Who would have thought, even a year back, that I’d prefer a Kia to a Tesla?
Kia does not exactly have a reputation for luxury vehicles, although the fastback Stinger is a fan favourite.
But that was before the EV6, Kia’s first electric vehicle and an important rebuke to anyone who thought the traditional carmakers would be left in Tesla’s dust.
Not only has Tesla’s share price tanked after Elon Musk’s tilt at Twitter, but its competitive advantage is fast eroding.
The EV6 feels more solid, safe and practical than the Tesla Model 3. After driving one for a week, I rank it and the Polestar 2 as the top EVs under $80,000 (meaning the buyers get a full clean-car rebate of $8625).
That is, in part, because Kia can draw on institutional knowledge that relative newbie Tesla lacks, and I guess because sharing a common platform with its sibling, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, means the Korean manufacturers can throw truckloads of won at R&D.
Although pitched as a small SUV, the EV6 more resembles a wagon or sportsback. The design screams, “Hello. The future is here.” That’s right down to the Tesla-style flush door handles that pop out as you approach.
Inside, there are plenty of storage spaces and a massive glovebox, which Kia created by moving the air-con unit elsewhere.
The range-topping GT-Line model I drove for a week has oodles of torque (605Nm), more reminiscent of the Mercedes EQC than other cars in this price bracket. It’ll do 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds and has a top speed of 188km/h. It has 20-inch alloys, as opposed to 19-inch on the other variants.
The EV6 has eco, normal and sport modes. I pressed sport once or twice but couldn’t quite work out what it did; there was plenty of power in normal mode – enough that overtaking was an absolute blast.
The GT-Line EV6 has all the basics right – from cornering, through to advanced safety features, heads-up display, assisted driving and 360-degree cameras.
To make lane-changing safer, cameras in the rear-vision mirrors allow the driver’s console to display video of the lane you are moving into, eliminating blind spots.
The module for controlling the stereo and heater is just plain clever. It is a long row, as you’d expect, but pushing a heater/stereo button swaps it from a stereo to air-con and all of the button labels change.
After driving the EV6 over half of Auckland and Northland, I was running out of juice so pulled in to the new EV charger in Kaiwaka. The EV6’s 800-volt architecture means there is not a charger yet in New Zealand that can reach the maximum power it can take. The far pricier Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan also have the 800-volt system.
Kaiwaka’s ChargeNet station is a 300kW “hyper-rapid” one, so I watch the batteries fill from under 20% to more than 80% in just 19 minutes.
This is superbly fast. I spend much of the time on a phone call, but if the charge was taking longer, I could have turned the seat into a bed. At the press of a button the front seats lift up and their backs lie flat to give a snug sleeping platform.
The charge costs $30.29 for 54kWh of electricity – enough to do about 400km. If I use the same amount of power at Mercury’s standard rates it would be just $14.56.
The equivalent in petrol would be more like $100 for Super 98 at current prices.
Another thing I love about the EV6 is that it is rated to tow 1600kg (braked).
It is also able to be moved backwards and forwards via buttons on the remote – to get you out of those tight parking situations.
The wireless phone charging works – which is unusual – and there is a feast of USB and USB-C ports. The EV6 can even charge another EV, or be used as a 240-volt power source – meaning you can now take a big-screen TV camping.
Air RWD Standard Range
$72,990 + ORC
Air RWD Long Range
$78,990 + ORC
Earth AWD Long Range
$94,990 + ORC
GT-Line AWD Long Range
$106,990 + ORC
GT-Line AWD - Long Range with Sunroof
$109,990 + ORC
I believe this is the most expensive Kia produced, and the manufacturer has really done a great job. If I was in the market for a sub-$80,000 electric vehicle to claim the full clean-car rebate, this would be a top contender.