At a roundabout in Blanchardstown last week, I found myself circling alongside a Hyundai Ioniq 5, two Nissan Leafs and a VW ID4. On the sliproad to the M50 I was behind a Tesla Model 3 taxi. Who says the revolution hasn't arrived yet?
The beauty of revolution is that it overturns long-held norms. Alongside the tech revolution is one of brand perception. In the white heat of the tech advances, the old guard is being overhauled.
Tesla is now firmly ensconced as a premium brand. The Korean brands, once budget buys, are now mainstream players and nibbling at the bumpers of premium buyers as well. Hyundai and Kia already feature on driveways of the leafiest, most affluent suburbs.
They’ve turbocharged up the sales charts to become serious players on the Irish market. And they’ve embraced the electric revolution.
The EV6 is Kia’s boldest move yet. In a market fixated with boxy SUVs, Kia has once more set its designers the task of pioneering a new course.
When the annals of Korean motoring history are written, a lot of the credit must go to the Kia design team. At nearly every step the seemingly junior partner in the giant Hyundai conglomerate has outshone its sibling and other rivals in styling and design.
Real sports appeal
The Picanto of old was a cute and cuddly city car, the Soul is pure automotive funk, the Optima has Maserati undertones, the Stinger should send BMW's designers back to the drawing board and now this EV6 shows you can take an SUV-sized car and add real sports appeal.
Forget the silly crossover coupes with the sloping rear rooflines. They simply look like someone dropped a bag of cement from a height on to the rear of an SUV. This EV6 has scale, substance and head-turning looks.
The launch photos didn’t really do it justice. The first time I physically came across this car several weeks ago, it was parked alongside a line of other EV newcomers to the market. It was the car that stood out. And it was parked up next to the latest Tesla Model Y.
Elon Musk could do well to spend some of his fortune on luring Kia's design team to Tesla. In fact, every car brand right now could look to Kia for sharp styling cues.
Inside, the cabin doesn’t try to be futuristic or confusing: controls are largely where you would expect them. The switches are orientated towards the driver, while the high-set centre divide between the front seats delivers a cockpit layout.
Yet some features, like an adjustable control bar of buttons beneath the main touchscreen, would do Audi proud. For family practicality, the EV6 has plenty of legroom front and centre, with a boot that delivers 490 litres, albeit on a large open space and again not as ample as that offered by the Hyundai Ioniq 5 or Tesla for that matter.
While Hyundai has opted to offer the Ioniq 5 with a smaller 58kW battery pack on entry models (delivering a range of 384km), this Kia comes with a 77.4kWh battery pack powering a single 229hp rear-mounted motor (all-wheel drive versions are not planned for sale in Ireland).
You have a choice of Earth specification running on 19-inch alloys with a claimed range of 528km or GT-Line on 20-inch wheels claiming 504km. Those figures are better than those claimed by either Tesla for its Model Y or Hyundai for the bigger battery version of the Ioniq 5.
A key selling point for this Kia, and many of the latest arrivals, is the recharging rate. Thanks to its advance charging system, it can take power at up to 233kW, which means at one of the five Ionity stations in the State, Kia claims you can charge the EV6 up to 80 per cent capacity in as little as 18 minutes.
The real boon for potential buyers is that this Kia seems to be able to live up to its range promises. While certain brands have sometimes overpromised on range, the Kia does seem to live up to 400km-plus range, even with some spirited driving in Sports mode.
And it doesn’t end there. This EV6 can also convert to a power supplier, in that you can plug in other devices and run them from the car’s big battery in the event of a power cut, for example. Kia claims you can operate a 55-inch TV and air-conditioner simultaneously for more than 24 hours.
On the road, power is transferred to the tarmac smoothly, if not quite as rapidly as we have come to expect from an EV – or expected from this sporty-styled car. It’s a sign of the times that a 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds for a proper family five-seater seemed a little sluggish. It's relatively quick in Sports mode but it lacks a punch in either Eco or Normal settings.
If you want to compete with the Tesla Model Y (just 3.7 seconds for the Performance version or five seconds for the long-range one) then you will have to wait until next autumn, when the high-performance GT version of EV6 is due to land in Ireland, boasting a 0-100km/h time of 3.5 seconds.
The EV6 boasts some deft handling that belies a car weighing in at more than two tonnes, even if it’s not as sharp through the bends as the Model Y. It's a shame that all-wheel-drive versions are not coming to Ireland, for they make the most of transferring the available power onto the road and through the turns. It also stops the little tail wag you can encounter in the EV6 if you lay down too much power on the apex of a wet corner when in sports mode. It's fun to see you can get that sort of rear wheel drive fun from a car of this size - and an electric one - but if you are fixated on functional energy useage then all-wheel drive is always the way to go.
This Kia also boasts a suspension set-up that washes out most of the worst bumps, though at slower speeds you do feel a little too much feedback into the cabin from the road and it’s still not quite as smooth as VW Group’s EV platform that underpins several cars across its brands. If EV6 buyers get the chance, they should opt for the 19-inch alloys to improve ride quality, though they will not want to forgo all the extras offered on GT-Line spec just to get the smaller wheels. A deal can be done, I'm sure.
Comparisons with Teslas and the latest VW Group models are inevitable for this Kia is arriving on to the Irish market alongside a fleet of direct rivals. And while some may regard Tesla as purely a premium play, this Kia is a world away from the bargain option the brand once represented. With a price of €50,000 for the Earth version and €54,345 for the GT-Line, this is a Kia that’s playing with the premium set.
Yet the company is confident it’s competitive and customers seem to agree.
The EV6 is effectively sold out for the rest of this year, and a Kia Ireland spokesman said it could easily sell more than the 500 it’s due to get next year. We are in the midst of a microchip shortage at present and the Koreans are being hit like everyone else, but when things settle down, most buyers are expected to opt for the GT-Line, thanks largely to the long list of extra equipment on board for a price walk of €4,345.
The €50,000 starting price might seem relatively high, but when you take account of the size of the battery and range, then it’s competitively priced. Certainly compared to the Tesla Model Y, which starts at €69,800.
The Tesla may be more fun to drive, the VW ID.4, Audi Q4 e-tron and Skoda Enyaq deliver better rides and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 a bit more practical space. Yet none of its rivals can match the EV6 when it comes to looks, while the fit and finish of this Kia can match – and beat – anything on offer from the established premium brands. And judged against them, it seems like a competitive price.
The electric age is upon us and buyers with ¤50,000 or more now have an impressive array of EVs to choose from, if they can secure delivery. While Tesla is the poster boy of the revolution, the EV6 is its most serious challenger to date.
Kia EV6 GT-Line: the lowdown
- Power 168kW electric motor putting out 229hp and 350Nm of torque with a single-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
- CO2 emissions (annual motor tax) 0g/km (€120)
- Electric consumption 16.5-17.2kWh/100km
- Battery capacity 77.4kWh
- 0-100km/h: 7.3 seconds
- Price: €54,345 as tested (starts at €50,000)
- Verdict Seemingly high price point, but well worth the spend.