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BMW i4 and the Kia EV6.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

Twenty or even 10 years ago, a faceoff between a Kia and a BMW would have gotten us laughed off the page. Yet here we are. Both automakers have recently launched stylish liftback electric vehicles that occupy the same size bracket – between compact and mid-size – and are even in the same pricing ballpark.

Yes, the Kia’s $44,995 base price is $10,000 below the base i4, but both now qualify for the $5,000 federal rebate and you don’t get much motor or battery at that price.

Four other EV6 trims go up to $61,995, and include a middle model that’s priced almost exactly the same as the base i4′s $54,990. In the BMW, that sum gets you a single 335-horsepower motor driving the rear wheels, while for an additional $5, the EV6 AWD Long Range provides a motor at each end delivering a combined 320 horsepower.

The EV6 also offers a 225-horsepower long-range rear-wheel drive model with a claimed range of 499 kilometres for $52,995. The all-wheel-drive EV6 models weigh in at 441 kilometres while the base i4 claims 482 kilometres. (All prices are the manufacturers’ suggested retail prices, excluding freight, taxes, and so on).

Of course, you can spend a lot more for the i4 if you get carried away; the test car’s options brought the price up to $71,890; plus, there’s the 536-horsepower M50 version, which starts at $72,990. Surprisingly, the base-price i4 does include a sunroof and power liftgate, both absent on the same-price Kia. But BMW nails you if you want something as basic (for Canada) as heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Those only come as part of the $9,400 Essential package, which in turn requires a $1,500 leather-upholstery upgrade. Ah, those manipulative Euro luxury brands.

The Kia test sample, incidentally, was the range-topping GT-Line Package 2 ($61,995) but apart from bigger wheels, it’s mechanically the same as the i4-matching AWD LR.

Tech specs

BMW i4

Base price/as tested: $54,990/$71,890

Motor/battery: Single 335 horsepower/81.5-kilowatt hour (net)

Transmission/drive: Single-speed/rear-wheel drive

Energy consumption (litre equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.1 city/2.2 highway

Maximum DC charging capability/range: 250 kilowatts/482 kilometres

Minimum recharge time 10 to 80 per cent: 31 minutes

Kia EV6 AWD Long Range

Base price/as tested: $54,995/$62,245

Motor/battery: Dual, 320 horsepower/77.4 kilowatt hour (net)

Transmission/drive: single-speed/all-wheel drive

Energy consumption (litre equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.0 city/2.5 highway

Maximum DC charging capability/range: 350 kilowatts/441 kilometres

Minimum recharge time 10 to 80 per cent: 18 minutes

Looks

The Kia is sleek in its own way but bridges the gap between car and crossover.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The BMW is unashamedly a car, built low with a fashionable (if not especially original) four-door-coupe silhouette and classic long-hood/short-cab proportions. The 19-inch wheels and aero kit are part of the optional M Sport package. BMW’s latest interpretation of the kidney grille, however, is standard.

The Kia is sleek in its own way but bridges the gap between car and crossover – about a hands-width taller than the BMW but about the same distance lower than most conventional crossovers. Governments actually classify it as a station wagon. While the Kia is shorter in length than the BMW, it has a longer wheelbase.

Interior

Despite the BMW’s more confined cockpit, it has better sightlines to the front and side.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

That longer wheelbase, combined with cab-forward proportions, endows the Kia with much more cabin volume, though even in the Kia (and more so in the BMW) tight legroom may impose a knees-up posture on adults in the rear. The Kia also has a flat cabin floor while the BMW retains a centre tunnel for its non-existent driveshaft.

In both cars, the driver is confronted by a superwide free-standing screen that houses the 12.3-inch digital gauge clusters and the centre-dash touch screens (12.3-inch on the Kia, 14.9 on the BMW) under a single pane. The Kia caters better to those who’d rather not rely on a screen for basic climate control functions, albeit mostly by touch-sensitive switches, not physical knobs and buttons.

Multiway seat and steering-column adjustment on both cars should accommodate most drivers, though in the BMW you’re lower-slung and flanked by a conventional centre console (with a lever-style drive selector). There’s vastly more stowage space in the Kia, which positions a rotary-knob drive selector atop a floating centre console that leaves open space below, between the footwells. Despite the BMW’s more confined cockpit, however, it has better sightlines to the front and side.

Performance

According to manufacturers’ claims, the Kia (zero to 100 kilometres an hour in 5.2 seconds) is quicker than the BMW (5.7), but our test gear came much closer than that: 5.35 and 5.5 seconds, respectively. We expected the BMW’s lack of all-wheel drive might hobble it off the line, but it had no trouble finding enough traction to achieve “right-now!” departures the equal of the Kia’s. Of course, that might change on slippery surfaces.

Both cars ride firmly and corner confidently, but we preferred the BMW’s more composed ride motions, while conversely the Kia’s steering feels more natural and fluent (a judgment that might change on i4s with the M Sport Pro package that includes adaptive suspension and variable sport steering). Each car lets you program fake “engine” noise, but to our ears, BMW’s version sounds more pleasing.

Planning a long trip? The BMW promises more range (482 kilometres standard, 454 on 19-inch wheels) than the all-wheel drive Kia (441 kilometres), but the Kia is equipped to recharge quicker if you can find a DC charger with 350 kilowatts; the BMW’s fast-charge limit is 250 kilowatts.

Technology

Both can be equipped with a high level of assisted-drive features (assuming you want them), but even the base $45,000 EV6 has more standard options than the base $55,000 i4; the BMW makes you spend almost $11,400 more to get a full suite of features to match what the EV6 includes on the $58,000 model. On the infotainment and connectivity side, the BMW is much more competitive, though it lacks wireless charging (a $350 stand-alone option).

Cargo

Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The Kia, bottom, has almost 50 per cent more seats-up cargo volume than the BMW, top, though you wouldn’t think so, to look at the floor area.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

By the numbers, the Kia has almost 50 per cent more seats-up cargo volume (24.4 cubic feet) than the BMW (16.6), though you wouldn’t think so to look at the floor area. Most of the difference is in height. Advantage BMW, though, for its standard power hatch, and 40/20/40-split seat that also folds flusher with the cargo deck. Both have some hidden underfloor storage, and in the Kia you can remove the deck altogether to deepen the cargo hold.

The verdict

So yes, you can have an electric BMW for the same price as a Kia of similar size and performance. Or looking at it another way, you can buy a Kia that’s dynamically and functionally competitive with a BMW.

You do get more standard kit and technology over all on the Kia (even if a lot of the Kia’s extra tech is assisted-drive features you may not want) as well as all-wheel drive and more space.

Then again, you can personalize the BMW with optional interior finishes and an M Sport package without inflating the price above $60,000. It boils down to this: To get a premium, athletic BMW for about the price of a Kia, you might have to sacrifice a lot of bells and whistles. So how attached are you to heated seats?

The i4 is BMW’s first EV sports sedan, but it is built on a shared platform with gas vehicles. James Engelsman and Thomas Holland from Throttle House like the acceleration, but lean toward the dedicated EVs

The Globe and Mail

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