Kia EV6 first drive review: Is it as good as it looks?
It’s a brutal afternoon at the BIC. The weather app on the Kia EV6 welcomes us to a 44 degree barbecue in the Greater Noida region, the trip computer is even more alarming at 47 degrees, and I’m told a few days ago it was an unbearable 49 degrees. Climate change is real, those gauges don’t lie! And even though cars are far from being the biggest contributors to global warming, the automobile industry is everybody’s favourite whipping boy, and regulation is forcing rapid change. Electric cars and scooters are coming at you thick and fast, conveniently ignoring the fact that coal is fuelling over 75 per cent of India’s electricity, and we are desperately importing more and more of it. While an important topic, India’s EV policy isn’t within the remit of this test, so let’s turn our attention to the striking lineup of electric cars cooling themselves down in the pit lane. For all their deathly silence while on the move, the cooling fans working overtime to manage battery temps of an electric car running the air-con at full blast can make quite the racket when idling. Peak summer is putting unreasonable demands on the EV6, but that’s the reality of a traditionally hot country that’s only getting worse.
Kia EV6 styling and exteriors
The EV6 looks stunning in the metal. It’s too tall to be a hatchback. A tad too short to be an SUV. Definitely not a sedan, what with the hints of shooting brake to the back end. Compact cross over might be the closest, though even that might not be an accurate description. It will be polarising but there’s no question it will turn heads. The benefits of the dedicated EV architecture, which we will come to in a bit, are the extremely short overhangs, shallow and low bonnet area, and a massive wheelbase, all of which gives it unique proportions. Draped over it is Kia’s new design language that pushes the boundaries of conventional car design to satiate the early adopter’s appetite for differentiation without putting off the more traditional buyer. Mercifully the EV6 bucks the trend for ornamental (and blanked-out) grilles in favour of a slim strip hinting at what was once Kia’s trademark, the tiger-nose grille, while the air-dam below it has functional vents to cool the battery and systems. Finally, form following function! Big wheels are being enthusiastically embraced on electric cars and the EV6 is no exception riding on striking 19-inchers that give it great stance. Don’t miss the gloss black element on the base of the doors that breaks up the visual mass of the profile. This then sweeps up to meet the tail lamps, the latter swooping up and across the tailgate creating the most striking angle to view the EV6 from. It’s absolutely unique, totally unmissable, and I’m a big fan.
Kia EV6 interiors and features
Step inside and you have an appropriately digital cabin for the electric era. Two 12.3-inch screens are arranged in a curved unit ahead of the driver that, allied to the raised centre console, cocoons the driver. Kia have moved away from the lounge-style openness of other EVs — something that we will see on the sister Hyundai Ioniq 5 — to give off a sporty vibe and it works. You still have a flat floor and that means plenty of space under the centre console for knick-knacks and hand bags. With carbon neutrality being a hot-button topic, Kia would like to draw your attention to their commitment of going fully neutral by 2045, starting off by using recycled PET bottles for crafting trim elements and ‘vegan leather’ employed for the seat bolsters and steering wheel wrapping. No matter your dietary preference, the cabin is appealing to the senses, and most importantly it feels different from that of a traditional car’s. There’s a veritable forest of USB chargers to juice up dozens of devices and, while on the subject, I should point out that you can take electricity out of the EV6 to either charge another electric car or run appliances like a refrigerator at home or the strobe lights and DJ console for a rave out in the wilderness. If we had to criticise I’d say that at the expected price tag you’d want some better quality materials like we see on premium German cars, and then there’s how you sit.
Based on an EV-only skateboard architecture with no need to provision for an engine results in a view out front similar to mid-engined supercars. There’s barely any bonnet and whatever is there drops steeply out of the way. The 77.4kWh battery pack is located under the floor within the 2900mm wheelbase, meaning that all the space above it can be used for occupants — this means a very spacious cabin, far more than any ICE measuring 4.7 meters in length. Knee room at the rear is enormous and there’s a flat floor ensuring three can sit abreast comfortably. That said, because of the high floor, passengers are sitting with their knees slightly up in the air and the lack of thigh support can be a little tiring if you’re being driven around for extended periods of time. There’s no space under the front seats for passengers to stick their toes under either. Upfront though it’s lovely with an airy cabin with a high driving position a bit like an SUV, again courtesy that high floor..
Kia EV6 drivetrain and driving dynamics
Of course a Formula 1 track is hardly the environment to test out an electric car and we won’t be giving you a definitive verdict, especially on ride quality and daily usability. What I will tell you is the dynamics are eye-popping. First, of course, there’s the instant turn of speed courtesy the full wallop of torque being delivered instantly. There’s no wait, no hesitancy. I stick it in Dynamic mode at the exit of the pit lane, check my mirrors, floor it, and the full force of 320bhp and 605Nm shoves me in the seat. 100kmph takes just 5.2 seconds in the AWD variant that has been assigned to me. Buyers will be able to save a couple of lakh rupees by opting for the RWD-only EV6, the 226bhp and 350Nm delivering the 100kmph sprint in 7.3 seconds, and secretly I was hoping to drive that one to see if you can use the electric torque to oversteer it. But that’s hardly what prospective buyers would be looking at from their EV, so let’s not go there.
Turn in for T1 and the response from the front end is surprisingly eager and enthusiastic. Kia’s product planners tell us that they had sportiness in mind while setting up the EV6 and I can confirm that this feels unexpectedly direct and eager. Body control is, quite frankly, excellent, with all that weight (just shy of two tonnes) situated low down giving it, what seems like, an even lower centre-of-gravity than other premium EVs we have sampled. It also feels quite stiffly sprung and slightly rear-biased both in the power deployment and weight distribution. The 19-inch tyres do howl quite vocally as we go through the left handed T2 but I don’t have to get off the throttle and the EV6 resists understeer quite well to hold her line. Right for the T3 hairpin, gas it on the exit, and you can feel the rear pushing and torque-vectoring to tighten the line and give it a rear-biased attitude. What a surprise! Down the straight she gets to an indicated 190kmph around the half way mark and then holds 190-192kmph down the remainder of the straight; 182kmph is the true top speed she will do.
We only have use of the short loop of the BIC for our dynamic evaluation, and I take the opportunity while looping around to find and long-press the ESP switch to switch off the electronic aids. Which switches things off completely, again a surprise. Floor it hard on the exit and, whoa, the back send comes out and the EV6 pulls a full opposite lock oversteer moment. I come to the definite conclusion that the EV6 is a fun-to-drive electric car. It’s plenty quick and that’s complimented by the chassis sophistication to deliver an engaging, even enthusiastic, driving experience. The only downside is the steering that is lifeless and delivers absolutely no communication. Also the excellent body control allied to the 55-profile tyres will, I suspect, deliver a firm ride on regular roads so that’s something to consider.
Switching off ESP does reveal the chassis’s rear-drive nature. Hard on the exit and the rear squirms and rotates the car under you, and this attitude is best experienced in the traction control’s mid-way Sport setting that lets you play while not biting you back. Fully-off and full on the gas the EV6 is a bit of a handful and if you’re not quick with the steering it can get into a tank slapper.
Kia EV6 regeneration and range
Four levels of regeneration are on offer, adjusted via the steering wheel paddles, and in the most extreme ‘i-pedal’ setting you get one pedal driving where the EV6 will slow down to a complete halt when you get off the accelerator. Considering I’m at max speed I of course have to brake hard for T4 and the all-wheel disc brakes deliver strong retardation with acceptable pedal feedback, though I have to mention that repeated and heavy braking does cause noticeable brake fade (we must remember that this is not a track car, despite testing it on the track).
Ultimately tough this is hardly what EV owners will be interested in. What’s of consequence is the range and on that front it scores with a 528km WLTP-certified range. That’s the most you will get from any EV in India today and in the real world it should translates to around 400km, plenty enough for most use cases. After the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT, the E-GMP is the only platform with 800-volt architecture, and the EV6 can go from 10 to 80 per cent charge in just 18 minutes. For now though this is purely academic as there are no 350kW chargers in India. On a 50kW charger, which is what we are calling fast chargers, it takes 73 minutes for 10 to 80 per cent charge. All of which makes the Kia EV6 is a superb full-electric car — practical, spacious and enthusiastic to drive — and genuinely among the best currently on sale in India.
Kia EV6 price and launch
Bookings for the Kia EV6 are open and prices will be announced on June 2. We expect it to be priced around Rs 65-70 lakh depending on the variant. Steep yes, but Kia will be only bringing 100 units to India. And for that money, you are getting a world class EV!