As the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) say, you need a plan, or you’d have nothing to rip up and rewrite when you first make contact with the enemy. That contact point arrived in Kia’s new EV6 electric car on the very first day of this test. Motorway speeds in freezing temperatures, combined with detours over hilly terrain at night, put paid to the car’s claimed range of 300 miles by exactly half, to 150 miles.
Further, my plan B fell to pieces when my Kia Charge account map showed a couple of quick-charge stations which were out of order when I arrived, so I stewed for a couple of hours on a supermarket 7kW charger and limped home to a cold supper.
While the paucity of reliable charging facilities outside of the UK’s major conurbations is something of a first-world problem and not entirely the fault of Kia, since it affects all electric vehicles, it’s worth bearing in mind before you charge headlong into EV ownership.
There are lots of reasons to be suspicious of transport secretary Grant Shapps’ eulogistic praise of electric cars; Chilean farmers facing a desiccated clinker on their desert farms as lithium mines take what little water there is to clean their product, for example, or impoverished miners labouring to extract cobalt in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It’s also worth taking the official WLTP range claims for battery-powered cars with an entire salt cellar.
Meet the EV6
This wasn’t the greatest introduction to one of the most highly anticipated electric vehicles (EV) of the year. Based on the Kia/Hyundai E-GMP platform, Kia’s EV6 shares most of its specifications with Hyundai’s recently launched Ioniq 5 and the forthcoming Genesis GV60.
With an 800-volt architecture, a standard 77.4kWh lithium-ion battery which has a polymer electrolyte for higher performance, and available in two- and four-wheel drive, this 4.7-metre long, 2.1-tonne, five-door hatchback crossover is longer than the Ioniq 5 which is more of an SUV.
Recharging a 77kWh battery is never going to be the matter of a moment and even on a 7.4kW household wallbox it’ll take 11 hours, with 7hrs on an 11kW street charger. But, with its 800-volt architecture, EV6 owners can tap into the Ionity 350kW DC chargers and accept an 80 per cent charge in only 18 minutes. The trouble is, there are currently only 16 Ionity chargers in the whole of the UK...
To be fair to Kia, it has tried to circumvent at least some of the drawbacks of long-distance electric driving. Kia Charge is a debit card which takes in about 20,000 UK charge locations and a lot of different charging companies. It should allow you to simply tap a card on a charger and fill up (according to your payment plan) at discounted rates (down from Ionity’s exorbitant street rate of 69p per kWh to just 25p, for example). It doesn’t, however, work on all chargers, even on some of those that it should do.
How does it look?
With the battery pack stuffed in the floor within the 2.9-metre wheelbase, the EV6 has a weirdly short nose and long rear overhang, which gives the impression of a sports racing car from the front and an elegant tourer from the rear, although the big wheel arches look cold chiselled off a Jaguar F-Type sports car and those “ears” hanging off the sides of the roof-mounted spoiler are plain weird.
Underneath lies MacPherson-strut suspension at the front and a multi-link independent rear set-up, with 20-inch diameter wheels wearing 255/45/20 tyres. The motors are integrated into the drive axles, which combine driveshafts and wheel bearings to simplify and lighten the unsprung weight.
Our test car was the all-bells-and-whistles £51,945 GT Line S, with four-wheel drive, a top speed of 114mph and 0-62mph acceleration in 5.2 sec. The spec sheet gives a WLTP efficiency figure of 3.45 miles per kWh, but we dropped that as low as 1.9 m/kWh during the test, with an overall average of 2.5m/kWh.
While the EV6 produces no emissions in use (apart from the particulates from the tyre wear), if you take the electricity used to recharge it into account, there’s a well-to-wheels figure of 37.4g/km.
If the bodywork and proportions defy categorisation, the interior does likewise. Notwithstanding the space-age seats with broad white trim (and they’re comfy, too), the wrap-around glass dash is pure Nineties designer spaceship courtesy of Thierry Mugler.
The “flying” centre console only confirms that impression, although the black bins, while useful for storage, are ill lit and made of clackety plastic. Shame the designers didn’t allow a full-width footwell, however, instead filling it with stylish but not terribly useful plastic.
The oblong single-glass sheet facia is set into a striated charcoal plastic dash, with a full-width strip underneath dotted with ventilators. The EV6 has separate heater controls and there are a number of important functions dotted around the facia such as the charge-port door release.
It seems well made using decent materials though there are some fragile-looking plasticky parts, not the least the charge-port cover which looks as though one brush of the hip would snap it off.
The equipment roster is comprehensive, with seat heaters and a heated steering wheel, LED lights (though the interior seems as ill lit as a fashionable hotel room at night), four USB C charge ports including a couple for rear-seat passengers, auto-dipping headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
The audio communications and information systems are comprehensive with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth communication, induction charging for a mobile phone, a head-up display with augmented reality, parking sensors and a rear-view camera along with blind-spot monitoring.
For all its starship-style showiness, the dash is far from easy to use. There are too many tiny digits, which are hard to read at a glance, the Apple CarPlay tends to grab the initiative and it takes some concentrated button pressing to wrest it back. The graphics for the main instrument binnacle graphics are almost wilfully weird, like a digital bit of old corrugated roofing sheet. In the dark, you can dim the whole thing except the head-up display, which remains a radiant obfuscation of the view ahead.
The rear seats are set higher than the fronts which gives a decent view, but means that while rear passengers have plenty of leg room their heads are very close to the roof. The rear seat backs fold on to their bases to give an almost flat load bed.
Under the powered hatchback, the 490-litre boot is large enough for luggage for four.
Under the floor there’s room for the charging cables and a flat tyre kit of a tin of sealant and a pump, but that’s it, there’s no room for a spare wheel of any description. This version will tow up to 1.6 tonnes.
On the road
The power button awakens the beast and there are three driving modes: Sport Normal and Eco. The main effect of changing these is on the throttle mapping. Obviously, it’s livelier in Sport, but there’s not a lot of accelerator progression in this mode, with an all-or-nothing feel. Besides, if you are driving a long distance, you'll likely spend more time eking out the electrons using the Eco mode.
Normal setting gives the best all-round control; the steering feels nicer and better weighted to boot. Switching off the aggressive lane-centring steering system is mercifully simple, thanks to a button on the steering wheel. Leave it on and the steering gives highly misleading feedback with a horrible self-centring tendency.
As far as stopping is concerned, Kia has it taped. The brakes feel progressive (though I’d have liked a bit more grab at the top of the pedal travel) and there’s a nice control of the recharging braking system, via steering-wheel paddles which move with the wheel. Although you can do this quite accurately with the brake pedal, there’s something quite satisfying about pulling on the lever a couple of times to gently slow the vehicle before a bend.
Push the accelerator to the floor and it certainly feels fast, but the wheels flail around in their arches and there’s little sense of connection with the road; it all feels slightly incoherent and out of control. With no regenerative braking dialled in, the EV6 rolls onward, seemingly forever, with its big wheels creating quite a racket on the road surface.
It also feels heavy; despite its relatively modest weight in the class, it clumps and thumps across potholes and over bumps and the body doesn’t feel the stiffest structure among its peers.
At speed the ride improves, but the turn-in to corners isn’t as sharp as you would want in a sports saloon and the nose-on understeer is marked. The trick is to use the weight and the EV6’s tendency to roll, picking up corner apexes and minimising steering inputs.
Well, it wasn’t quite the revolution we thought it could or would be. The EV6’s Ioniq 5 stablemate feels less pretentious and more desirable, despite its awful ride quality. Perhaps we expected too much of the new Kia, which in this specification is perfectly adequate but not the most sparkling drive.
It’s worth pointing out you don’t have to spend £51,945 on an EV6. You can spend even more next year with the £58,345, crazy-fast 577bhp GT version; more importantly you can spend less with the base Air version with rear-wheel drive, priced from only £40,945.
That, by all accounts, is a better way of enjoying the EV6’s distinctive looks and interior, going farther per charge and saving you the small matter of £10,000 to boot.
Three stars out of five
On test: Kia EV6 GT Line S 77.4kWh AWD
Body style: five-door family C-segment crossover
Price/on sale: £51,945 (range from £40,945)/now
How fast? 114mph, 0-62mph in 5.2sec
How efficient? 3.45 miles per kWh (2.5 miles per kWh on test)
Electric range: 300 miles (WLTP)
Engine & gearbox: n/a
Electric powertrain: 77.4kWh lithium-ion polymer battery with 384 cells; permanent-magnet synchronous AC electric motors (one front, one rear); four-wheel drive
Maximum power/torque: 321bhp/446lb ft
front: 99bhp @ 2,800-6,200rpm and 166lb ft @ 0-2,600rpm
rear: 226bhp @ 4,600-9,200rpm and 258lb ft @ 0-4,400rpm
CO2 emissions: none in motion; well-to-wheel greenhouse-gas emissions 37.4g/km
VED: zero rated
Warranty: 7 years/100,000 miles.
Spare wheel as standard: no (not available)
Renault Mégane E-Tech, no prices yet
A very promising start for this small family SUV/crossover. A 60kWh battery gives a 292-mile range and efficiency of 4.8miles per kWh, along with brisk but not frighteningly fast acceleration. The new thin battery gives a more car-like driving position than SUV rivals, while the ride and handling are pretty good. All we’re waiting for is the price…
Mercedes-Benz EQA, from £44,495
A large family SUV, with refined and powerful performance from its 66.5kWh battery pack. Not staggeringly efficient, or that good looking, but it drives well and is even quite fun, although the range of 263 miles is poor in this company.
Tesla Model Y Long Range, from £55,990
Good rather than great, this large family hatchback has a respectable range of 315 miles from a 79kWh lithium-ion battery, with efficiency of 4.2 miles per kWh and 0-62mph in five seconds. Its innovative dash and minimalist interior are terrific, but the ride is pretty awful.
Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD 98kWh, from £56,950
A monster battery gives this top version of the Mach-E a 335-mile range, with a 112mph top speed and scintillating acceleration. The ride is stiff but not tooth-loosening and it’s all round a decent if expensive option, and strangely unlovable.
Volkswagen ID.4 77kWh Pro Performance, from £40,110
Big, comfortable and superficially interesting, the ID.4 has quite a lot going for it, especially its up to 322-mile range, but some of the interior feels built down to a price and the dreadful central touchscreen needs a radical rethink, fast.
To talk all things motoring with the Telegraph Cars team join the Telegraph Motoring Club Facebook group here