Kia Drive day, Thursday, October 12
THE Scottish Borders is a part of the country I have rarely visited, so it was a bonus that Kia had arranged a driving day based at the magnificent SCHLOSS Roxburghe Hotel and Golf Course in Kelso.
A chance to drive the latest models from South Korea’s finest manufacturer is not to be sniffed at; especially as I knew their flagship EV6 GT would be available and I had yet to experience its stunning performance capabilities – including a 0-62mph time of just 3.5 seconds. Yep, a family-friendly EV that can leave even a Porsche Taycan (and virtually anything else) in its wake.
But let’s not dive straight in at the deep end, eh? Better to build up to it with a pleasant drive around the adjoining country lanes in something a little more sedate. The weather was excellent; clear blue skies and no chance of rain. A little cold, perhaps, but this is Scotland in October, so blessings were counted and first up was the Sportage HEV GT-Line.
A handsome beast in this 5th generation guise, it’s no wonder the Sportage SUV is Kia’s best-seller globally – not just in the UK. It’s available in petrol, mild hybrid, hybrid and plug-in hybrid with four model grades giving you a choice of 14 different versions.
But no need to fret, the choice is pretty simple – go for the GT-Line model (£35,445 OTR with front-wheel-drive) as it has everything you could possibly need, with some extras that you didn’t know you needed, thrown in. Like twin 12.3inch touchscreens and more “Assists” than Ryan Giggs.
It’s exceptional inside too with plenty of space for the growing family and, as usual with Kia nowadays, the quality of fit and finish is right up there with the German premium brands.
How does it drive? Well, in the 30 minutes I took it on a tour of the local country roads, I would say “very well”. The automatic gearbox seems intelligent enough and there is enough power (226 bhp) to handle any quick overtakes. 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds means the Sportage HEV is no slouch. A worthy best-seller.
Next up was the more “youthful” looking Niro EV. Not quite as serious a family-lugger as the Sportage, but still quite roomy. I love the front end too which is like nothing else on the road; mean and techie like a Star Wars stormtrooper. It’s Kia’s second-best seller in the UK and starts at just £36,795 OTR for the ‘2’ model.
I was taking the range-topping ‘4’ (Kia like to keep things simple here) for a spin and at £42,295 OTR I was thinking it’s getting quite pricey for a compact crossover. Until you get inside and you realise that the Niro is a lovely place to be sat with an impressive dash that mirrors the Sportage with its sweeping twin displays. The 2-spoke steering wheel is a hit too.
Quiet, serene and relaxing to drive, the Kia Niro EV isn’t one for barnstorming around the A-roads but I expect it’s a delight around town. It’s not just an EV for the short commutes either; with a real-world range of around 285 miles, it’s good to go anywhere, especially as it can take a DC Rapid Charge (up to 300kW, if you can find one) that could take the 64.8kWh battery from 0 to full in less than 45 mins. Realistically, though, if you’re charging at home at 7.2kW it will take 9hrs 25mins. You’ll probably never need to charge from empty though, right?
However, if it’s the ultimate family-wagon that you’re after, you really should have Kia’s 4th-generation Sorento on your list. “Stately” is what springs to mind when describing this 7-seater. It has clean, sharp lines and is particularly handsome when viewed from the rear. It puts me in mind of the excellent Volvo XC90.
There are just two trim levels – ‘Vision’ and ‘Edition’. Both get All-Wheel-Drive and equipment levels that are beyond extensive, including a fully-digital cockpit and a 10.25in touchscreen fitted as standard. Engine choice is Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and a 2.2 litre Diesel. The diesel gets an 8-speed DCT gearbox while the hybrids get a 6-speed auto.
I was getting a taster of the most-powerful Sorento, the 261 bhp PHEV in ‘Edition’ trim and I must say it felt more than worthy of the £56,995 asking price. Fit and finish inside the plush cabin is exemplary. From the bespoke black leather upholstery, through to the 12-speaker BOSE sound system, the Sorento is a class act and really far too good to let a handful of kids muck around in. Anyway, they’d only argue over who gets the heated seats in the second-row . . .
Described by Kia as a mid-sized SUV, the Sorento seems bigger in the flesh and is actually the largest Kia in the current line-up. It doesn’t feel too big on the road though; the ride is a little on the firm side with no hint of boat-like handling, thanks to a completely revised fully-independent suspension.
It’s quiet too – a perfect long-distance cruiser that is as sure-footed as it is refined. This PHEV version can also manage up to 35 miles on electric power only. For many, that would mean the commute to work and back could easily be carbon-free.
I was rather reluctant to hand the Sorento back, but I’d also spied that the EV6 GT was also back and available. Or so I thought . . .
A fellow scribe had been waiting patiently for the Kia flagship (or should that be rocketship?) to return, so we decided to buddy-up and take a turn each as driver/passenger (although it turned out to be more laughing maniac/terrified handle-grabber). Also, I was so excited I forgot to take any photos – so all photos are courtesy of Kia.
The EV6 GT did not disappoint. The “standard” EV6 is quick – in its 321 bhp AWD guise – and is capable of hitting 62mph in just 5.2 seconds.
However, the GT has an 80% higher total power output (577 bhp) which hurls you at the horizon, pinning you back into the seat while your internal organs rearrange themselves accordingly. In just 3.5 seconds, you’ve hit 62 mph and if you’re lucky enough to be on a race track the EV6 GT will keep you pinned right up to 162 mph. And all this from a family hatchback . . . Yes, it is a little crazy.
There are plenty of differences in applied technology between the GT and the non-GT EV6: Suspension and electronic control systems have not just been tweaked, but re-thought. For example, the standard EV6 electric motor has exterior water cooling, which only influences the temperature of the motor housing. For the EV6 GT, cooling performance is supplemented by the coil pack being flushed with oil, maintaining stable temperatures even in extreme conditions and during sustained high-speed operation.
But none of that matters if the EV6 GT handles like a bucking-bronco, wanting to throw you into the nearest hedge the moment you try to tap into all that power. Fear not though; the EV6 GT is your friend.
The EV6 GT’s unique suspension ensures the car’s ride remains flat in all situations, mitigating roll when cornering or when changing lanes at high speed. I was astonished at how stable the car felt in a straight line when accelerating hard. Even some exaggerated camber on the local B-roads didn’t fluster the GT’s dynamics.
Accessing the Drive Modes allows the driver to tailor the overall dynamic character of the EV6 GT to their own tastes. In Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, unwanted body movements are already well controlled for an EV, thanks to the inherent sporting character and low centre of gravity of the EV6. However, at the heart of the EV6 GT’s driving experience lies a new GT Drive Mode (cue evil laughter), accessed via a neon button located within the lower right portion of the two-spoke steering wheel.
This new mode automatically configures the vehicle’s e-motors, braking, steering, the semi-active dampers, e-LSD and Electronic Stability Control systems into their most dynamic settings (Sport or Sport+), transforming the character and response of the EV6 GT. There is even a Drift Mode which sends up to 100% of the power to the rear wheels. Yes, still a little crazy . . .
All I could really say about the EV6 GT, from the too-short time I was acquainted with it, is that is very, very fast, feels extremely well planted, steers and stops like you would expect of a car with this level of performance and yet can also provide comfort and calmness when needed (which is probably 99% of the time).
The interior is pretty much standard EV6, which is to say it is top-class but with some neon style cues to remind you that this is no ordinary family EV. Rear passenger space is outstanding.
Practicality is very good for such a high-performance EV and that also rings true when it comes to real-world range and charging options. The 77.4 kWh long-range lithium-ion polymer battery pack delivers a 263-mile driving range, and it can be charged from 10-80 per cent in just 18 minutes, if you can find an ultra-fast charger.
The Kia EV6 GT provided a thrilling end to a perfect day of driving and I was correct in guessing that most of the evening’s conversation would be based around this incredible EV. Also, like most, I can’t wait to get hold of one for longer-term testing (hint-hint). Watch this space . . .