Kia’s all-electric EV6 is scheduled to arrive in the U.S. in early 2022. Kia is far from the first mainstream brand to the EV party, of course, but after our drive of the rear-drive, single-motor GT-Line model, we can confirm the stylish crossover SUV will be worth the wait. Kia’s first ever bespoke EV, the first of 11 all-new electric vehicles to be launched by the Korean brand by 2026, is going to have the engineers at Ford and Volkswagen who created the Mustang Mach-E and the ID4 glancing nervously over their shoulders.
All About the EV6
The Kia EV6 is built on Hyundai Motor Group’s Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) and thus shares much of its hardware with Hyundai’s handsome Ioniq 5. That means the same battery pack—58.0 kWh in entry-level models and 77.4 kWh in upper versions—and the choice of either single-motor/rear-drive or dual-motor/all-wheel-drive powertrain configurations. Everything you can see or touch is uniquely Kia, though.
Like the Ioniq 5, the Kia EV6 is a surprisingly big car. At 184.4 inches long and 74.4 inches wide, with a 114.2-inch wheelbase (the same as that of the three-row Telluride SUV), it’s 4.3 inches longer, 1.1 inches wider, and 5.3 inches longer in wheelbase than the Volkswagen ID4. The Mustang Mach-E has a 3.3-inch-longer wheelbase, but the EV6 is just 0.8 inch shorter overall and is 0.3 inch wider.
The EV6’s defining dimension, however, is its height. At 61.0 inches, it’s a full 3.0 inches lower overall than the Mach-E, and 3.4 inches lower than the ID4. This, combined with a long roof and a beltline that rises dramatically aft of the B-pillar, gives the EV6 a sportier stance than either the Ford or the Volkswagen. Sportier, too, than the 63.2-inch-tall Ioniq 5, which looks almost like a larger, more chiseled Volkswagen Golf hatchback, its overall size cleverly disguised by its 118.1-inch wheelbase.
The distinction is deliberate. The Ioniq 5 has been designed to be the more comfort-oriented of these two E-GMP cars. Think of the EV6 as an electric avatar of the Stinger, the sporty rear-drive Kia hatch that has no counterpart in Hyundai’s lineup.
The starter EV6 gets the 58.0-kWh battery pack and a rear-mounted 226-hp, 258-lb-ft e-motor driving the rear wheels. The higher-spec models with the 77.4-kWh battery pack can add a front electric motor and offer a total system output of 321 horsepower and 446 lb-ft. The lower-output single motor and the big pack can also be ordered together.
The rear-drive, big-battery EV6 GT-Line will likely be the lineup’s volume seller, going head to head with the rear-drive, single-motor versions of the Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen ID4. With less power and torque, the EV6 GT-Line won’t match the 6.0-second 0-60-mph time of the 266-hp, 317-lb-ft single-motor Mach-E, but it should be swifter than the single-motor ID4, which has 201 horses and 229 lb-ft and weighs 283 pounds more. The ID4 stopped the clock at 7.4 seconds for the sprint in our testing earlier this year.
Claimed top speed for the EV6 GT-Line is 114 mph, besting the 111 mph claimed for the Mach-E and the ID4’s 99 mph.
The Drive Is Electric
Straight-line performance isn’t everything, of course. Where the EV6 truly impresses is in the twisties—which is perhaps no surprise given former BMW M boss Albert Biermann now oversees the development of every Hyundai and Kia. At 2.7 turns lock to lock, the Kia’s steering is sharper than either the Volkswagen’s (3.0 turns) or the Mustang’s (3.7 turns). Steering effort is well judged, too, being not too heavy and not too light. More important, the relationship between steering inputs and front-end response is resolutely linear, and there’s good feedback as to what’s happening where the rubber meets the road.
Speaking of where the rubber meets the road, the standard wheels are 19-inch pieces shod with 235/55 Korean-made Kumho Ecsta tires. Twenty-inchers are available as an option.
At 4,376 pounds, the EV6 GT-Line is no featherweight—no EV is—but it changes direction crisply and consistently, its body motions are tautly controlled, and you can use the instant-on torque to transfer weight to the rear axle and punch the car out of the corners. This Kia has one of the most engaging pure EV chassis in the business. It makes the Volkswagen ID4 feel dull in comparison.
The ride is firm—you can tell it’s been tuned by Germans—but it’s not harsh. Front and rear spring rates are stiffer than those on the Ioniq 5 and are combined with thicker front and rear anti-roll bars, plus what Kia calls “frequency selective” shocks. These have an additional piston to adjust the amount of pressure on the rebound disc stack, allowing the rebound damping force to adapt dynamically to different input frequencies from changing road surfaces.
Kia says the shocks enable the EV6 to offer a slightly firmer, more planted ride when faced with lower-frequency inputs, such as on a fast, winding road, and a more comfortable ride at highway speeds or over poor surfaces.
The EV6 GT-Line comes standard with a comprehensive suite of driver aids, including lane keep assist, blind spot warning, forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and intelligent LED headlights. What Kia calls Safe Exit Assist provides occupants exiting a parked EV6 a warning if it detects a vehicle approaching from behind. With features like these, and standard adaptive cruise control, the EV6 almost drives itself. But enthusiast drivers can fine-tune the EV6’s responses to suit their personal taste and circumstances.
Three drive modes (Eco, Normal, and Sport) can be actuated via a large button under the left spoke of the steering wheel. In simple terms, the modes change the weighting of the accelerator pedal, effectively encouraging the driver to make smoother and gentler inputs. Six regenerative braking levels are offered, ranging from zero, which allows the EV6 to coast freely, to a mode that delivers one-pedal driving, the car slowing to a gentle halt starting when you lift off, as well as an auto mode. Drivers can switch between these via paddles on the steering wheel.
After a bit of experimentation, we found we preferred to set the drive mode to Sport, which allowed us to make the most of the powertrain’s instant-on response, and regen to zero, which enabled the EV6 to flow effortlessly down the road, occasionally flicking the left paddle once or twice to initiate just a hint of regenerative braking into open corners (the right paddle reduces the regen amount) and using the brake pedal to slow the car properly when needed. The brake system—discs front and rear, compared with the front disc/rear drum setup on the ID4—smoothly blends regenerative and mechanical braking.
Of course, using Sport mode reduces the range, but not by that much if you drive smoothly.
At the start of our drive, with the 77.4-kWh battery topped up to 100 percent charge, the EV6’s electronic brain predicted a range of 304 miles in Eco mode, 296 miles in Normal mode, and 286 miles in Sport mode. After a 136-mile run through the south of England that included freeway cruising at 75 to 85 mph, some fast fun on empty two-lanes, and low-speed running through villages and urban traffic, the readout showed a predicted range of 131 miles in Eco mode, 127 miles in Normal mode, and 124 miles in Sport mode.
Kia claims a 328-mile range for the EV6 GT-Line on the Euro WLTP test cycle. By way of comparison, under the WLTP procedure the standard-range, single-motor Mustang Mach-E is rated at 273 miles, and the single-motor Volkswagen ID4 at 317 miles. Under the tougher EPA test, they are rated at 230 miles and 260 miles, respectively, which suggests the EV6 GT-Line’s EPA-rated range should be between 270 and 280 miles.
The EV6 also offers 800-volt ultra-fast charging capability that, on one of Electrify America’s 350-kW fast chargers, enables the battery’s level of charge to be boosted from 10 to 80 percent in just 18 minutes.
In Europe the EV6 GT-Line is priced right around both its Ford and Volkswagen EV rivals, and there’s no reason Kia wouldn’t follow the same strategy in the U.S. If that holds true, the EV6 is a compelling alternative, and not just because it’s engaging to drive and will take you a little further between charges: The design, fit and finish, and material choices throughout are impressive, giving the car a much more upscale presence than either the Mach-E or the ID4.
Inside the EV6
The interior is dominated by a single screen that curves gently from behind the steering wheel across the dash to the center of the car. The display in front of the driver comprises a digital instrument panel; the center display is a multifunction touchscreen.
Thankfully, not everything’s controlled by a screen; the EV6 still has light, wiper, and turn-signal stalks behind the steering wheel, which has mechanical rocker switches for functions such as adjusting cruise control speed on its spokes that you can find by touch rather than by taking your eyes off the road. The HVAC system is controlled via simple rotary dials, and forward and reverse gears are selected using a large rotary controller on the cantilevered center console.
The interior is very roomy. Rear-seat passenger accommodation is excellent, though you must duck under that low roofline to get in and out. The front seats are supportive and well bolstered. The seats are upholstered in vegan leather and suede, and the dash is covered in materials made from recycled plastic bottles.
Forget the Stinger—the EV6 is Kia’s new halo car. And the rear-drive, single-motor EV6 GT-Line is just the tip of the iceberg.
In addition to offering the 321-hp dual-motor option to deliver all-wheel drive—and, as Kia cheekily notes on its website, a 5.2-second 0-60-mph time that rivals a V-6 Porsche Cayenne—the EV6 will be able to be ordered with advanced technologies such as an augmented reality head-up display and Kia’s innovative Highway Driving Assist 2 (HDA 2) system.
HDA 2 utilises the various radars fitted to the EV6 to help maintain a set distance and speed from the vehicle ahead when driving on the highway and to also help center the vehicle within its lane, even in a curve. HDA 2 will also adjust the EV6’s path away from adjacent vehicles to reduce the risk of collision, and above a certain speed will automatically change lanes with a tap on the turn signal stalk.
And that’s not all. Later in 2022 we’ll see the fastest, most powerful Kia in history in the form of the 576-hp, 546-lb-ft dual-motor EV6 GT, said to be good for hitting 60 mph in 3.5 seconds en route to a top speed of 162 mph. That’s more power and more performance than a Porsche Taycan 4S, and it’ll come with a chassis tuned by Biermann’s team that includes electronic limited-slip differential software for ultimate agility and traction.
Maybe Ford and Volkswagen aren’t the only ones who should be worried by Kia’s new EV.
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