Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build

Hans · Oct 1, 2022 10:00 AM

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 01

Battery electric vehicles (EVs) are rather simple machines. With 100 times less components inside, it is a lot easier to build an EV than a regular internal combustion engine vehicle. Anyone with enough money can buy off-the-shelf batteries, infotainment, all the associated software, and contract a factory to build an EV.

But craftsmen and artists will tell you that the easier a task, the easier it is to separate those who really know what they are doing from those who don’t.

Confused? Step away from cars for a moment and look towards the Master Chef competition, which often a seemingly simple egg dish competition.

Everyone knows how to fry, poach, boil, or scramble an egg, but Master Chef judges (video here) know that this super-basic cooking challenge is the most reliable test to filter out really good cooks from average ones.

The reason: with less ingredients to work with, average cooks have less options to mask their gaps in cooking skills. The simpler the task, the greater the need to be super precise in doing these few tasks.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 01

It’s the same with EVs. The task of building an EV is so simple that any start-up with zero automotive background can build one, which is also why there are so many new entrants in the EV space, especially in China.

But most EVs on sale are quite rubbish to drive. Luckily for these start-ups, many EV fans come from outside traditional automotive circles so they have different sets of expectation. They judge an EV based on how it good it is a smartphone on wheels rather than how it behaves as a car.

If it has a big screen, can be driven with just one pedal, offers in-car Internet connection, charges really fast, goes really quick, it must be a good EV. Driver engagement? What’s that? The car is supposed to drive itself you dinosaur-age mechanical simpleton!

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 02

The EV6 is designed by a car enthusiast, for car enthusiasts, so you get a Start button, steering wheel that looks like a steering wheel, intuitive buttons, stalks and knobs - no big screen, menu-driven nonsense

For many EV fans, fast neck-hurting acceleration equals a wow-worthy car and having a heavy battery pack installed close to the car’s centre of gravity means it must be great in the corners.

The Volvo XC40 EV for example, is all of the above but it’s also one of the most disappointing cars we’ve driven in 2022. Again, egg dish example.

Also read: Review: 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 - Smile inducing EV performance, but is it better than an EQA

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 03

So after driving one too many bad EVs, you really appreciate it when a great one comes along, like this Kia EV6. If you think EVs must be judged as a car and not as a smartphone on wheels, read on.

  • Price: RM 306,668
  • Power: 325 PS, 605 Nm
  • Battery capacity: 72.6 kWh
  • Range: 506 km (WLTP)
  • Charging support: CCS2 socket, 11 kW AC, 350 kW DC (supports 400V / 800V)
  • Energy consumption: 17.2 kWh (claimed, WLTP)
  • 0-100 km/h: 5.2 seconds (as tested)
  • Braking distance 100-0 km/h: 36.2 metres
  • Origin: Imported (CBU) from South Korea

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 04

EV6 looks like nothing else on the road

“The Koreans are now building an EV that is on-par with BMW,” I said to a fellow enthusiast friend. “Well, that’s because the EV6 is not developed by a Korean, but the former boss of BMW M,” replied my friend, and he is right.

The ride and handling of the Kia EV6 was signed off by Albert Biermann, the man behind BMW M when M was at its peak (in the eyes of many analogue-age enthusiasts).

So when Biermann left BMW, he set out to make Kia cars into what he didn’t had a chance to build at BMW. If there is a BMW that is built for discerning drivers rather than attention-seeking large nostril-grille cars aimed at mainland Chinese buyers, the EV6 is one.

The 77.4 kWh Kia EV6 GT-Line costs RM 300,668, which is RM 30k more than its similarly equipped sister-car the 72 kWh Hyundai Ioniq 5 Max. It’s also not too far off from a BMW iX3.

If you’ve just raised your eye brows at the price, know that Kia has no problem selling the EV6 here. In fact, Kia could’ve easily increased the price premium because every available unit that Kia Malaysia managed to wrestle from away distributors in other country, has a buyer waiting.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 05

Approach the EV6, grab the pop-out door handles (de rigueur for every other EV these days), slide your bum into the half suede-half leather seat as Kia’s sound signature chime plays, and you will see that today’s Kia is worth every Ringgit it’s asking for.

In terms of body styling, the Kia EV6 is closer than an SUV than a hatchback. The EV6 is a fairly large car, longer and wider than even a Honda CR-V.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 06

There’s none of the Tesla-style nonsensical touchscreen-only user interface, as controls and buttons are all laid out very intuitively, including an ergonomically placed power button and rotary transmission mode shifter.

You don’t have to swipe any screen or wait for the screen to load just to operate the air-conditioning (looking at you Volkswagen Golf Mk8). Frequently used functions for switching audio sources, or enable/disable active lane keep assist are good old physical buttons operated.

Also read: Touchscreen infotainment distracts more than assists, research suggests

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 07

Matt-finished soft keys panel toggles between A/C and infotainment. Unlike other EVs, you don't need to operate stupid menus to do simple tasks

Being an EV, the cabin floor is flat and there is ample storage space front and back. There’s even a 3-pin socket to charge your laptop.

The novel V2L (Vehicle-to-Load) feature that allows you to use the EV6 as a giant power bank to power household electrical appliances, which is great when you are outdoors. At time of writing, the EV6 and Ioniq 5 are the only two EVs on sale in Malaysia to support V2L.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 08

Yes that's a 3-pin socket

On the move, the Kia EV6 ranks up there as among the best in ride and handling for any car, regardless of whether it’s an EV or not.

Weighing slightly over 2.1 tonne, you would think that it rides poorly over pock-marked roads and the large inertia would make it a handful on switchback corners, but it’s not.

Instead, the Kia EV6 rolled over potholes with a firm but not stiff thud. Despite what the weighing scale says, it changes direction with a high level of unison with the driver’s steering input. It’s not quite a Mazda MX-5 but it definitely didn’t feel like a 2 plus tonne SUV.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 09

It also has a very European-like character to its controlled damping, with a hint of sportiness, like a digitized BMW.

Steering and brakes, the two weakest part of many EVs - mainly because electrically-driven steering racks and regenerative braking numbs confidence-assuring mechanical feedback that keen drivers appreciate - are spot on in the Kia EV6.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 10

In many EVs, the brakes feel like they are tuned by people who play Gran Turismo more than driving real cars. No such concern with the EV6, which feels as good as a combustion engine car's.

Many EVs allow you to use one-pedal driving, meaning that intense regenerative braking kicks in the moment you lift off the accelerator pedal, so you don’t need to use the brake pedal. Kia calls it i-pedal driving.

In many EVs, this makes for a terrible drive because whether you release the accelerator at 60 km/h or 120 km/h, the car brakes in the same on-off digital manner. Yes, you can adjust its intensity, but the feature doesn’t account for the varying braking pressure needed for different driving conditions.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 11

In the EV6, i-pedal applies just the right amount of regenerative braking depending on speed, progressively applying more pressure as you roll to a stop. Whoever fine-tuned this, is a master driver-engineer.

Again, the simple egg dish analogy applies. Brakes, the most basic of car control, is one way to tell great cars from average ones, especially in EVs.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 12

Paddles behind control the intensity of regenerative braking. At its highest level, one-pedal (i-pedal) driving is activated

The EV6 is all-wheel drive, but most of the time it is driven by its rear wheels. There’s a strong hint of BMW character underneath the digitized controls.

The steering is sharp in corners but calm on the straights, and has none of the nausea-inducing delays between steering input and actual change in lateral motion, a problem for many heavy EVs. In simple words, it doesn’t drive like a 2 tonne plus land yacht.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 13

Punch the throttle pedal in the default Normal driving mode, the acceleration doesn’t feel 605 Nm (325 PS) and that’s a good thing. More importantly, our Racelogic gear clocks the EV6’s 0-100 km/h acceleration time at 5.2 seconds, which is 0.4 seconds slower than the Volvo XC40 EV, but the Kia is so much more satisfying car to drive than the fast but poorly sorted Swedish golf cart.

Of course, the XC40 is a lot cheaper (RM 262,460) than the EV6, but it's also less cohesive as a car than the even cheaper Hyundai Kona EV (from RM 156,538), so it's not about price, but the people behind the product. 

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 14

In a regular road car, a controlled but sustained acceleration is preferred over Youtube-wowing acceleration, as it makes for less fatigue in stop-go driving. Controlling the intensity of initial acceleration is also necessary to avoid premature wear of tyres – a big problem for high torque, heavy EVs.  

On straight roads, the EV6’s double-glazed windows cabin is so quite that you can’t hear motorcycles riding alongside. There’s also synthesised ambient sound for a sci-fi-like feel but in its default setting, you can hardly hear it.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 15

Double glazed windows keep the cabin exceptionally quiet

In the Malaysian context, the EV6’s unusually quite cabin can be a bit dangerous so don’t ever ignore the blind spot monitor.

The EV6 has a Blind Spot View Monitor on the instrument panel that pulls video feeds from outboard cameras but using it is less intuitive than Kia's marketing materials suggests, because what used to be a simple glance to the left like you would with an high-mounted eye-level Honda LaneWatch, now involves glancing to the left-side mirror, and then rightwards and near-front to your instrument panel, and then looing up to the far-side for the road ahead.

Your eyes are now also switching between near-field and far-field focusing. Small details but the sharpest drivers will tell you that this is not ideal and there’s a reason why cars have Heads-up Display, because our eyes take longer to switch between near-field and far-field focusing.

Speaking of Heads-up Display, the Kia EV6 misses out on that, and that’s a first downside about the EV6. The usual full-suite of ADAS features however, is available as standard.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 16

The second downside? There’s no smartphone app for the car. For some buyers, this can be a deal breaker because being able to remotely control / check an EVs charging status and receive over-the-air (OTA) software updates are very central to an EV’s ownership experience.

However, this criticism applies to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 too. The Kia Connect and Hyundai Bluelink app don’t support Malaysia so updates will have to be done at the dealer.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 17

Key fob doubles as an adult's remote control toy, moves the EV6 forward/backward

On the upside, you can still do remote parking via the key fob, which allows you to remotely drive the Kia EV6 forward / backward, so you can open the doors when parked in a tight parking space.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 18

The third criticism for the EV6 is something that afflicts all EVs. The floor-mounted battery means that it’s quite uncomfortable to sit behind as rear occupants will have to sit with their knees crouched higher.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 19

High floor and low hip point makes for an uncomfortable journey for rear occupants

Rear occupants also can't tuck their feet under the front seats. They can adjust the seatback angle, but it does almost nothing to alleviate the discomfort on their lower body.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 20

You can't tuck your feet under

That’s a shame because with a 506 km range (WLTP, 400++ km in the real world is easily achievable), you can realistically make inter-state trips with the family in the Kia EV6.

Overnight charging from a 11 kW AC wallbox takes 7 hours 20 minutes (10 to 100 percent). Its dual 400V / 800V electrical architecture also supports up to 350 kW DC charging but those outlets are not that common here (180 kW is the norm) so it’s a bit of an overkill.

Review: Perfected by ex-BMW M's maestro, the Kia EV6 is the best EV others have yet to build 21

Lack of smartphone app and uncomfortable rear seating position aside, the Kia EV6 remains one of the best cars to buy to stand out from the crowd and make a statement.

More importantly, the Kia EV6 is truly an EV that you can enjoy driving, no matter the duration of the journey. Sitting on this side of the Porsche Taycan’s price demarcating line, the Kia EV6 is the first EV that keen drivers will approve.

Hans

Head of Content

Over 15 years of experience in automotive, from product planning, to market research, to print and digital media. Garages a 6-cylinder manual RWD but buses to work.

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