And unlike any Kia you’ve ever seen.
When I first saw the Kia EV6 at its unveiling in Times Square last spring, I was unsure what to think. It’s a space-age design departure for Kia, not bearing much resemblance to its siblings, inside or out. The front end reminds me of the Tesla 3. The rear end fits with sports-focused SUV design trends: sloping rooflines that swoop down to an angled rear lift gate. It’s all aerodynamics, but it’s also modern and sporty, like a hatchback that’s all grown up. The Ferrari FF, if anyone remembers that, could be its design doppleganger. I like it and I’m not alone; I expect that it’ll have all sorts of fans lined up to buy it for its looks alone.
Still, the EV6 all feels so un-Kia that I was not sure what to expect when I got a chance to test drive it. Would it be well priced? (With a starting price of about $40K and a top of the line price of about $51K, it’s at the middle of the market). Would Kia’s famous spoiler features—such as panoramic sun roofs, modern design details and top-edge tech— be included? (Some yes, and some, no.) Would the interior feel much more expensive than you might expect for the money? (Of course!) Would it be simply a different-looking version of its corporate cousin, the Hyundai IONIQ 5? (Nope.) And, would the electric performance—battery range and recharge time—keep it from being a contender next to more established electric cars? (Hello 18 minutes to “let’s go!”)
Related: Kia’s New Electric EV6 and a New Logo Are Just the Start: This is What Kia Has In Store For You
A Sports-Crossover-Hatchback-Electric Car That’s All That, and More
What I discovered was a distinct and very modern car that advances the electric car race. With a unique exterior look and feel and finely honed interior features, the EV6 looks was much more compelling than I anticipated. The exterior is notable for the front end with sleek headlights and a sporty look; it doesn’t “look electric” even though it is; it sports 4 doors with flush door handles that extend or retract with a push of the key fob button or on approach (via the smart key) and a tail gate hatchback with rounded fenders framed by tail lights and a light bar that spans the rear spoiler. This creates a unique look from the rear and a sporty silhouette.
But enough about what this car looks like. How does it fare inside, how does it stand up when it comes to charging and battery range, and what’s it like to drive?
Driving the EV 6 Reveals its Sports Car Soul
The model I test drove was an all wheel drive GT-Line edition with 320 horsepower, 446 lb.-ft of torque and 274 miles of range. While I was excited about the power, I was also a bit worried; would it tempt me to drain the battery range too quickly?
And that might be a good concern for anyone considering this car; it’s really fun to drive. We headed out on the long, flat roads of Sonoma Valley and were quickly climbing curvy, hilly roads, which are pure fun if you’re in the right car, and I was; the EV6 handled the road like champ, accelerating nicely even on the hills. It never felt as if it lagged for power at all, even in the most economic setting, iPedal mode. I didn’t get to drive the lower powered versions, but I imagine that even those will deliver a really nice experience; I never felt like I really pushed the EV6 anywhere near its limits.
But the real delight was driving in iPedal mode: I almost never touched the brakes, quite a surprise on roads like this.
One Pedal Regenerative Braking Makes the EV6 Even More Fun
iPedal is Kia’s one-pedal driving mode; pull the left paddle on the steering wheel 2 times quickly and the system is set to iPedal, the most efficient regenerative braking mode. In normal traffic and on city streets, lift your foot off the accelerator and the electric motor will slow the car. On curvy mountain roads, however, lift your foot off the accelerator to slow around curves without hitting the brake, then accelerate again to get back up to speed even more quickly.
One pedal driving takes some getting used to; in some cars, once you lift your foot off the accelerator you feel instant slowing and it can be a bit jarring. In the Kia EV6 there’s a momentary lag before deceleration is felt. However, it’s significant enough that if you have rear seat passengers, I would recommend driving in one of the more comfortable but less efficient regenerative braking modes, especially on mountain roads.
The regen braking modes start with Level 0, which offers no discernible braking when you lift off the accelerator; the car simply coasts, as any normal gas-powered car would. Level 1 gives only the slightest bit of slowing; level 2 offers a bit more and level 3 is has a bit more. iPedal driving is the most significant and also, offers the most efficient for saving or regenerating battery power.
As I drove down the mountain I was actually able to add power back to the battery, one of the fun games you can play with an EV. I drove about 4 miles and never hit the brake once, only easing the pressure on the accelerator (I never completely lifted my foot off) through each curve. At the bottom of the hill I regained 3 miles of range though drove 4 miles. Pretty nice.
All this shows you just how inefficient braking is—in addition to demonstrating how much more efficient electric driving can be. Once you get in the electric car zone, you’re hooked.
An Innovative Interior Accented by Vegan Suede and Leather
We’ve been spoiled by leather interiors in recent years. No one needs to sit on cloth seats if you don’t want to. But really, it’s the advancement in leather-like fabrics and surfaces that amaze the most. And when I learned that luxury automotive leathers are one of the biggest causes of Amazon deforestation, well, I’ll always be happy to choose leatherette.
In this regard, the Kia EV6 leaves me feeling really good, both morally and physically. The leather-like seat with suede-like inserts was comfortable and beautiful. Our test model had a vinyl-like covering on the dashboard and arm rest, others had an elegant wool-like fabric. The EV6 upholstery is made from recycled plastic bottles, up to 100 per vehicle, which is impressive.
Our GT-Line test model we had regular sunroof instead of a panoramic sunroof. Those add about 200 lbs. to the weight of the car so Kia decided against them. I’d gladly take the weight and subtract the miles, but Kia’s engineers were hyper focused on electric performance, so the pano roof was not an option. I did like that they included a sunroof at all, though.
One of the most impressive features is the wide glass panel that encompasses the driver and media screens, each 12.3” wide. The single pane of glass gives the cabin a streamlined and modern look.
Under the glass panel is a narrow screen that spans the dash, housing both climate control and quick-access buttons for functions found on the media screen. Near the center of the screen is a single orange button; tap it and the screen toggles between climate controls and quick access buttons. This is so clever!
An Open Airy Cabin, Anchored by This Command Center
Adding to the modernity is the command center that holds functions such as the starter button, gear selector and camera buttons; there is also a wireless charge pad and a console under the arm rest. A touch pad at the edge of the command center has icons for heated and cooled seats; tap them to set your comfort level.
The command center cantilevers out over an open storage bin and flat front floor, a great place for a handbag or other medium sized item (my giant tote bag would not fit, however). In the bin and under the dashboard are where you’ll find the USB ports: there 3 here plus a cigarette lighter adapter-style 12V outlet.
There are 5 USBs in all. Of the 3 under the command center, one is the standard USB-A type, and it’s the only one that also connects a smart phone to the media system for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The other two in the front are USB-C charge-only ports. There are two USB-C ports for rear seat passengers, too; they are embedded in the sides of the front seats.
Rear Seat Legroom That Goes on for Days
This is one of the largest rear seats you’ll find in a car this size. That’s because Kia did something interesting: The wheel base of the EV6 is the same as the Kia Telluride 3-row SUV, but the overall length is just an inch longer than the Kia Forte compact.
That means that the EV6 is not overly large but it has a lot of interior space. And that means there’s a ton of legroom, headroom and shoulder room. I did feel the sloping roofline in the back seat, but with a flat floor, there was plenty of room for my feet, and I had lots of space—good foot or so—between my knees and the seat in front of me.
The front seats are slim and shaped from hard plastic with sculpted headrests that jut forward from the seat. The overall effect is the cabin feels open and airy; rear seat passengers can easily see out the front window, see front seat passengers and conversation should be easy.
The Best Range and Charging in the Biz
This wasn’t a huge surprise; the Hyundai IONIQ 5 has the same electric car innards, so it would have been a surprise to see the EV6 with lower range or slower charging capability. Essentially, the EV6 can charge up to 217 miles of range in 18 minutes at a DC fast charge station and can fully recharge at a level 2 charger in about 7 hours (level 2 is basically the same as a household dryer outlet).
Kia has also made the EV6 vehicle-to-load capable, which means that you can plug in an adapter and use the EV6’s battery to power other things, such as appliances or small equipment (and wow could I have used this during so many power outages a few years ago!). You can see how this works in this video:
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There’s also a 110V household outlet on the lower portion of the rear seat; it’s great that you have lots and lots of ways to access all the power in this car.
EV6 in Versions: Light, Wind and GT-Line
The Kia EV 6 is available in 3 versions: Light, Wind and GT-Line. Light is the base model, available only in rear wheel drive with 167 HP and a 232-mile range; Wind is the mid-level and is available in both rear and all wheel drive, as is the GT-Line. Rear wheel drive models have 225HP and a 310-mile range; the all wheel drive editions have 320 HP and a 274-mile range. Here are how prices shake out:
- Light edition, $40,900
- Wind edition RWD, $47,000
- Wind edition AWD, $50,900
- Wind edition with tech package, $52,400
- GT-Line edition RWD, $51,200
- GT-Line edition AWD $55,900
- Destination charge: $1,215
The Light edition keeps things simple with fewer features, though the battery performance, iPedal and drive experience should be consistent with the other models. The GT-Line version that we drove was fully loaded with head up display, a sunroof (no panoramic roof, unfortunately) and vegan suede and leather. The Wind edition’s Tech Package adds some of the GT-Line features, such as surround view mirror, remote Smart Park, blind spot view monitor and rear collision avoidance.
And all models qualify for federal ($7,500) and state tax incentives (varies by state) which have been known to give buyers about a $10,000 advantage when buying an electric car.
Aggressively, But Not Overly, Priced
Even the uber-popular and impossible to find Kia Telluride has a starting price of $33,000, so that the EV6 starts at $40K was a bit surprising; I’d have thought it would start lower. But for context, that’s just a $1,000 more than the starting price of the Kia Niro EV.
Still, with tax incentives, lower cost of maintenance and the great feeling you get when passing by all those gas stations, the EV6 is on par with the market.
And it adds up to what we’ve been waiting for: a smart, well designed, well functioning electric car that delivers all the fun that electric driving promises.
Disclosure: I was Kia’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.