers a little cold and, other than in the broadest sense, they didn’t pioneer any new technology. But the new EV6 represents Kia shifting gears with its EV line-up and leaving behind the compromises of platforms that need to also accommodate an engine. It sits on the group’s new E-GMP skateboard platform, which is shared with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and forthcoming Genesis GV60, and ought to show what Kia can really do with an EV when the shackles are removed.

Hyundai-Kia is by no means the first automotive group to launch a dedicated EV platform. Of the volume car makers, the Volkswagen Group beat them to it, but also demonstrated the pitfalls. The roll-out of its MEB-platform cars has been beset by software issues; and although those cars are reasonably distinct in how they drive, the shape of the design of many of them is rather samey.

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Can Kia avoid those issues and make a car with an identity that’s sufficiently distinct from the related Ioniq 5? Let’s find out.

The Kia EV6 line-up at a glance

Kia tends to keep its model ranges simple. There’s just one battery size and it can be had with a single motor and rear-wheel drive or two motors and all-wheel drive. A 577bhp GT version is coming later.

For now, there are also just three trim levels: Air, GT-Line and GT-Line S. Air is always rear-wheel drive, so you need to step up to GT-Line for an all-wheel-drive version, although you can also have GT-Line trim with rear-wheel drive, like our test car.