In 2018, I asked a Tesla PR representative what they thought of the upcoming onslaught of EVs from established OEMs. The rep was fairly noncommittal. Maybe the Audi would prove a threat? Maybe not. I, however, left that conversation convinced Tesla was about to have its lunch handed to them.
The new Kia EV6 though could finally be the brown recyclable bag containing Tesla’s noontime repast.
It wasn't until the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Polestar 2 arrived in 2020 that Tesla had credible rivals from old-school OEMs. Now, it’s the EV6, brother to Hyundai Ioniq 5, that has staked a mighty claim to electrified solidity. The EV6 is one of the best EVs, and one of the best mainstream cars of any sort, now on sale.
The EV6 is the first Kia built on Hyundai Motor's modular EV platform E-GMP. As standard, the base Light model gets a 58-kWh battery and a single motor driving the rear wheels, while all others get a 77.4-kWh pack and the option of single-motor rear-wheel drive or dual-motor all-wheel drive. This matte gray tester was a fairly high-spec GT-Line RWD model, with 225 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque.
Those figures stuck out to me, as they're basically identical to the old Volkswagen GTIs. Of course, the Kia weighs about 1200 pounds more than a Mk7 GTI, at 4255 pounds, though you wouldn't think so from behind the wheel. It's a willing, eager thing, capable of great pace on a country road, in any country. Even in Sport mode, the EV6 doesn't have the gut-punch instant acceleration of more performance-focused EVs, yet it's still responsive and quick.
Hyundai Motor's enthusiast-aimed products—the Kia Stinger, the Hyundai Veloster and Elantra N, the Genesis G70—have been dynamically impressive and the EV6 shows that their excellence has spread across the triplet product lines. There's a real sophistication to how the EV6 goes about the business of driving—the steering is well-weighted and accurate, and the suspension tuning is spot-on.
Good dynamics aren't the one thing that matters, though. The EV6 excels in pretty much every area. It's extremely practical too.
This is, essentially, the long-range version, with an EPA-projected range of 310 miles, which R&T matched in fairly mild-to-cold March Northeast weather. Like the Porsche Taycan, the EV6 uses an 800-volt electrical architecture, allowing for charging speeds of up to 350 kW at a capable charger. Sadly, Electrify America's fast chargers at the Newburgh, NY Wal-Mart were, no surprise, broken, but we did get charging speeds of around 110 kW at an EvolveNY station earlier the same day. Fast charging doesn't quite make up for the convenience of Tesla's Supercharger network, though with more stations arriving every day, the EV6 should (hopefully) soon be as easy to charge on the go as a Model Y.
The car is good at providing real-time range estimates that update based on drive mode and climate control use. A heat pump helps preserve range, too, though I was constantly twiddling the HVAC controls just to get the range figure up. I admit some range anxiety, but I put over 250 miles on the car to get these photos. In the vast majority of normal use cases, the EV6 has plenty of juice.
The dedicated EV platform creates a nice, spacious interior despite relatively compact exterior dimensions. It's superbly built and laid out, too. Quiet, comfortable, and easy to use, my only interior complaint is the HVAC controls on the dashboard. Either have HVAC controls or infotainment shortcuts are available, but not both at the same time. Yet this is minor, as I don't mess with the infotainment once it’s set. The interior is worthy of a car with a $50,000-plus price tag.
The EV6 also looks fabulous. It's not as immediately striking as the retro-future Hyundai Ioniq 5, but it has a sporty character all its own. It's muscular in a way that recalls great performance cars of the past, while still looking entirely contemporary. There are all sorts of delightful details that reveal themselves over time, always inviting another glance.
In some ways, none of this should be surprising. Kia has been on a roll, so of course it produces a great EV. But the fact that the EV6 succeeds where so many other EVs from traditional automakers have failed is an achievement. With the EV6, Kia has created an electric car with which it’s both easy to live and aesthetically desirable. It's ultimately, more appealing than most gas-powered crossovers.
I was misguided when I thought that the first wave of EVs from large automakers would outshine Tesla. But, it turns out I was looking toward the wrong automakers.
A late lunch is better than no lunch.