The EV revolution is really starting to shake up the “old order” of incumbent manufacturers. But one of the most surprising brands emerging from the upheaval as a winner is Kia. Alongside its parent company Hyundai, Kia has been producing very credible EVs based on existing internal combustion engine platforms for some years now. With the EV6, Kia is making a huge play for a seat at the table of pioneering, premium electric car manufacturers.

Kia EV6: IONIQ 5’s Non-Identical Twin

It’s worth underlining right at the outset that the EV6 has a lot in common with the Hyundai IONIQ 5, and there’s a good reason for that. The two cars share a platform, and the infotainment system plus dashboard display have a very close family resemblance. However, physically these two vehicles are quite different. Where the IONIQ 5 has gone for a “retro modern” look, from certain angles, the EV6 has a marked resemblance to the Jaguar I-Pace. While the latter is a great-looking car, the EV6 is even better.

The EV6 wins over the IONIQ 5 for external aesthetics, too. The front end and roofline of the EV6 provide a much sportier look than the IONIQ 5, although this is still a crossover SUV masquerading as a hatchback, like the Hyundai car. It’s much bigger than you think it is, its size hidden by the stance and roofline. This car weights nearly 2.1 tons – quite a bit more than a dual-motor Tesla Model 3, and even a little more than the Tesla Model Y as well.

Another very commendable aspect of the EV6 is just how high quality it feels. Not that recent Kia cars had a problem in this area, but the interior trim, panel work and door “thunk” all make the EV6 feel incredibly well engineered from durable components. There is a definite premium sense.

Kia EV6: Performance, Driving Experience and Range

One area where the EV6 feels better than the IONIQ 5 is driving experience. The IONIQ 5, particularly in dual-motor form, is excellent, and handles much better than a car that big should. But the EV6 is manages to improve on that. The dual-motor AWD GT Line S car I borrowed was an extremely engaging car to drive. It’s quick enough for what is meant to be a family and load-lugging vehicle and feels quite nimble for such a heavy vehicle. That said, while the ride quality is decent, it is a little firm, which is part of the reason why its handling is reassuring.

The car I had was the GT Line S, which has dual motors delivering 321bhp. This is enough to propel the car to 62mph in an impressive 5.2 seconds. There are lesser 226bhp versions with just rear-wheel-drive that take 7.3 seconds to reach 62mph, which still isn’t bad. There will also be a 577bhp GT version that promises a Tesla-competitive 62mph sprint of 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 161mph.

Whereas Hyundai is offering the IONIQ 5 with two battery choices, all Kia EV6 models in the UK have the same 77.4kWh pack. This does still make for a variety of ranges, depending on motor power and configuration. The RWD versions have up to a competitive 328-mile range, and the AWD’s range of 314 miles is also good, considering the performance on offer. The GT only manages 252 miles, however, which is significantly less than a similarly quick Tesla Model Y Performance (which also hasn’t arrived in the UK yet).

The EV6 also offers the same fast charging as the IONIQ 5, taking just 18 minutes to get back to 80% capacity on a 350kW charger. The IONIQ 5’s party trick of bidirectional power is available, too, with the EV6 able to deliver Watts to external devices via an optional extra, which plugs into the CCS-based charge port.

Kia EV6: Interior

The Kia EV6 isn’t as radical as the IONIQ 5 inside. The appearance has a few elements that refer back to previous Kia cars, although the styling is more futuristic. The rotating knob for drive, reverse and neutral is retained. But the motor power button is on the steering wheel. If you like having discrete buttons, functions including the heated and ventilated seat controls can be found on the front of the central console. Touch controls are also available for key air conditioning settings, as well as for rapidly switching between infotainment system modes.

Where the EV6 is less radical than the IONIQ 5 is in areas like the glove compartment and central console. The glove compartment is quite deep and capacious but isn’t a pull-out drawer with the size offered by the IONIQ5. The central console is also fixed on the EV6, whereas the top IONIQ 5 trim allows this to be moved forwards and backwards. The central console does integrate a wireless phone charger, which unusually uses the corner of the armrest to keep the phone in place.

There are some nice touches in the rear. The air vents for rear passengers are in the B pillars, rather than in the middle, and at first there doesn’t appear to be anywhere to plug in your devices. But there are actually USB C ports hidden on the inner edges of the front seats, which is a novel but sensible place to put them.

The front seats themselves are comfortable, and on our car were covered by a soft material and not leather. Our car had a sunroof, which isn’t even an option for the IONIQ 5 in the UK, although it’s not panoramic. The rear seats have a decent amount of knee room. However, if you are over six foot tall, the low roofline will be a drawback for headroom.

One area that is essentially the same as the IONIQ 5 is the infotainment screen interface. The general look is vaguely reminiscent of the wraparound screen of the BMW iX and i4, but the screens are more clearly discrete. The innovative features first seen in the IONIQ 5 remain, such as the use of side cameras when indicating. These reveal video windows on the dashboard, which augment the blind spot detection system by showing you anything close on the inside.

Kia EV6: Luggage Capacity

Although the EV6 looks like a hatchback, when it comes to cargo carrying this car is clearly in the SUV class. The basic capacity is 490 liters, which is on par with Volkswagen Group SUVs such as the Audi Q4 e-tron but is way behind the Tesla Model Y and less than the IONIQ 5. There’s a removable floor that allows you to have a flat loading lip or more space (520 liters), whichever you want.

Drop the rear seats down, and the space expands to 1,300 liters, but that’s quite a lot less than the IONIQ 5’s 1,587 liters. It’s less than a compact estate car / station wagon such as a Mercedes C-class, too. So this is an area of some disappointment. There is a frunk, although this is only 20 liters in the dual-motor cars such as the one I had. On rear-motor cars it’s a much more useful 52 liters. On the plus side, the EV6 is rated to tow 1,600kg braked, enough for a caravan, although this will significantly reduce range.

Kia EV6: Better Than A Tesla Model Y?

The most clear competitor for the EV6, other than its sibling the IONIQ 5, is the Tesla Model Y, which has just begun delivery in the UK. The Kia car is around 10% behind on range, a little slower, and offers distinctly less cargo carrying capacity. But it is also cheaper. The basic “Air” trim RWD version costs £40,945 ($55,000), although the car I drove was £51,945 ($70,000), which is around £3,000 ($4,000) less than a Tesla Model Y Long Range.

The most Tesla-competitive version of the EV6, which isn’t yet available in the UK, is the GT model. This will be priced at £58,345 ($78,000) in the UK, which is £6,645 ($9,000) less than the Tesla Model Y Performance (also not yet available in the UK). It’s also worth noting that Kia EV6 prices are even more competitive in the USA, with the entry-level model $18,000 cheaper than the Tesla Model Y Long Range.

Overall, the EV6 isn’t quite the best EV ever made. But it is very, very good. It looks great, it is extremely well equipped, the build quality is excellent, the driving experience is assured, range is decent with great charging speeds, and the technology is superb. The only weaknesses are the limited rear headroom and reduced luggage space compared to some other vehicles in its class. Other than that, the EV6 shows that Kia is fast becoming one of the premium electric vehicle makers to be reckoned with.