KIA EV6 TAKES AIM AT TESLA’S ELECTRIC VEHICLE DOMINANCE

by | Aug 8, 2022 | Cars, Motor, Sustainability

First there was a big thumbs-up from the neighbour who’s no stranger to driving pricey supercars. At intersections, there were head-turning glances from impressed pedestrians. And to top it off, there was a “Wow!” from my 18-year-old son who – after a spin in the Kia EV6 – suddenly recruited Dad to be chauffeur on prom night.

Related: 2020 Volvo XC40: Well worth the leap to full electrification

The EV6 is pretty much everything the South Korean carmaker had promised when it boldly marketed the sleek and sporty crossover electric long before it was released. It’s a moderately priced deluxe EV, starting at $45,000 and qualifying for federal/provincial rebates (where available) for all models –  including the $62,000 GT Line 2 tested – currently available in Canada.

The EV has the look, inside and out, plus the range (373 km to 499 km, depending on the model) and drivability to take a serious run at its most natural rival, the Tesla Model Y. And while it’s not going to be a fit for everyone hungry for an alternative to the faster and roomier Model Y – Canada’s top-selling electric SUV – it’s a worthy challenger.

Kia’s designers knock out it out of the park with the EV6

If you’re under the impression that Kia is a maker of basic, unremarkable cars, you need to drive one. There’s a quality of design here, and a sterling track record for reliability, that makes the sister company of Korean automaker Hyundai a real player.

As much as I was impressed by the Kia Niro EV I drove last year, the EV6 is a distinct step up, especially in the feature-laden GT-Line 2 model I was treated to for a week in June. There’s nothing like all-wheel drive, 20-inch wheels, and a delightful high-tech interior to convince you that Kia is taking its design cues more from German automakers than it is from any North American rivals.

The vehicle’s dashboard is a delight, with a combination of touchscreen operation and analog buttons/dials to feel future-forward without being intimidating. It’s a much easier transition from a gas-powered vehicle than the analog-free, no-buttons approach of the Tesla’s central LED rectangle, although most Tesla owners will tell you they love the do-everything-in-one-place functionality once they get used to it.

A first-class cockpit, and a lot of smart touches

Highlights in the EV6 cabin include the round blind-spot video that pops up when you activate the turning signal for a lane change or turn, either to the left or right of the central speed/range instrumentation. It’s all viewable through your steering wheel, and you still get a blind-spot-detecting amber blink in your side mirrors as an alert. There’s also Apple Airplay, albeit it via USB plug-in instead of Bluetooth, and a big central storage area to plunk extra keys, wallets, and even snacks, near the floor.

The steering column offers an array of handy audio and other controls, including paddle shifters on either side that allow you to quickly shift to the amount of regenerative braking, from zero to three. On a round-trip to Whistler, I got much better range, and almost complete one-pedal driving (no brake necessary) with the regen cranked up. It’s pretty cool to cruise down a hill and watch your range estimate climb.

KIA EV6: The little touches all add up

The little things impress as well. While it takes awhile to get used to the warning beeps that activate when you get near a centre line, or while parking, I liked that when I was trying to squeeze into or out of a tight parking space, the stereo volume turned down automatically until I no longer needed full concentration and it went back to full volume.

Other nice touches: I love the rear seat air vents and USB outlets, one on each side, plus the power source plug at foot level in the back. Everything’s well thought out, including the use of Velcro strips to secure charge cord and tire mobility kits to the carpeted floor of the cargo area. Even though there’s space in the hideaway storage area beneath the main cargo area, I left both rectangular bags up top and used them to secure groceries, including a dozen eggs, in a corner of the cargo area. Brilliant.

And then there’s the tire mobility kit itself. While other companies such as BMW increasingly rely on run-flat tires instead of spare tires to allow you to drive a short distance to a garage or dealership, Kia equips the EV6 and other models with a kit that includes a tire sealant and compressor – powered of course by the vehicle’s battery pack – to temporarily fix and inflate a flat tire.

I would have loved that option when I got stranded east of Hope – too far to travel on a run-flat tire – by a flat in a BMW 300e hybrid last summer.

KIA EV6: Better range for longer drives

The EV6’s sleek styling and low roof, however, lead to a trade-off that will not work for some. While I was able to adjust the driver’s seat to give me comfortable clearance for my head (I’m a six-footer), taller drivers have struggled to find headroom. And while legroom is great in the backseat, there’s limited headroom for anyone over six feet.

Cargo space in the EV6, especially with the back seats folded flat and the retractable cargo cover removed, is going to be adequate for most people. At 1,415 square litres with the seats folded down, and a ski-through fold-down between the back seats, there’s decent room and options, including an adjustable cargo floor to help add a bit more space. But it’s a smaller cargo space than competitors – or the boxier Hyundai Ioniq 5 built on the same EV platform as the EV6 – such as the Mustang Mach-E (1,637 square litres) and the Model Y (1,925 square litres). As for the frunk (cargo space under the hood), there’s very little room compared to many EV rivals.

Drive is a nice balance between sport and comfort

On a drive from Vancouver to Whistler, the EV6 checks all the boxes with a combination of power – 0 to 60 acceleration in 5.2 seconds – and agility. The car’s suspension is softer than the Model Y’s, so there’s a mild roll while taking curves at high speed. It’s not a road-hugging sports car marvel, but it’s fun to drive. The heady blend of comfort and power should appeal to a broader audience than with some sportier EVs with firmer rides.

For those wondering how the EV6 performs in a Canadian winter, there’s a detailed driving.ca review that’s pretty much a rave about how the all-wheel drive version shines in snowy, slippery conditions. And ev-database. org pegs the long-range EV6’s winter range – tested at -10 C with the heat on – at a combined 340 km compared to a summer real-world range estimate of 570 km in the city, 370 on the highway, and 460 combined.

For Canadian drivers, Kia offers a heat pump option that both extracts heat from outside air and recycles waste heat from the vehicle to maintain cold-weather range.

Electric vehicles: Provincial and federal rebates

As tested, the GT Line 2 all-wheel-drive model I drove has an MRSP of $61,995, but it qualifies for the $5,000 federal rebate plus provincial rebates because the EV6s base model – starting at $44,995 – is below the maximum price rebate cutoff. Budget-minded drivers who still want the bigger battery and AWD can opt for the Wind package at just under $55,000. The full GT version of the EV6 – the one that promises a 0-to-60 sprint of less than 3.5 seconds – will be available in Canada later in 2022.

In the end, I’m not ready for an EV6 for two big reasons.

One is that I can’t imagine owning an EV without being able to charge at home overnight (I’m still lobbying my strata council to take advantage of B.C.’s current EV Ready rebates for the planning and installation of EV charging).

The other is that while Thule now has a roof rack for the EV6, it’s more of a city and road trip car than it is something that would replace my CX-5 for trips to my favourite B.C. biking trails and lakes on gravel and dirt backroads. The EV6’s ground clearance is only 6.3 inches, which would be OK on only the smoothest gravel road. To be on the safe side with rougher roads, you’re looking at a minimum 8-inch clearance, and the only electric SUVs currently available in Canada with that are the Volkswagen ID.4 and Toyota bZ4X (both 8.3 inches), and the BMW iX electric at 8 inches.

What I liked

  • Sleek exterior and fabulous interior
  • Blend of touchscreen and analog instrumentation
  • Pop-up video, right in front of the driver, when making turns and lane changes
  • Power, handling and comfort

What I didn’t like

  • A few too many buttons, including some at the front of the centre console that can be activated by accident, and front-seat USB outlets that require a full stretch to plug into near floor level.
  • Interior headroom challenges, especially in back seat, for taller passengers
  • Small storage space ‘frunk’ under the hood compared to competitors

The Kia EV6, GT-Line 2 edition, strikes a sleek pose at Vancouver’s Spanish Banks and turns heads as
a new player in the electric crossover SUV market.

The verdict:

There’s a good reason the EV6 was named 2022 European car of the year in a vote by motoring journalists. It’s a stunning option for those who might otherwise consider the Tesla Model Y or Mustang Mach E, and it’s right up there in bang-for-your buck with the excellent Ioniq 5 that’s the roomier, less sporty version of the EV6 from Kia’s sister company Hyundai.

Tesla versus the KIA EV6

The decision for those trying to choose between a Model Y and an EV6 will likely come down to a few key questions:

  • Do you prefer the EV6’s combination of touchscreen and analog controls to the all-in-one simplicity of the Tesla’s central touchscreen?
  • Is the Model Y’s better interior head space, and cargo space, vital to you and your passengers?
  • Does Kia’s excellent reliability (it was recently rated the third most reliable out of 32 auto brands) trump Tesla’s spotty track record for reliability and challenges in getting things fixed?
  • Is the Model Y’s bigger space and performance worth paying the extra $20,000 to $40,000 (after rebates and taxes), depending on your model choices? The Model Y long range starts at $83,990, and no Model Y qualifies for the new-car rebate.
  • While the EV6 is equipped with charging capability twice as fast as almost any other production EV in Canada – with claims that you can go from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes on a 250 kW charger – there are few charging stations in Canada capable of a 250 kW charge. Tesla has a vast network of Superchargers (some capable of 250 kW, and others at 150 kW) in cities and along major highways in North America that can give a Model Y 320 km of range in 15 minutes.

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