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Payne: Kia EV6 spins heads with high style, tech — and price


Charlevoix — My friend Jamie wants an electric car — in particular, one with a hatchback so he can stow his bicycle for ride excursions. There are plenty of roomy EV hatches available, including the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Tesla Model Y and Cadillac Lyriq. And the Kia EV6 that I just used to haul a bike here.

Electric chargers are scarce in Charlevoix, where my wife and I often visit family. The most convenient is a 240-volt charger at the LaFontaine Ford dealership on U.S. 31 south of town, which kindly allows me to charge overnight. Running low on juice in my $57,410, 2022 EV6 tester one summer weekend, I plugged into the charger for a six-hour feeding.

But how to get back and forth from our cottage 2.3 miles away? A bicycle, of course.

As with Hyundai’s similar Ioniq 5, the Kia EV6 has used its skateboard chassis to maximize interior room. That means expansive rear legroom of 39 inches — just 2.5 inches shy of a three-row Ford Expedition mega-ute, for goodness' sake — and a cargo hatch that swallowed my bike easily with the second-row seats down.

The following morning, I pedaled 15 minutes to the dealership, unplugged the Kia, loaded in the bike and returned home for breakfast.

So the EV6 has the hatchback Jamie requires, but with the usual EV charging challenges. Which is why most EVs remain a niche product aimed at customers with multi-car garages and $50K-$80K burning a hole in their pockets.

Which begs another question from another friend, Ron: If I have $57K in my pocket, why would I spend it on a Kia and not on, say, a comparably equipped $64,990 Cadillac Lyriq or $60,090 XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate? Or even the segment’s volume king, the $67K Tesla Model Y?

Based on folks I talked with, the Kia brand name is a big challenge. But this is an ambitious brand determined to wow ... one vehicle at a time.

Take the Kia Stinger GT sportback, which offers style, power and handling for $55K — a whopping 20 grand below a comparable Audi S7. Or behold the Kia Telluride, a three-row SUV with the looks of a Caddy but a sticker price $5,000 below a comparable Ford Explorer. The sheer audacity of these handsome mainstream vehicles means they can’t be ignored.

So, too, the Kia EV6. I mean, just look at it.

“Oooooh, what kind of car is THAT?”

“Fancy, fancy.”

“Wow, look at these people in the swish car.”

Those comments came from passersby as I pulled up in front of a Charlevoix restaurant for a family night out. The EV6 looks like Porsche and Lexus had a baby with its sloped front end, sculpted rocker panels and a hippy, mono-light rear. You can fuss that the car looks overweight — but it turned heads wherever I went.

EV6 also likes to put on a show.

Like the Tesla Model Y, the Kia is loaded with tech tricks. On a narrow street, I held down the console camera button to engage the self-parallel-park feature. The SUV pulled past an open space, identified it, then stopped ... waiting.

Well, Payne, do you want me to parallel park with you in the car or out of it?

Out of it. I put the shifter in PARK, exited the car, then held down the REVERSE button on the key fob and watched EV6 park itself. It also works in perpendicular parking garage spots. Oh, the kids will go wild over this stuff.

The Kia won’t come to you across a parking lot like Tesla’s Summon — but frankly, I’m not courageous enough to try that in my own Model 3. Speaking of Tesla, EV6 offers five regenerative modes (one-pedal driving, for you EV experts) via two paddles on the steering wheel (Tesla offers only two). I used them constantly.

Kia also offers the best driving-assist feature this side of the Silicon Valley automaker and Cadillac’s Super Cruise.

The EV6 self-drove for long portions of my I-75 trip north, the system allowing me to relax and eat lunch hands-free without constant nannying like other systems. Opt for this $6,000 feature on the $67K Tesla Model and it balloons the sticker to more than $73K. The system came standard on my $57K GT-line Kia.

EV6 also goes big with an 800-volt battery system (like the $100K Porsche Taycan and Hummer EV) that advertises faster charging than Tesla’s 400-volt system. My experience was a wash. If you can find an Electrify America 350 kW unit that is, ahem, working, the actual charging speed is only 230 kW, the same as Tesla.

Charging is quickest to 80% of range, after which it slows to a crawl like other batteries. On my way back to Detroit, I refueled in Gaylord for 33 minutes to 100% of charge (254 miles) to make it 215 miles to home. But as temps warmed to 85 degrees on my journey south, the car drank electrons and I had to make a second 10-minute stop in Bay City.

Kia-philes may not be as wowed by all this tech given that a loaded $38K Kia Sportage hybrid offers similar parking and driving assist (see my June review of the Sportage up I-75).

The EV separates itself from the Sportage with a gorgeous premium interior. Indeed, it was remarkably similar to the bling-tastic Caddy Lyriq I tested recently in Utah: floating island console with rotary shift knob. Storage tray on the floor below. Curved 24-inch display atop the dash (33 inches for Lyriq). It even outdid Caddy with a big head-up display. Was there a Kia mole in the Cadillac design studio?

All this tech distracts from the fact that the EV6 can’t handle with the Caddy — much less the sharper Model Y and Mach-E. The EV6 is a boulevard cruiser. But with a SPORT mode that armors the 4,600-pound EV for 4.5-second 0-60 mph dashes, the Kia takes full advantage of its instant 446 pound-feet of torque. That’s, ahem, 80 more than the gas-powered $55K hatchback Stinger’s powerful twin-turbo V-6.

Think of my EV6 GT-line as a silent Stinger GT for the EV set that will sell few copies in rural Charlevoix County. LaFontaine Ford has only sold a few Mach-Es here. Expect pickups to be the volume EV sellers Up North.

As I unplugged from the Ford charger, the dealership’s first F-150 Lightnings were rolling in. Huge frunk, 230-miles of range, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds.

Dealer orders are backed up for them.

2022 Kia EV6

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, rear- and all-wheel-drive five-passenger SUV

Price: $42,695, including $1,215 destination fee ($57,410, AWD, GT-Line as tested)

Powerplant: 55-77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with rear or dual electric-motors (77.4 kWh as tested)

Power: 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet torque (as tested)

Transmission: Single-speed direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.1 seconds (mfr., AWD); towing, 2,300 pounds

Weight: 4,661 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 117 MPGe; range, 232-310 miles (274 miles as tested for AWD GT-Line)

Report card

Highs: Striking, cool tech

Lows: Gets pricey; lacks useful frunk

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.