We loved the Kia Imagine concept, which debuted at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show. It was well proportioned, with taillights evoking a Kia Stinger and the wide versatility of the brand’s “tiger nose” grille. But it does seem to fall somewhat short of the limitless potential offered by Hyundai’s flexible electric E-GMP platform. When Kia decided to quickly bring it into production, chief design officer Luc Donckerwolke ordered a comprehensive redesign. He put a group of designers away in Bavaria and left them with a Lancia Stratos model for inspiration.
His approach seems to have worked: With its slender, low front end, tall greenhouse, sculpted fenders, and a very aggressive rear end with surprising lighting effects, the Kia EV6 looks unlike anything else on the road. This includes its closest siblings, the vintage Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the soft-spoked Genesis GV60. The Kia EV6 commemorates the Stratus – not just its tail, but the helmet-like greenhouse.
This spring, the Kia EV6 arrives in the US market in three trim levels: the EX RWD comes with a 58.0 kWh battery and 167 horsepower from a rear-wheel drive; The EX + RWD and GT-Line RWD are equipped with a 77.4 kWh battery and get 225 hp from the same engine; The EX + AWD and GT-Line AWD keep the 77.4 kWh battery and add a front engine with a total of 320 horsepower. (The 576-hp GT is due to arrive later.) The 320-horsepower GT-Line’s all-wheel drive is the model we just drove in Europe, and we’re told it’ll be nearly identical to the US-market version.
When you get close to the EV6, the door handles retract automatically. You enter it like a low-ride car; Kia calls the EV6 a crossover, but it’s less convincing than Audi, Ford and Volkswagen. Although the wheelbase is shortened by four inches compared to the Hyundai Ioniq 5, it’s still tall compared to its overall length. This means plenty of interior space front and back. There’s also a storage trunk, but underhood you find a medium-sized plastic trunk instead of a fully covered luggage space.
We love the comfortable seating, covered in black microfiber with light gray stripes. There is a smart USB port on the seat backs for rear passengers, who enjoy plenty of space themselves. The floating center console houses the on/off button, a circular gear selector, and a wireless phone charger. Two screens, the center is one-touch sensitive, extended in front of the driver. The steering wheel is a futuristic two-spoke design. This interior does not attempt to emulate traditional cars, and instead emphasizes that the EV6 is something different.
It’s worth taking the time to switch between the different styles of digital devices, to set the Space Age synthetic sound on or off, and to familiarize yourself with the driving modes and recovery settings. The Meridian sound system sounds great. However, we were not impressed with the look and performance of the navigation system, nor the structure of the infotainment system menu.
Like every electric car, the Kia EV6 suffers from a lot of heft. The stated rim weight of the all-wheel drive version is approximately 4,500 pounds. But with 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of instant torque, that’s no big deal. A sprint to 60 mph should take about 4.5 seconds, and we can attest to a controlled top speed of 115 mph, which is reached remarkably quickly. An electric model, there’s instant response to pedal input, and in the EV6, there’s also just enough oomph to keep the rush of power going. Brake recovery can be adjusted via the steering wheel pedals.
The EV6 AWD is EPA-rated for 274 miles, which we found ambitious, at least in the way we drove. At speeds of around 80mph, you’re lucky to squeeze 200 miles out of it. This range is good for an electric vehicle but it doesn’t change the game.
At least 800 V architecture and 350 kW DC fast charging capacity should allow rapid recharging; Kia pledges to “add approximately 70 miles in less than five minutes” and be able to charge from 10 to 80 percent in less than 18 minutes. However, our real-world experience from Europe indicates that the advertised charging performance can only be achieved in moderate temperatures, not in the cold of winter.
The Kia EV6 has front, multi-link rear suspension, and we were impressed with the execution and tuning. The steering is precise, the steering is rigidly controlled and the stability on the road is great, at least thanks to the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires on 20-inch wheels. The brakes are capable and easy to adjust, and unlike the Ioniq 5, the EV6 doesn’t tend to vibrate and bounce when driving hard over rough surfaces. Surprisingly there is very little body roll, and this car feels much lighter than its actual weight.
Of course, the Kia EV6 comes with a host of assistance systems, which work well enough to provide helpful feedback but don’t mislead you into a false sense of security. Long trips are a pleasure thanks to the quiet cabin, and we noticed no squeaks or rattles.
Even with more and more electric cars on the market, the Kia EV6 is a very attractive proposition. It combines the mass-market build quality with the sporty appeal of the Tesla Model 3, much more attractive than the VW ID.4 and Audi Q4 e-tron. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but we expect it to start in the mid-$40k range, while the GT-Line AWD could get closer to $60k.
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