The new EV flagship from Kia could be sleek, spacious, and fast enough to make it the top pick in the electric crossover market
What’s it all about?
Kia is known for its sense of humor. This is the case with the Stinger, a 3.3-litre V6 engine-powered drift car that was launched in 2017. It looked absurd in the dealerships, especially in bright orange and red, but it’s still available four years later to the delight of car enthusiasts and keen drivers.
Korean company continues to sell Soul, a boxy, electric crossover that commands a premium over its closely related eNiro. However, it offers little in the way of material advantage and is outsold at a rate about 10 to 1. However, company bosses insist that the Soul is an integral part of their product line-up and will not be changing. It’s a delight to drive, to see and to enjoy. Some customers even love it. It fits if it fits, so they say. You will find this refreshingly positive approach to product strategy in today’s cautious retail environment. You won’t find a better marketing strategy than selling cars that make people smile, and drivers.
We are back again. What a bunch of jokers. You won’t believe what I am saying. This electric Kia SUV can easily outperform a Volkswagen Golf GTI standing start. It can also crack more miles between charges that a Mercedes EQC. And it can be purchased for less than the price of a Ford Focus top-link. Although it’s all relative and there are different powertrains, the overall score is good for a first company-made electric car.
It shares its E-GMP foundations with the Hyundai Infinitiq 5, which was released just months before it and is rapidly becoming a popular vehicle on the roads. It is equipped with 800V hardware to charge external devices at up 3.6kW and efficiency-boosting innovations.
A twin-motor, four-wheel-drive model is the highlight of the range. It can be ordered in the mid-rung GT-Line S or fully-specced GT-Line S trims. The latter is already attracting the majority of orders. The headline-grabbing, full-fat GT will arrive later. It will be sporting bright green brake discs and packing a remarkable 577bhp/ 546lbft of power. Performance figures that will shock any potential Porsche Taycan owner will also be featured. We said that Kia has a sense for humor.
We’ve tested the GT-Line S AWD. It boasts a total 321bhp, and a WLTP-certified range 300 miles thanks to its 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery. It is priced at PS51,945, and comes with a lot more than standard. These include 20in wheels, a panoramic sunroof as well as flush-automatic door handles, an augmented reality head up display, and Meridian sound system.
What’s it Like?
In truth, it’s not an SUV. It is referred to by Kia as a “sports crossover”, but this makes it sound more like Pontiac’s American model in the 1990’s. So it’s best to think about it in terms of the Polestar 2, which is a larger, more prominent version of the fastback. It measures 4695mm in length by 1890mm in width – similar to a BMW 3 Series. At 1550mm, it is just 100mm taller. It is not really an SUV. It is not an SUV, but you do get to sit higher up than the rest. This, along with the low, steep front bonnet, makes it feel more like an SUV.
It also offers ‘SUV-esque levels of utility. There’s a 490-litre trunk, plenty of oddment storage, and ample space for all three rear passengers. Taxi drivers and family buyers will love the flat floor provided by an EV platform like Hyundai’s EGMP. The interior is spacious and comfortable, even though Kia chose to use a floating center console instead of the Ioniq 5’s step-through arrangement between the front seats. It’s also finished in glossy piano black plastic which erodes the EV6’s premium appeal and doesn’t hold up to the test of time. This may be nit-picking but it is an EV that has some well-known premium brands to contend with so it all adds up.
Kia, always the class clown, made fun of many tech-addicted car makers in 2019 by displaying a 21-screen infotainment setup in the bold Imagine concept. This set-up was a mockery of the EV6. Although the real-life system is more user-friendly than expected and has a better wraparound, it still feels futuristic in its capabilities and functionality. It feels like a missed opportunity to integrate wireless smartphone mirroring at this price point. However, the kit includes a wireless charger and a comprehensive head-up display, customisable gauge cluster, and a wireless charger. It is pleasing to see Kia keep a separate control panel for climate control – even though the touch buttons do not give haptic feedback. The most frequently used driver aids can be controlled via the multifunction steering wheels. It is a very easy car to get used to.
While the whirring motors do make the cabin hum, once the car is up to a cruise, it becomes more noticeable. However, our test car had the largest wheels available and it was a very windy day so this was not cause for concern. It is dynamic and fast, with no hiccups.
The EV6 is not too heavy for less open roads. However, at 2090kg it’s lighter that a Polestar 2. The EV6’s seat base and steering wheel feel jolted over larger potholes. Also, the EV6’s lower profile tyres don’t help with juddering on less well-maintained surfaces. Continue reading below the advertisement
It’s on roads like these that the EV6 really shines. Even though it has 250bhp less than the eventual hot version of the EV6, the point-to–point speed of this twin-motor car, even if you have spent a lot time in electric cars, is quite impressive, especially in the addictive and inefficient Sport mode. The car is unflappable on the line, even on grassier surfaces. It accelerates quickly and in a completely linear fashion right up to the limit of sensibility (or law), without any of the rocking and rearing that often plagues high-powered cars this size and shape.
Its precise and predictable handling of twisty sections is also unexpected. It’s not very responsive in the steering wheel, but it’s more than adequate. The EV6’s slightly stiff suspension setup doesn’t make it tip over in corners. This is a good side effect that enhances the dynamic aspect of the vehicle’s dynamic behaviour.
The EV6 can be treated as a regular hot hatch. You could use Eco mode to take the kids on motorway trips, Normal mode to run around the city and Sport mode to relax on Sunday mornings. It’s just that kind of car. And that’s not a small feat for an electric vehicle.
The new electric crossover?
It all depends on what other factors you are considering. This is because it can be difficult to pin down segment straddlers like this. Although it is less expensive than the Jaguar I-Pace, it is just as fun to drive. It also has more sporting appeal that the Ioniq 5, but it is equally equipped. The Volkswagen ID 4 GTX costs slightly more, but it offers more kerb appeal.
The ultimate decision will be made by a back-to-back test against its closest competitors. However, it is clear that this electric car brings more than just speed, efficiency, utility, and character to the table. The E-GMP architectures of Hyundai and Kia are still in use, so we are excited for the EV6.