(Pocket-lint) - The EV6 is arguably Kia's boldest car ever. Not just because it's a pioneering all-electric (EV) model on a brand new platform. Not only because of its cutting-edge looks. But because it's so assured in all it delivers - including future-proofed charging speeds, as one standout feature of many - that it's comfortable being priced in and around the Audi Q4 e-tron and Tesla Model 3 ballpark.
The EV6 is no entry-level Kia - the Korean brand has well and truly shaken out any old portrayal of any cheap-and-cheerful image - as it embodies some of the more interesting features we've seen in any electric car, such as hidden integrated safety cameras, along with a solid real-world range (circa 290 miles per charge) and many of the modern comforts that, indeed, you'd expect from an Audi or Tesla.
So has it paid off and is the Kia EV6 the all-electric SUV crossover that you've been waiting for? Nine times out of 10 we suspect the answer could be yes. Here's why.
As we mentioned up top, the EV6 launches on a new architecture, which is called E-GMP. You needn't get bogged down in the meanings of that, but it's an interesting point as it's also shared by Hyundai - which is why the also-recently-launched Ioniq 5 has a similar footprint and (to a lesser degree) silhouette, and you might very well be looking at both cars side by side as potential purchase options.
The Ioniq 5, we find, is more 'retro robo' in its somewhat kitsch looks. Kia's EV6, meanwhile, appears just so much more sophisticated and sporty - especially from the front quarters. That goes hand in hand with the car's future, too, as by the end of 2022 there's going to be an EV6 GT model - which can smash out 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and is the sort of super-charged EV that'll be taking on the likes of the Audi e-tron GT.
Not to confuse 2021's GT-Line - the one-up-from-base model with additional exterior styling, along with some additional features - with the GT proper, though. All trim levels look reasonably similar, though, even the entry EV6 Air, so whichever appeals you're not dumbing down the look to any significant degree.
There's loads of visual design treats about the EV6 too. Those angular headlights embody an intelligent lighting system. The charging port is integrated into the rear hindquarters as part of the design, rather than being a separate cutaway in the centre of the front wing. The door handles tuck themselves away out of sight unless you unlock and approach the car, giving a more seamless and aero look.
It's a polished overall visual, especially for a car that's so long - it's 4.7 metres in length, making the EV6 a good 12cm longer than even the Audi Q4 - giving the on-paper impression that it's a massive car, but it doesn't feel it to drive.
Not this it's a small car by any means, as you'll feel on the inside. The appeal here, being that it's a crossover, is that you'll be able to seat four adults with ease - although the Ioniq 5 has a bit more rear headroom in the back we think - and a family of five won't struggle at all.
Sat up front and there's a real airiness about the interior. That's largely because the centre tunnel is 'open', to the point you could loop and arm all the way around it, which opens up various cubby holes and storage areas for extra functional use. It also means, as a driver, your leg won't be planted against a wall of plastic the whole time either. There's space to breathe.
On that centre tunnel are various controls, with a rotational dial handling drive select. Beyond this dial there are additional controls for heated/cooled front seats (depending on the model and packages you pick) which are easily activated with a gentle press - too easily activated, really, because a resting hand will often accidentally set something in motion (an unwanted heated steering for us usually).
Many interior elements are made or finished from recycled materials, including vegan leather and recycled plastics. We're not sure if any of that accounts for the rather futuristic modern visual of the dashboard, though, which we're not sure how well it'll stand the test of time overall. It's certainly an eye-catching feature that gives the EV6's interior a sense of individuality though.
On the tech front, however, it's as if Kia has stalled a little in its futuristic vision. Not in terms of the physical layout - the 12.3-inch infotainment display mounted within the dash is well integrated and a substantial enough size; the driver's display echoes this 12.3-inch curved panel to deliver critical information; and there's a head-up display (HUD) too.
It's not the hardware, then, rather the software. It just looks a bit dated. The graphics aren't as smooth as they could be. The integrated satnav is tricky to use too. And if Kia wants to be going head-to-head with Audi then it needs a system that's not just up to speed on hardware, but user experience too. This is a tad short of the mark in our view.
Fortunately, however, you can forget about most of it, as by plugging into the USB-A port (there's just one of those, plenty more USB-C ports are on hand for charging only) you can fire-up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to take over proceedings. Then you'll have all your Spotify, Google Maps and other personalisations looking splendid across this system hardware. Why there's no wireless versions of Apple's or Google's technology is yet another oversight though - especially as there's an integrated wireless charging pad on that centre tunnel. Some dots and crosses weren't quite checked ahead of final production it seems.
By and large, though, that's about the only moan we have about the EV6. In other ways it's miles ahead of the competition in the way it integrates some of its features. On that large driver display, for example, the car can present real-time camera-based observations of blind-spot views that are super helpful. And we've driven a bunch of cars with digital mirrors that are nothing but distracting; the EV6, by contrast, doesn't mess with traditional mirrors, avoids anything becoming an unwanted distraction, and ultimately enhances safety by using the cameras as an addition rather than replacement.
There's more, too, as the GT-Line and above features what's called Vehicle-to-load (V2L). This is, in effect, just a plug socket inside the car, allowing you to draw from the on-board battery to run other devices. Not just a quick charge of your mobile phone, mind, we're talking mini-fridges, even a 55-inch TV should you want - though we can't say we tried this out. It will drain the battery and therefore the range, though, so that's something to keep in mind in terms of rang potential.
Drive & Range
Fortunately the EV6's range is rather impressive. In our hands - and with no 55-inch tellies plugged in anywhere! - we were calculating a range not too far south of 300 miles per charge.
Kia tells us the car can do 314 miles, the EV6 itself told us it'd do 289 when we first got in the car (with the battery at 98 per cent) - and even with a bit of foot-down driving from time to time we came in calculating around 280 miles as possible. That's marginally better than the Ioniq 5. It's better than most EVs on the road, really.
There's no smaller battery option for UK purchasers either, only the 77.4kWh one, so the only real choice is whether you pay extra for all-wheel drive (AWD) versus the basic rear-wheel (RWD) option - the latter adding some range (to a claimed 328 miles per charge, so around three per cent more).
Among the impressive features is the super-fast charging potential. There's an 800V system which, if you can locate the correct type of charger, can lock into 350kW charging rates where available. Now these are always more expensive to use than slower systems, but it could mean charging 70 per cent of the battery in 18 minutes. Given that you're unlikely to ever be less than 10 per cent, and that over 80 per cent is slower to charge and more damaging to battery health, that ought to be around what longer-distance drivers are aiming at as a maximum anyway.
Not that you'll be using pricey motorway top-ups all the time. If you've got a 7kW charger at home then you're looking at more like 10 hours to charge the EV6 overnight. Which, assuming you're not a maniacal worker who gets home at 11pm and is back at the desk for 6am, ought to be plenty good enough - and electricity can be cheaper on many contracts during the night hours too.
So that's a lot of figures to contemplate, but how does the EV6 actually feel to drive? It's a very comfortable place to sit, delivers ample pep - its 0-62mph time is a respectable 5.2 seconds - and whether you're sauntering along highways with all the lane- and steering-assist technologies turned on, or pushing it a little extra around those bends with only your hands on the wheel to direct things, it inspires confidence in a sort-of calming way. It's an good all-round feel that, while it looks more sporty than it truly drives, has an edge over many of the staple EVs out there - such as the popular but less impressive VW ID.3.
We like that the Kia EV6 is bold. It's got the style, the acceleration, the interior finish, the comfort, and many future-looking technologies to inspire. To drive it inspires confidence and calm in equal measure.
It's a very considered approach to building an EV - and one that we think will be more universally appealing than the Hyundai Ioniq 5, even just from a visual standpoint. That said, the Kia is the pricier option - indeed it's pushing into Audi and Tesla territory - which might not inspire confidence in all its prospective buyers.
But there's an awful lot of quality here. From the range, to the super-fast charging, to the inspired integrated cameras. If only the on-board tech had the graphical interface polish and extra much-needed features like wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (it's wired only for those), it'd be a car to barely miss a beat.
Overall the Kia EV6 is a real statement of intent - certainly when the GT version hits the roads at the end of 2022 it'll elevate Kia's position in the sports saloon market - that, in the here and now, is largely realised on the road too.
The same fundamental platform as the Kia, but with an altogether different look - it's more 'retro robo' - slightly lower price and marginally lower range too.