Kia’s hot EV6 aims to ruffle feathers, and win fans, in the performance car ether

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The Kia EV6 GT inhabits a tricky space. The notion of high performance has always been implicit in the promise of the modern electric car. But so used are we now to the idea of the electric performance car that some critics seem already to have written them off as sterile, one-dimensional and fundamentally unengaging. 

It means the likes of the Kia EV6 GT face an uphill battle convincing some people that they can fulfil their primary purpose as enthusiast’s cars. Watching how each of them addresses that challenge will be interesting over the coming months and years. 

Having entered UK showrooms earlier this year, the EV6 GT is nothing less than the fastest, most powerful, most dramatic and most exciting production car that Kia has ever built – or so the company’s promotional literature has it.

Sharing the chassis of the critically acclaimed standard EV6, the GT adds not only power but technical sophistication too. Its new high-output rear motor may take care primarily of its eye-catching 3.5sec 0-62mph acceleration claim, but elsewhere the application of adaptively damped suspension, proper mechanical torque vectoring and detailed performance tuning is meant to take this car’s dynamic capabilities to far greater heights. 

And that they do all of that – in tandem with 577bhp of peak power output – for little more than the price of a 345bhp Porsche Cayman S or a 369bhp BMW M340i might not have escaped your attention.

Range at a Glance

Models Power From
RWD Air 223bhp £45,190
RWD GT-Line 223bhp £48,190
AWD GT-Line 321bhp £51,690
RWD GT-Line S 223bhp £52,690
AWD GT-Line S 321bhp £56,190
AWD GT 577bhp £62,645

The EV6 comes with a 77kWh battery in all guises. Beyond that, you choose between one (RWD) or two (AWD) motors, before getting to the performance-tuned GT. At the foot of the range, the EV6 Air goes without adaptive headlights, electric front-seat adjustment, an electric tailgate, wireless device charging and a parking camera. The GT, by contrast, comes almost fully laden, but metallic paint, racing stripes, locking wheel nuts and rims up to 21in in diameter can be added.

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kia ev6 gt review 2023 28 tracking front

The EV6 GT is, insists Kia, a road car first and foremost: a priority it claims is written throughout its specification and tuning.

Being electric, and based on the group’s E-GMP chassis, it is not only heavy (at 2125kg, 110kg heavier than a regular twin-motor EV6, but on our scales equal to the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 we tested this year), but also has an unusually long wheelbase. At 2.9m, it is within 100mm of a BMW i5’s wheelbase.

Neither fact can have been an easy hurdle for Kia’s engineers or dynamicists to surmount, although they certainly set out with a purposeful package of mechanical modifications. Removing the primary rear-mounted drive motor of the regular EV6 and fitting it instead to the GT’s front axle, they made room for an all-new, high-output, permanent magnet synchronous motor at the back: one with direct oil cooling of its stator, hairpin coil windings and dual-stage silicon-carbide power inverter. It makes 362bhp to the front motor’s 215bhp: a healthy rearward power bias.

The car’s nickel-manganese-cobalt drive battery has the same usable capacity as that of any other UK-market EV6 (77.4kWh), but its ‘internal output’ – the amount of power it can supply to the motors at peak demand – has almost doubled.

Screenshot 2023 10 11 at 15

Added to the car’s rear motor, meanwhile, is a new electronically controlled, torque-vectoring mechanical rear differential capable of sending 100% of motor power to either rear wheel.

Back up front, Kia developed a new variable-ratio steering rack and designed a new front axle for the GT, the latter with an extra lower arm to better stabilise each MacPherson strut under load (the standard EV6’s multi-link rear axle was carried over largely unchanged). 

Having also reinforced the chassis across the mounting points of both axles, Kia then fitted adaptive dampers and uprated the brakes. Interestingly, the firm elected to lower the vertical stiffness of the car’s front suspension springs slightly compared with the standard EV6, but hiked it at the rear. It also lowered the standard EV6’s ride height by 5mm and increased lateral (or anti-roll bar) stiffness at the rear by 15%. Its 21in alloy wheels come as standard, wrapped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres. 

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kia ev6 gt review 2023 13 front seats

Some subtle badging and understated performance-flavoured materials, plus a few bright flashes of that signature neon green, mark out the interior of the EV6 GT in much the same buttoned-down style as with the exterior. 

Up front, sports seats with integrated-style head restraints are easy to slide into. They are a little short on cushion length and all-round adjustability but offer decent lateral support. They do seat you a bit higher and more upright at the controls than you might expect in a car of this performance potential.

Intuitively grouped controls make for easy top-level drivability. There is also generous cabin storage in centre console cupholders; in the armrest box just to the rear; and in a large storage cubby underneath the console, which can take bigger handbags and keep them from rolling around the footwell.

It’s a clear compliment to Kia that the EV6 GT’s driving environment takes so little getting used to. But, along with the raised hip point, there’s no escaping the outright size of the car as you get acclimatised to it. Although fairly short in the bonnet and front overhang, it seems to extend quite some way either side of the driver and, likewise, quite a long way behind.

Along with the impact of the car’s long wheelbase on its handling (to which we will come), there is little if any sense of any true compactness about the EV6 GT from behind the wheel. It feels neither sports-saloon low nor hot-hatchback small.

The payoff, however, is laudable space and practicality. We measured 60mm more rear leg room here than in the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270, 20mm more second-row head room and a boot with markedly more loading length and height. So if you don’t mind a bit of bulk in your performance EV, the EV6 GT does at least put it to good use.

Multimedia system

Kia’s 12.1in touchscreen infotainment system for the GT is the same as the one in any other EV6. It doesn’t have the burden of carrying heating and ventilation controls, and there are separate physical audio controls on both the steering wheel and the lower fascia – which all makes it seem like a more usable system overall.

Some testers would have preferred a physical cursor controller of some kind; others, a proper right-hand-drive conversion for the layout that puts the likes of the home button and map zoom controls on the right-hand margin of the screen rather than the left, for the sake of convenience. But menu navigability is good, navigation mapping is clear, and while some functions are a little too deeply buried to access in one or two inputs, they are not a trial to find.

Kia includes wired smartphone mirroring for both Apple and Android phones, as well as wireless device charging. Oddly, wireless device mirroring still hasn’t been added.


kia ev6 gt review 2023 03 cornering rear

The EV6 GT is a fast car pretty much whichever yardstick you use to measure it with. In terms of standing-start pace, it’s considerably quicker than any commensurately priced EV that we have yet tested (the Porsche Taycan RWD Performance Pack Plus and BMW i4 M50 included). Compared with combustion-engined cars of a similar price, the 3.6sec 0-60mph and 8.0sec 0-100mph benchmarks it set really are quite something (BMW M2 manual: 4.5sec, 9.7sec).

When you come to fully uncork it for the first time, though, the performance doesn’t actually startle you. While Kia’s GT driving mode does indeed sharpen the car’s throttle response, it doesn’t bring it to the point of hypersensitivity. And it doesn’t tee up the kind of launch control fireworks you can get from combustion cars, either: of revving motors, or of spinning driven wheels allowed to over-rotate just enough for the perfect getaway. Like other 4WD EVs, the EV6 GT just gets on with it – no doubt because, where torquey electric motors are concerned, rather than breaking traction only to then struggle to re-establish it, that’s simply the quickest thing to do. 

The car does indeed feel supercar fast up until about 60mph, and then, while still very potent, a little more sports car fast to 100mph. But the 11.8sec standing quarter mile time it posted was still quick enough to beat the Mercedes SLS AMG we tested in 2012, and put it only a tenth behind the Nissan GT-R from 2017.

But what else is there about it that might excite you? Kia aimed for a more textured, involving performance character with the GT than with other EV6s, it says, but it doesn’t seem to have innovated that hard. Kia gets a certain amount of credit for giving the driver full, paddle-based regen control, as well as a fairly powerful set of brakes that marshal the car’s weight effectively and give you confidence to carry speed even when battery regen is dialled down. 

But, aside from being fast, the EV6 GT can feel a little unintuitive if you don’t get it set up just so. Somehow, an EV this fast feels odd with no battery energy regeneration dialled in on a trailing throttle – a bit like a high-compression performance engine with no high-rpm engine braking might. 

Suffice to say, you do have to experiment, through as many strange drive modes as well-judged ones, to find a running calibration that feels just right – and even then it may prove elusive to some.

Kia ev6 gt review 2023 01 cornering front 0

Track Notes

The EV6 GT had plenty of apparent dynamic composure and handling precision when driven quickly around the Millbrook Alpine Hill Route but, like a great many EVs, it relies squarely on its electronic traction and stability aids to produce both.

You can clearly feel the systems neutering the motors, and then feeding authority back to the throttle as you straighten the steering wheel. Turn them off and, typically, it’s very easy to cue up quite brutal throttle-on understeer in tighter turns.

Unless, that is, you use the car’s drift mode, which seems to dial back its front motor almost entirely during cornering, and use the e-diff to shunt torque to the outside rear wheel with little or no apparent traction control.

The result feels like driving on ice. On dry Tarmac, the rear axle can be punted to big angles with surprisingly little power or speed, and no initial weight transfer to break it loose. It’s so easy it’s almost unsettling. Good for a laugh rather than truly rewarding.

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kia ev6 gt review 2023 02 panning side

Kia has again banked on configurability to keep the driver interested in the handling of the EV6 GT, and the car certainly has some ‘interesting’ drive modes. One of them, drift mode, we will get to. 

But in a wider sense, while it has a few of the dynamic characteristics you might expect of a near-600-horsepower, supersized mega-hatchback, the car doesn’t quite have the complete set. There is, in short, that bit too much mass in evidence here – and it is allowed that bit too much freedom to move around at times, and isn’t quite marshalled cleverly or directly enough at other times, to have you zipping from one corner to another with a real taste for its talents.

At a basic level, the EV6 GT makes a decent start. Riding on fairly level and smooth surfaces at everyday speeds, there is a flavour of the enhanced, close and progressive damping of a driver’s car that’s been developed to a higher dynamic standard, as well as some weight and directness about the steering to separate it from the standard EV6.

That steering doesn’t communicate much, if anything, in the way of tactile contact patch feel, though. There’s also an awkwardness and sense of bulk about the steering wheel boss and rim that make them a little cumbersome in your hands, and not nearly the enticing primary point of contact that they ought to be.

Despite being level enough in its body control and having a strong enough mechanical grip level, the sheer size and mass of the EV6 GT prevent it from changing direction with particular keenness at lower speeds. And while Kia’s sportier driving modes do seem to dial out some of the longer-wave body movement that the car’s fairly long-travel suspension allows at other times, they don’t ever give it a carefully constructed sense of close poise, or make it handle in any more balanced a fashion.

Most of the time, the car’s preference is for a surprisingly stable path through a corner, and to lean on its traction and stability controls hard, though progressively, to prevent you from pouring on the torque that might otherwise animate the chassis, for fear that it will lead you astray.

Drift mode is the antithesis of all that (see ‘Track notes’, above), but while it’s an amusing antithesis in the right circumstances, it’s not a setting you would be comfortable using on the road.

Kia ev6 gt review 2023 04 action 0

Comfort & Isolation

We can give Kia some credit here for doing what it claimed and giving the EV6 GT a fairly supple ride. In in its softer calibrations, this allows the car to ease away the miles quite gently, and to feel largely well mannered and suitable for daily driving duties, without much aggression in anything it does.

It was clearly aiming for an everyday driver’s car character suitable for commuting, errand-running and family motoring most of the time, and then entertaining at will when the moment arises. Without perhaps focusing as hard as it might have on the latter part of that equation, Kia has delivered against the full breadth of it fairly well. In its default driving modes, the car is quite a bit more supple and mild mannered than you might expect it to be.

The front seats lack some adjustability in both squab and cushion, but they remained comfortable over distance for most of our testers. Kia’s preference on rear axle tuning – no doubt chosen partly to deliver the car’s drift mode handling theatrics – does make for the conduction of some motorway road noise (69dBA at 70mph against an EV segment average of 66-67dBA) but nothing most people would have any problem tolerating.



Kia EV6 GT front drift

When cars like the EV6 GT come along, it can be instructive to do a quick survey of the bang-for-buck cost of performance among more affordable driver’s cars. And in the electric age, of course, we might usefully update the formula to reflect the cost of a car’s power-to-weight ratio, rather than simply its outright horsepower.

The EV6 GT asks a little over £230 for every one of its units of bhp per tonne. The MG 4 XPower, which takes an even more direct route to the same point of difference, actually smashes that marker, coming in under £153. But in a BMW M3, you will currently pay £273 per bhp per tonne; in the hottest Tesla Model 3, it’s £239; and in an outgoing Ford Fiesta ST, the cost is £173. This Kia offers a lot of oomph for reasonably little outlay, then – but, broken down a little, perhaps not an exceptional quantity of it.

The car certainly is practical, though, and does promise to hold its value quite well – better, even, than a BMW i4 M50. It comes very well equipped; besides even bigger wheels, there are really only things like dealer-fit decals and locking wheel nuts on the options list.

And in our DC rapid charging test, the car performed very well indeed, recording a faster weighted average result than either a Tesla Model S Plaid or a BMW i7. It hit 2.9mpkWh on our 70mph touring efficiency test, and 2.7mpkWh on average (Polestar 2 BST Edition 270: 2.6mpkWh, 2.5mpkWh). Owners should expect 210-225 miles over longer trips, or a little more during urban driving. A decent showing. 

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kia ev6 gt review 2023 29 static front

The story of the affordable performance EV is, thus far, one of a lot of mistakes, wrong turns and blind alleys.

The MG 4 XPower showed us the naive folly of power for its own sake, the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT the risk of under- engineering your performance hardware, and the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 the danger of slightly too narrow a focus on one part of the driving experience.

Between those cars, of course, you could construct the landmark affordable electric driver’s car we’re all waiting for – but the Kia EV6 GT isn’t quite it. It doesn’t lack power or performance, and it has plenty of dynamic versatility to go with its practical cabin, which should give it easy access to the motoring mainstream.

In rarer and more vivid moments, though, when you go looking for more than just instant performance or slightly contrived dynamic tricks from this car, it’s short on answers. Its drift mode is worn a little like the office party Hawaiian shirt on Martin from accounts. And the car underneath it, we fear, simply ought to offer more of a multi-dimensional, real-world, everyday-accessible fun factor.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.