We often judge cars on their speed out on the road, but with the Kia EV6 it’s all about its speed when plugged in to the charger, writes Sean O’Grady
The most remarkable thing about the highly impressive new all-electric Kia EV6 isn’t so much what it’s like on the move (pretty good, as it happens), but what happens when it’s tethered to an electric car charging point. Most electric cars are very fast on the road (ie accelerative) because of the immediate way an electric motor turns energy into force. They’re not so fast at getting themselves charged with electricity, though. The Kia is class-leading in this field – it really is very fast indeed. In the right conditions it will take you just four and a half minutes to “top up” enough electricity to get you, say, 60 miles to your destination, and only 18 minutes to go from 10 per cent charge to 80 per cent, which should be good for near enough a couple of hundred miles, if you’re careful with your right foot. This is very game-changing stuff because it brings the battery electric vehicle that much closer to the kind of convenience that people are used to from their familiar petrol- and diesel-fuelled vehicles.
The snag – there always seems to be one when we try to go green – is that such ultra-fast charging stations are rare in the UK – only about 16 at the moment, and the new Kia is one of the few models capable of being subjected to their massive 800 volt power surge without getting fried. The better news is that the Kia EV6’s technology is so smart that its own motor will convert a charge from a more commonplace 400 volt charger into 800 volts; and what’s more the car can “export” its power to other external uses – topping up another electric car, say, or powering a domestic appliance (Kia say it can run a 55-inch telly and an air conditioning unit for more than 24 hours). In everyday usage the idea is that you shouldn’t need to use a commercial charger much anyway, given the range available; overnight charging on a home charger takes about seven hours. If you’re mad enough, or desperate enough, to plug it into the mains with a three-pin plug, you’ll be hanging about for nearly three days – a purely theoretical proposition, I’d suggest.
The standard range of the new car should also ease range anxiety. In our recent coolish weather I was able to get about 250 miles out of a fully charged EV6’s 77.4kWh battery pack without trying, and some 300-plus miles should be yours in more ideal conditions (hot weather helps batteries retain their power, and a gentle driving style can make all the difference). Kia and its sister brand Hyundai have done more than any mainstream manufacturer to make the electric car a viable proposition for the mainstream car buyer, and it seems a shame that they don’t get anything like the credit that Tesla does for its sometimes flawed efforts.
Maybe I should mention how the thing drives. Acceleration to about 30mph is supercar fast, all the variants feel safe and secure on the road, the handling is nice and predictable and it has fine levels of comfort, thanks to some well-chosen damper settings – no shocks there, I’m pleased say. There’s a choice of rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter running an electric motor on each axle and with a boost to the power output, but I can’t say there’s much practical advantage in going for the more meaty version unless you genuinely need four-wheel drive. As with the Ford Mach-E there’ll be a super-sporty GT version arriving in due course, which will be more of a plaything than anything. The base model EV6 in “Air” trim, which does without electrically adjustable seats, a “head-up” virtual display and has no electric motor on the tailgate, is (relatively speaking) excellent value at about £40,000, though even so a poignant reminder of how far away electric cars still are to be affordable for what politicians call “hard-working families”.
Being a Kia, the EV6 hasn’t forgotten that it’s supposed to be a car rather than a status symbol or fashion statement, and the cabin combines modernity in style and traditional functionality. There are proper buttons as well as a moderately sized touchscreen, which naturally boasts full connectivity and can be had with voice recognition. The steeply raked rear hatch opens to reveal a high sill but commendably flat and useful load area above all the lithium-ion batteries. The seats are plush and comfortable, and I preferred the faux suede to the “vegan leather” (ie vinyl) option. It’s not a shocking-looking futuristic look, but smart and very contemporary in its crossover semi-SUV looks, with a strong hint of Tesla/Porsche at the front and a cut-off “Kamm tail” at the rear adding some more style and, possibly, aerodynamic efficiency.
As for drawbacks, I couldn’t find many. You can accidentally turn the heated seats on when trying to adjust the radio, there’s no rear screen wash/wipe, and the overdesigned door handles are awkward to use, because they stick out towards you at about 60 degrees. Apart from that, your Kia will take you into the electric future without ever having to worry about whether you’ll arrive at your destination. The Kia EV6 comes in a choice of red, blue, black, white and grey – but there’s no option to have your green car painted green. Never mind; it’s still about as green as it gets.