Kia has come a long way in recent years.
The dependable South Korean auto maker has always been reasonably popular in Australia, thanks to its large range of affordable, reliable (if somewhat dull) cars like the Rio and the Sportage. But Kia – as well as South Korean car brands more generally – used to be very much pigeonholed into that ‘boring’ characterisation. In recent years, however, they’ve really started to shrug that dowdy image thanks to some rather inspired vehicles.
First, there was the Kia Stinger: a four-door performance sedan that very cleverly filled the void left by the demise of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. Killer styling, a throaty twin-turbo V6 and luxurious fit-out made it a truly special vehicle. While the car was never quite the sales success Kia had hoped for – the vehicle now facing discontinuation at the end of 2022 – it certainly moved the needle for what Aussies expected from the brand.
Another success for Kia has been the diminutive Picanto. One of the cheapest and smallest new cars on sale in the country, the Picanto has set a new high watermark for what you can expect from a city car – and the GT variant, while hardly a hot hatch, is an amazing drive and perhaps, dollar for dollar, the best new enthusiast’s car on the market today.
If the Picanto and the Stinger were a one-two punch, Kia has now thrown a third killing blow with the announcement of their newest electric vehicle: the EV6. High-tech, incredibly good looking, practical and with surprisingly hefty performance credentials to boot, it might just be the most exciting car reveal of 2021.
The Kia EV6 is a compact crossover SUV and the third vehicle to utilise the Hyundai Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which is shared with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the also recently-unveiled Genesis GV60. Where the Genesis is aimed at luxury buyers and the Hyundai at a more broad audience, the EV6 is a more performance-focused vehicle – a characterisation its muscular, futuristic looks and purposeful stance reinforces.
It’s not just looks that differentiate the vehicles. While mechanically, the Ioniq 5 and EV6 are very similar – both featuring a 239kW, dual-motor, all-wheel drive, 77.4 kWh battery setup at their top trim levels – the EV6’s 0-100km/h time is much faster: 3.5 seconds versus the Ioniq 5’s 5.2 seconds (which is still nothing to sniff at; that’s only .3 slower than the Kia Stinger). It also has a greater claimed range (up to 528km) and charges faster (only needing 4.5 minutes to charge 100km of range).
3.5 seconds is fast – faster than the new BMW M3 Competition or a Lamborghini Urus. Crucially, however, it’s faster than a Tesla Model Y, the pioneering EV brand’s compact crossover SUV that’s also yet to hit Australian shores. (It’s also faster than the highest spec of the Tesla Model X SUV that’s currently available Down Under, the Model X Performance, but not as fast as the Model X Plaid, which hasn’t made its way here yet).
It’s clear that Kia and its parent company Hyundai are aiming squarely at Tesla with the EV6. But it’s a fight that Kia can actually win. Kia’s build quality is lightyears ahead of Tesla’s. The EV6’s straightforward cabin layout (with real buttons and switches, thank God!) and premium look make Tesla’s overly minimal cabin seem austere by comparison. You can also bet that Kia will trump Tesla when it comes to servicing, warranty and customer service, too – especially in Australia.
But the EV6 isn’t just aiming at Tesla. Volkswagen too has finally joined the EV fray with its modular MEB platform, and even the big American auto makers like Ford are finally getting in on the action with vehicles like the Mustang Mach-E. That’s to say nothing of China’s ever-growing fleet of high-tech EVs, like the MG ZS EV, the cheapest new EV currently on sale in Australia. The EV6 and its E-GMP siblings represent South Korea staking its claim for the future of motoring. And it’s one bold claim.
Drive had the chance to test a “near to production-ready prototype form” earlier this month, and they were impressed. Kia/Hyundai haven’t announced an exact date for when the EV6 will arrive in Australia next year (or how much it’ll cost) – you can bet it won’t exactly be the cheapest car around – but it will most definitely undercut its European/premium competition… Or at least, be a more than worthy contender.
And ultimately, that’s what we think is so special about the EV6. The EV market in Australia (which admittedly is very nascent) is dominated by either luxury marques on one end of the spectrum or rather plain offerings on the other end. The EV6 is neither of those things. It’s a car that we think will finally change the outdated conception of South Korean vehicles whilst also shaking up the EV/performance landscape in one fell swoop.
In short, we’re bloody excited.