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The Kia EV6.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Kia’s new all-electric EV6 is the sexier sibling of the Hyundai Ioniq 5. The two share a platform and most of their gadgetry, but the Kia is sleeker and more attention-grabbing. Every time I parked anywhere, owners of other vehicles wanted a closer look and the comments were always positive.

The big news for the EV6 (and the Ioniq 5) is that the battery has an 800-volt charging system. Almost every other electric vehicle has a 400-volt system, which limits the potential speed of recharging – the only other production EV in Canada that uses an 800-volt system is the considerably more expensive Porsche Taycan. In theory, this means you can recharge to 80 per cent from 10 per cent in 18 minutes; in practice, good luck finding a fast charger that actually works at this speed. I never did, nor even close.

Review: Hyundai Ioniq 5 is the best first electric car and worthy of the hype, but good luck getting one

Like most EVs in Canada right now, the EV6 starts at the all-important price of $44,995, which means all its various trim levels are eligible for the immediate federal rebate of $5,000. That basic version has a 125-kilowatt motor powering only the rear wheels, and its 58-kilowatt-hour battery has a claimed range (in balmy, 23-degree weather) of 373 kilometres.

Add $8,000 to that and you’ll get a larger 168-kilowatt motor powered by a 77.4-kilowatt-hour battery, good for up to 499 kilometres, as well as a heat pump and various other features. For another $2,000, there’s an additional 71-kilowatt motor for the front wheels that knocks 58 kilometres off the total range.

All trim levels get a high-resolution digital display for the instrument cluster and the central touch screen.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

My tester was the top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive GT2, which costs $61,995 and includes all the driver’s assistance and convenience features that Kia can think of, as well as larger wheels and a premium sound system.

I drove the EV6 in wintry Ontario weather. My maximum range, which was claimed at 441 kilometres on a warm summer day, showed itself to be 330 kilometres at 2 degrees Celsius. When the temperature dropped to minus 8, the range dropped to 282 kilometres.

An old guy in an old pickup truck approached me in a parking lot and wanted to know how far the EV6 could go. Five hundred kilometres, I told him, not wanting to get into the specifics of seasonal ranges, and he sucked in his teeth. “Wow!” he said. “It’s crazy what they can do with cars now.”

Tech specs

2022 Kia EV6
  • Base price/as tested: $44,995/$61,995
  • Motor/battery: Single 125-kilowatt motor, or twin 165-kilowatt rear and 71-kilowatt front motors/58 kilowatt-hours or 77.4 kilowatt-hours
  • Transmission/drive: Single-speed rear-wheel or all-wheel drive
  • Alternatives: Hyundai Ioniq 5, Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model 3

Looks

The EV6 is officially a crossover rather than an SUV, which means it’s lower and looks more like a stretched hatchback. Its bodywork is very smooth, with flush electronic door handles – a Kia first, apparently, that’s reminiscent of Tesla and which I think of as just one more thing to break.

The slippery design has an impressive drag coefficient (0.28), meaning it’s aerodynamically efficient. EVs have an easier time of avoiding drag because they don’t need to push cooling air through their radiators, and their underbody floors are smoother, with no driveshafts or exhaust piping to disrupt the air flow.

The profile is not completely bland, however. It includes an attractive character line across the bottom of the doors that sweeps up to the rear taillights; the South Korean designers call this a “side sill garnish,” while the Canadians call it a “hockey stick,” and it makes all the difference.

Interior

There’s plenty of space inside the cabin for both rows of seats. It helps that the gear selector is a rotary dial that takes up little space, though it’s not officially a gear selector because electric vehicles don’t have gears. It just toggles between Drive and Reverse, with a central button for Park. This also means there is extra space beneath the central console for storage.

The lack of a driveshaft to the rear wheels means there’s a smooth floor for all passengers and a fifth adult can sit comfortably in the middle of the rear seat. There’s reasonable head space for everyone, too.

All trim levels get a high-resolution digital display for the instrument cluster and the central touch screen, which is placed behind one piece of curved glass similar to the BMW iX. The front seats are heated, and if you pay more, you can have a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

The lack of a driveshaft to the rear wheels means there’s a smooth floor for all passengers.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

A few quibbles, though. Like the Ioniq 5, the EV6 cuts down on the total number of buttons by having just two actual knobs, one at each end of a row of central touch-screen buttons. These share duty, with the touch of a touch-button, between audio controls and the temperature. If – more like, when – you forget to set the right button, you’ll end up cranking the volume when you want to turn up the heat, and vice-versa. I don’t think this is something I would ever get used to.

The B-pillar between the front and rear doors seems particularly wide and poorly placed, obscuring quick shoulder checks of the lane to the left. Blind-spot collision avoidance would theoretically do away with the need for over-the-shoulder checks, but that feature is not provided on the base model.

Finally, the EV6 has neither the panoramic sunroof nor the reclining driver’s seat of the Ioniq 5, though these are features only available on the top-end version of the Hyundai.

Performance

The EV6 is quicker than most: the more powerful all-wheel-drive version makes 320 horsepower from its two motors, and a combined 446 pound-feet of instant torque. Zero-to-100 kilometres an hour comes up in 5.2 seconds, but if that’s not fast enough, there’ll be a GT version later this year.

There are different electronic driving modes that alter the relationship between the two motors; for example, in Sport mode, the EV6 is almost exclusively in all-wheel drive, while in Eco, it’s reluctant to use the front motor unless it’s really needed. Oh, and you can change the humming sound of the motors inside the cabin, though the differences were so subtle I barely noticed.

The EV6 has an 800-volt charging system, which, in theory, means you can recharge to 80 per cent from 10 per cent in 18 minutes.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

I drove the EV6 in Sport on some of my favourite winding roads that cut through the Canadian Shield north of Kingston. The car had constant response and didn’t really feel like an electric vehicle as much as it did a gas vehicle that was always in the right gear. It skittered around on the bumps, however, with its large wheels and heavy-duty shocks. Perhaps the sporty GT will have a more tractable suspension.

My longer but often brisk drive showed an average of 25.5 kilowatt-hours of electrical consumption, which is not bad considering the cold weather.

Technology

There’s lots of clever stuff in the EV6, much of it thanks to being built on Hyundai/Kia’s versatile new E-GMP platform. The dual 400-volt and 800-volt charging system is standard. Pay for the longer-range version and that includes a heat pump, which means the cabin temperature doesn’t deplete the total range as much as non-equipped vehicles. The car will even supply up to 1.92 kilovolt amps of charge to power external equipment, which is enough to trickle-charge another electric vehicle.

There are different levels of driver’s assistance and safety features available. The cleverest? Apparently, if the EV6 senses a forward collision is inevitable, it will check if it’s better to swerve around the obstacle and will do so automatically. I never did check this feature to gauge its effectiveness.

Like other Kias and Hyundais, the EV6 will let you drive without your hands on the wheel for up to two minutes at a time – every other manufacturer, including Tesla, cuts you off after 15 to 30 seconds. If traffic is more engaging, however, the EV6 will want your hands back on the wheel much more readily.

There’s no rear wiper, which is also lacking on the Ioniq 5 and a serious omission for that vehicle, but the EV6′s rear window slopes far more and doesn’t really need the wiper to stay clear.

Cargo

The EV6 will hold 690 litres behind its rear seats, including some shallow space in a hidden area beneath the trunk floor.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

If overall space is important to you, the Ioniq 5 is the better choice; it has a cargo area of 770 litres, while the EV6 will hold 690 litres behind its rear seats, including some shallow space in a hidden area beneath the trunk floor. That’s not bad, though, and if you drop those rear seats flat, the EV6 will be good for 1,322 litres.

There’s also reasonable cubby space in the tray beneath the central console at the front, and all doors have cubbies large enough for generous water bottles. There’s even a small, 24-litre frunk underneath the hood, big enough for the charging cable or some basic emergency supplies.

The verdict

Like the Ioniq 5, the Kia EV6 provides an enormous amount of cutting-edge technology for a very reasonable price; it’s just low enough to qualify for the federal government rebate, as well as all provincial rebates. Kia expects most buyers will opt for the more expensive packages, however, which are still within the rebate’s range.

The main advantage is the superquick 800-volt charging system, which is difficult to take full advantage of with our current charging infrastructure. In a couple of years, however, such fast charging should be far more accessible.

Most buyers will compare the EV6 with the Ioniq 5. Neither will disappoint, but while the Hyundai blends into the background with a few extra creature comforts and a little more practical space, the Kia stresses its sleek and sporty aspirations. Which you prefer is up to you.

James Engelsman and Thomas Holland from Throttle House compare Kia’s new EV6 electric vehicle against it’s retro-looking cousin, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 to see which is the better daily driver.

The Globe and Mail

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