The Kia EV6 is designed to be seen. Fortunately, it was also engineered to be enjoyed while behind the wheel.
The crossover (which is really more of a wagon) is an impressive combination of what the South Korean automaker has learned over the past few years from its EVs and gas-powered vehicles. The result is a smart, exciting, and downright outstanding entry into an increasingly crowded market that includes the Volkswagen ID 4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, and Chevy Bolt and Bolt EUV.
The issue with driving the EV6 is the danger that follows it. Don’t get me wrong, the vehicle itself is plenty safe. It’s the drivers in the adjacent vehicles on the highway and in town trying to shoot photos and videos of the vehicle as you drive by. It looks unlike anything else on the road. An aggressive front end gives way to a longer-than-expected profile and is wrapped up with a rear end that’s equal parts futuristic and eye-catching. It includes the lightbar that’s one part signal, one part spoiler, and starts its journey at the wheel wells.
Hopefully, the general public grows at least a bit wary of the avant-garde looks to stop putting their lives and the lives of their passengers in mortal peril because the EV6 is a joy to drive. Looky-loos be damned.
A New EV Platform
At the core of the vehicle is Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform) architecture. It’s the basis for the EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Genesis GV60. Introduced in December of 2020, the automaker plans on introducing 23 global EVs by 2025. There are already two on the road, and the Genesis GV60 is expected in the spring of this year.
The group also made sure to future-proof its underlying system. E-GMP vehicles use an 800-volt architecture, while most every other automaker is using a 400-volt system. The biggest benefit to an 800-volt system is that it allows the EV6 and Ioniq 5 to charge at a rate of up to 350 kW at a DC fast charging station. That’s quicker BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Ford… practically every other EV on the road.
We talk a lot about range anxiety. As the infrastructure continues to grow, that may be replaced by charge anxiety, and Hyundai is making sure its drivers won’t feel left behind as quick charging stations appear on the landscape. You can take most modern EVs hundreds of miles on a single charge, but it still takes longer to charge a vehicle than fill it with gasoline.
Kia says the EV6 will charge from 10 percent to 80 percent in 18 minutes. I wasn’t able to test this since the 350 kW charging station I encountered topped out at 260 kW. But even at that speed, I was back on the road quicker than I anticipated while charging from 25 percent to 90 percent. I had enough time to snap a few photos, get a drink from Starbucks, and that’s about it.
For at-home charging, the EV6 has an 11 kW onboard charger. It’s quick enough for level 2 overnight charging, which is how a majority of these vehicles will be charged.
A unique feature is the vehicle-to-load (V2L) capability. Kia says you can power other devices, another EV, and even your house. The higher trim levels have a 120-volt outlet at the bottom and in the middle of the rear seats. If you happen to be outside and don’t want wires running out of your car, there’s an adapter that plugs directly into the charge port with an outlet. It’s great for tailgating, camping, and potentially keeping the fans going in your house during a heat-wave-induced blackout.
A Hot EV Hatch
America doesn’t like wagons. With that in mind, the EV6 is marketed as a crossover or CUV. Sure, it looks a bit like a wagon in real life, but it’s important for marketing that it’s known as a crossover. It even has the requisite high sitting position in the vehicle. But, really, it’s a wagon. A great wagon that quickens the pulse and handles far better than it should.
Kia offered up the RWD (rear-wheel drive) GT version of the EV6 for testing, the second quickest trim level available. The fastest distinction belongs to the eAWD (electric all-wheel drive) version. Still, while rolling with one motor instead of two, I wasn’t wanting for power.
Accelerations off the line at a standstill are fine with a 0–60 of 7.2 seconds. Once you get going, though, it’s blast-off every time you hit that pedal. The single rear-mounted motor in the vehicle affords it 225 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. During my week with the EV6, while entering the highway or when I needed to pass a semi that seemed to have issues staying in its lane, there was always enough get up and go at the ready.
Previously, I’ve driven the eAWD GT version with its dual motors, 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet of torque and 0–60 time of 5.2 seconds. It’s outstanding, but for day-to-day driving, the RWD GT is more than adequate.
Tackling corners, the EV6 handles wonderfully for a vehicle its size. Excessive body roll and tire squeal were only encountered when really pushing the vehicle. On the twisty back-roads of Northern California, the EV6 felt far more planted than other crossovers on the market, both powered by gas and electrons. For driving purists, the RWD version has enough oversteer to keep them happy, and you can turn off the traction control if you’re into doing donuts in abandoned parking lots.
Around town, the EV6 was comfortable, agile, and at ease in traffic, dense urban areas, and on long highway drives. The steering is tight without feeling twitchy in all driving situations.
Kia offers up four driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow. Around town, Normal and even Eco never felt underpowered. Sport unveiled enough of a power difference that, when enabled, you knew it without looking down at the dash cluster. On back roads, the power was always there while linking corners.
On the braking front, there are four regen modes. Well, the first Level 0 is coasting. Level 1–3 increased regenerative braking in gradual steps, while I-Pedal turned on the vehicle’s one-pedal driving feature. You need a long runway for the vehicle to come to a complete stop. Mastering one-pedal driving in the EV6 without touching the brakes was tough because you really had to lift up on the accelerator much sooner than expected. As the days progressed, I ended up just using the brakes at stoplights and signs.
As for its range, Kia says the RWD GT has a range of 310 miles via a 77.4 kWh capacity battery pack. The company hasn’t revealed whether that 77.4 number is the gross capacity or usable capacity. During a range test of mixed driving environments of highway driving with the cruise control set at 70 miles per hour, driving around residential and suburban streets, and hitting the back roads of the region, I was able to get 310 miles of range. Eerily on the dot with what Kia promises and good news for those looking for a long-range vehicle that isn’t a Tesla.
In any environment, the EV6 shines and feels like a vehicle far more expensive than its sticker price lets on. But the price can vary wildly depending on your trim level.
The automaker offers six variants of the EV6. The top of the line GT starts at $51,200 for the RWD version I was driving and climbs to $55,900 for the AWD version. Below GT are the Wind trim levels. The RWD Wind will set you back $47,000, while the AWD version starts at $50,900. There’s also the Wind with a Tech package that costs $52,400. For all of these vehicles, the RWD versions have a range of 310 miles, while the AWD versions have a range of 274 miles.
Then there’s the $40,900 Light RWD trim. The entry-level EV6 has a smaller 58 kWh capacity battery pack, which translates into a range of 232 miles. All the vehicles have an efficiency rating of four miles per kilowatt which is up there with Tesla.
Like its exterior, the interior of the EV6 is a design triumph. More importantly, it’s comfortable for both the driver and all passengers. Leg and headroom are more than adequate even for those over six feet tall. At 6 feet, 3 inches tall, I typically have to move the driver’s seat forward when sitting in the back. In the EV6, no adjustments were needed, and I still had a few inches of space for my knees.
This has to do with the size of the EV6, which is the same length as a BMW 3 Series. It might not seem that large in photos, but that’s a trick of the eye caused by the wheels being pushed towards the edge of the vehicle. When you get inside, it’s spacious and airy, with room for five if the folks in the back are on the thin side. Four adults will fit comfortably without any problems.
Kia and Hyundai both have a history of delivering interiors that feel more upmarket than their price would suggest. That carries over here to the EV6. The vegan leather and recycled materials in the vehicle felt like the offerings you’d find in a much more expensive vehicle.
The available tech is also what I’m used to seeing in more expensive vehicles. In the bright 12.3 TFT (thin-film-transistor) dash cluster, when the blinkers are turned on, an external camera feeds a view of the vehicle’s blind spot in the cluster. This is something we’ve seen on other Hyundai Motor Group vehicles, and it’s nice to see it here.
There’s also something that I’ve seen in the Mercedes S-Class and EQS, augment turn-by-turn arrows in the HUD (head-up display). With navigation enabled, arrows will appear in the HUD to help you find your upcoming exit or next turn. It’s not quite as polished as the offering from Mercedes, but it’s a nice touch, and I found it helpful when I happened upon a series of roundabouts while driving.
Sadly, it doesn’t work with Google or Apple Maps. The vehicle does support both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (although oddly, not wirelessly) — just don’t expect floating arrows to help you as you drive.
The 12.3 TFT touchscreen houses the typical Kia infotainment system. Outside of the beautiful home screen that shares range data, media information, and the weather, the rest of the setup is essentially a tablet layout of features aligned along a rigid grid. In my experience, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I was able to quickly find features without having to learn a new interface.
Where things fall flat is the voice assistant. It feels two generations behind other offerings on the market and is essentially a series of set commands and corresponding defaults. For example, if you say you want the vehicle to be cooler, the system will set the temperature to 64 degrees. Say you’d like it warmer — it’ll be set to 80 degrees. Anything beyond that is all the down or all the way up.
The driver assistance system does get marks for offering vehicle-follow in stop-and-go traffic without having to press the accelerator or resume button. While navigating highway traffic, the EV6 reacted safely without too much acceleration or braking when vehicles cut in front of it or when they moved out of the way. I never felt the need to step on the brake or accelerator because the system was being too aggressive.
No More Compromises
This was my second time driving the EV6. The first was for the day, which is fine for a first impression, but you need a few days behind the wheel to really see how well it would integrate into the lives of potential buyers.
As they picked up the vehicle, though, I started to miss it. For someone that drives over a hundred cars a year, that’s saying a lot. For years, we’ve had two classes of vehicles: good cars and good electric cars. The EV6 is a good car, plain and simple. There’s no longer a list of caveats that need to be explained to potential owners.
The Hyundai Motor Group made the decision to spend the extra money to invest in a robust 800-volt architecture. That bet is paying off with a series of vehicles that are coming to market with features found on more expensive vehicles.
For Kia, the EV6 sets a bar not only for its own future vehicles but for every other automaker as they enter the space. It’s not enough to just build an EV — they have to build a great EV.
That’s what Kia built: a great EV.
Photography by Roberto Baldwin / The Verge