Game space

Electric vehicle game changer, Kia style

In a few years, in discussions about the car that has had the most profound influence on the automotive industry, there will probably be a picture of this machine: Kia’s EV6.

History may well remember that it was not necessarily the most affordable electric vehicle, nor the fastest, the most beautiful or, perhaps, not even the most popular.

But more than any other, this car has built a bridge between fossil fuel engines and emission-free electric vehicles – a bridge that many Australians are about to cross.

The EV6 will be remembered as a car that many modern families could afford and met their needs – a beautiful, intelligent and compelling vehicle that almost any driver could adopt without fear or compromise.

Let’s face it – one of the main things that still keeps some buyers away from the EV pool is the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, they might need to make some sacrifices. But that’s not the case with the EV6.

In a world where electric cars are mostly expensive and a bit scary, the Kia is neither.

It took all the ambition, technology and imagination of the dazzling Korean automotive industry and combined them into one formidable vehicle. Well, two vehicles. The EV6 and its alter ego, the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

The two Korean-made cars share most of their underpinnings but are very different. In fact, for two cars that are almost identical in many ways, they are surprisingly different.

The boxy, futuristic shape of the Ioniq certainly screams “EV” and commands attention. Her George Jetson looks are futuristic and unique.

The EV6, despite riding on the same platform, looks much more “normal” – muscular and shapely – with a sleek profile like the part-SUV, part-hatchback that it is.

While many competing electric models are simply electrified versions of an existing nameplate, the Kia is purpose-built – most noticeable when climbing to find there’s no space-stealing transmission tunnel in the middle of the cockpit.

Buyers will initially have a choice of three models and two transmissions. The entry-level Air sets the bar at $67,900 plus road charges. Step up to the GT line with more fruit, but the same single-motor configuration for $74,990.

The GT-Line AWD, as tested, introduces a second motor, driving the front wheels as well as the rear, resulting in a spirited 239 kilowatts and 605 Nm of power. The punchy dual motor output converts into a smart acceleration from 0 to 100 in 5.2 seconds. The single engine does it in a lazy 7.3 seconds.

Neither is particularly fast for an EV, but the performance is more than adequate for a family machine. A fearsome GT model will arrive by the end of 2022 with supercar performance.

The EV6 has been on the market for the better part of a year, but due to supply issues (lots of people want one) it’s been a while to arrive. Those ordering now have been advised not to expect delivery until 2024.

So why did it make so much noise – with dozens of best car awards?

Well, it’s as sophisticated and as well-equipped as a high-end German or Japanese rival, but can be had for around half the price. It’s easy to ride – with so much pace and space, it swallows up people and their belongings.

The styling is eye-catching without being over the top (which Koreans tend to do). The checkered flag-style pattern on the passenger dash had the potential to look cheap, but in reality, it’s quite the opposite.

The three EV6 models offer an impressive electric range (between around 480 km and 550 km depending on the model).

It is an accomplished and comfortable road cruiser, equipped with a full set of gadgets to ensure correct speed and driving positioning.

It has perhaps the best head-up display – the numbers are so vivid they look like they’ve been painted onto the vehicle in front.

Likewise, the cockpit is a study in efficiency and modernity – with minimal buttons except those needed to start the car and select forward or reverse.

The instrument display is configurable in several ways, but always shows the remaining range and the percentage of charge used. There’s also a small message, next to the charging display, telling you how far it is from the next charging point. It’s remarkable how frequent and close together these charging points have become, even in this relative infancy of electric vehicles.

The central infotainment screen is also a tactile affair, with very few knobs or buttons used in the minimalist cabin.

The glove box offers a handy space where the center console would normally be – a good place to store a purse or a few shopping bags without needing to use the (power-opening) trunk. There are also a few extra storage bins, but they’re so low they’re nearly impossible to use (at least while driving the car).

The artificial leather seats look smart and offer decent support, and in the GT Line they were heated, ventilated and electrically adjustable (how else?).

Even better, the small, flush door handles pop out when the car senses the key nearby.

Maybe they will talk about it too in a decade.

KIA EV6 GT-LINE AWD

* HOW BIG: Amazingly. From a distance, it looks like a mid-size sedan. But those sleek lines mask a car the size of a Holden Commodore (remember that?). Plenty of space for a family of five, plus luggage.

* AT WHAT SPEED? This one is quite fast, with its two motors and all-wheel grip. The high-performance GT model will deliver sub-four-second performance.

* HOW THIRST? The EV6 has a range of up to 550 km.

* HOW MANY? Prices start from $67,000 for the base two-wheel-drive model. The GT-Line AWD costs $82,990 plus road charges.