In early December of 2021, I had a unique opportunity to spend a weekend with the Polestar 2, the first mass-market EV to be released as the progeny of Chinese auto manufacturer Geely and Volvo since it purchased the Swedish company in 2010.
A few months later, in the first two quarters of this year, as I was in the market for a vehicle myself, I spent considerable time researching EVs. Many dealers have been asking $10,000 and above MSRP for EVs due to lack of inventory or extremely high demand. I eventually purchased a 2022 Polestar 2 myself, as it was one of the few manufacturers with inventory available and willing to sell one of its cars at MSRP.
Two of the most sought-after cars on the market right now are Hyundai's Ioniq 5 and Kia's EV6, both of which are built on Hyundai's Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) and which have many similar design characteristics and components.
I spent a week driving each car, and when I was done, I didn't want to give them back.
Similar, but not the same
The two vehicles have many similarities. They both look like sporty, compact SUV crossovers. The Ioniq 5 I drove was the maxed-out Limited Edition HTRAC, a dual-motor AWD, 77.4-kWh, 320-hp, 266-mile-range variant. It was fully loaded, in a premium color, at a $56,295 configuration pretax and dealer/delivery fees, and a $7,500 federal tax credit. The EV6 I drove was the GT-Line RWD, 77.4-kWh, 225-horsepower, 310-mile range variant at $51,700.
The Ioniq 5 Limited is 182.5 inches long with a 118.1-inch wheelbase, 63 inches high, and 74.4 inches wide, whereas the Kia EV6 is 184.8 inches long with a 114.2-inch wheelbase, 60.8 inches high, and 74.4 inches wide.
The Ioniq 5 Limited has approximately 27.2 cubic feet of cargo space, with 59.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. In contrast, the Kia EV6 has about 24.4 cubic feet of cargo space or 50.2 cubic feet with the rear seat folded.
The Ioniq 5 Limited weighs between 4,200 to 4,662 pounds, and the Kia EV6 is 3,984 to 4,502 pounds depending on the configuration.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
27.2 cubic feet
24.4 cubic feet
Cargo with rear seats folded
59.3 cubic feet
50.2 cubic feet
SE, SEL, Limited
Light, Wind, GT-Line
58 kWh or 77 kWh
58 kWh or 77 kWh
303 mi RWD, 266 mi AWD
303 mi RWD, 266 mi AWD
Up to 350 kW
Up to 350 kW
With Limited Editon
With GT-Line, optional on Wind
Both cars can be configured with similar motors (with similar range) with either RWD or AWD, in single (58 kWh) or dual motor (77 kWh), in different trims. The EV6 will also be available in a GT version with a whopping 577 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and 0-60 mph in under 3.5 seconds. But when it will show up in the US, no one knows.
Hyundai will also be producing an ultrapremium luxury-trim version of the EV6, called the GV60, that will be sold under the Genesis brand at Hyundai dealerships -- it's expected to appear in late 2022 and early 2023.
Regarding how both vehicles performed, they are both very responsive cars and maneuver very well. In this article, I will not focus on driving performance since this is more of an evaluation of the vehicles' technology. An automotive publication can road-test (and track-test) more effectively than I can.
Nevertheless, I felt that the Hyundai Ioniq 5 was more top-heavy when making higher G turns than the EV6, as it is a heavier, slightly taller car with a longer wheelbase. However, the Ioniq 5 was also more comfortable due to its generous seating area and open cockpit. In contrast, the Kia EV6 felt sportier but more enclosed and tighter in terms of comfort. They were both a lot of fun to drive, and from the perspective of a technology writer, I'll leave it at that.
Subtle yet important differences in cockpit layout
In addition to the available performance trims, the true difference between the Ioniq 5 and the EV6 comes down to the design aesthetic. The Ioniq 5 is being sold and targeted as more of a family car with cool technology. The EV6 is more of a sporty EV crossover with a younger image.
But both cars hold their own on the road, and the driving experience I had with each car varied as a result of the minor differences in size and the weight of the vehicles.
Hyundai owns approximately a one-third (33.88%) stake in Kia, but the company operates independently even though they share platforms. The differences between the two cars are expressed in the aesthetics of the interior trims to create a distinct branding effect. The general vibe of both cars is ultra-futuristic and progressive technologically. Both vehicles employ Bluelink, a Hyundai-designed, dual-screen TFT LCD driver informatics and in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system, compatible with Android and CarPlay, which Hyundai is committing to updating over-the-air twice a year.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza
I tested both cars with a heads-up display (HUD), a premium feature with the Limited version of the Ioniq 5, and the GT-Line EV6.
Even though the displays and underlying IVI operating systems are the same on both cars, there are significant differences in the cockpit layouts.
For starters, the Hyundai Ioniq has physical knobs and push-buttons for environmental controls, a knob attached to the right of the steering wheel for engaging drive/neutral/reverse/parking, and a push-button near the environmental controls to energize the vehicle.
The Kia EV6 uses a narrow touchscreen display with virtual buttons and physical knobs for environmental and entertainment controls. Its energize button and EV drive controls are on a knob in a center console that the Ioniq 5 doesn't have, which also gives the cockpit a tighter feel. The center console also hosts the seat heating controls -- something you need to be aware of when resting your arm on the console, as they are easy to activate by accident.
Both cars feature wireless charging pads for smartphones. Neither vehicle has wireless Android Auto or CarPlay -- both require wired connectivity unless you use a third-party wireless adapter.
For connectivity, the Ioniq 5 and the EV6 use a USB-A port underneath the central stack. It appears the jacks are designed to be field-replaceable and third-party parts exist for those who want it badly, so it is possible an OEM USB-C retrofit is potentially in the offering at some point in the future, or at least it will potentially be changed for 2023. The EV6 has the benefit of having several USB-C charging ports, but they are not data capable, whereas the Ioniq 5 has four USB-A ports and no USB-C ports.
So while I preferred the roominess of the Ioniq 5, I liked the more modernized industrial design choices of the EV6 better. It's not a deal-breaker for the Ioniq 5 since the vehicles have nearly identical functionality in all of the important aspects of the driving experience, but Hyundai should consider this.
Lots of dizzying electronics
To say that the electronics in both of these vehicles can be initially overwhelming is a bit of an understatement. Having come from the Polestar 2, which has a very streamlined, comparatively minimalistic user interface and driver awareness system using Android Automotive, and even having driven other EVs like the Tesla Model 3 and Ford's Mach E, which are fairly straightforward in their UXes and information displays, using Hyundai's Bluelink system is like looking at an LCARS display from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In many ways, it is retro-futuristic to look at.
The right-hand touch display is primarily used for operating the car's built-in navigation, which is voice-activated, as well as for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, entertainment systems control (such as for XM and FM radio), and activating and interacting with Android Auto and CarPlay. The right-hand display is also used for the 360-degree camera system and the surround view monitor (SVM) for parking. While the UX is straightforward, Bluelink has many menu options that go several layers deep, which can be daunting initially to dig into.
Most drivers are unlikely to interact with the built-in navigation system once they've connected their smartphone -- unless they see the benefit of directional overlays using the HUD, which we will get to in a bit. While the navigation is functional and responsive if you manually key in your destination, I found the voice response considerably slower and less helpful than Siri, Google Assistant, or even Alexa or Bixby. It's fine as a backup, but if you're a committed user of Google Maps, Waze, or Apple Maps, you won't be using the built-in navigation.
The left-hand display unit is where most of the action is. Both vehicles I evaluated had the full array of driver awareness and safety intervention sensors, including forward collision assistance (FCA), blind-spot collision avoidance assist (BCA), rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist (RCCA), reverse parking collision-avoidance assist, (PCA), Lane Keeping Assist (LKA), Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go (SCC), Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA), Navigation-based Smart Cruise Control (NSCC), and Driver Attention Warning (DAW).
A cyclable screen view using the controls on the steering wheel also shows battery and motor performance. But once you've seen that a few times and watched the nifty propulsion cycle where the rear systems kick in before the forward systems, you probably won't want to look at it again.
If that sounds like a lot of stuff, it is. But Hyundai does an outstanding job of visualizing all of these in the main driver display as if it is an advanced video game and showing the visual cues from these sensors exactly when they need to be shown to the driver -- you don't need to be aware of each of these systems at all times.
In the driver's seat
The driver awareness and intervention systems of the two cars I drove were configured identically. When the vehicles need to intervene on your behalf they do so, quickly. In addition to helping you keep in your lane with force feedback and countersteering torque, the car has automatic braking and sounds an acoustic alert if it detects that you're about to do something stupid.
Similarly, when the cars need to show you something, they do. When at highway speeds and using the smart cruise control, the system shows oncoming vehicles in the driver's and adjoining lanes, moving with traffic, in front and behind the vehicle, using graphics.
When you're changing lanes and vehicles are approaching from behind, the rear-facing cameras show a view from behind the left and right sides of the car, as if you were using the side mirrors -- this is in addition to the blind-spot collision assist (BCA) warning lights on the physical mirrors, as well as on the HUD.
Ah yes, the HUD. You think that this technology is going to be superfluous, but it's not -- it keeps your focus on driving and on the road itself because you are looking straight ahead instead of glancing down at the main driver display for just about everything you need for awareness cues except the rear-facing cameras. You get vehicle speed, road speed and traffic alerts, vehicle proximity alerts, and turn-by-turn navigational cues (if you're using the built-in navigation system) in the HUD.
It's not a perfect technology; road conditions and polarized sunglasses can make it difficult to see, and I felt that the fonts were a bit small for my myopic eyes. I would have liked to have the ability to magnify them perhaps another 25%. But it's a cool technology nonetheless.
If you aren't charging your vehicle at home (where you will be limited by 240 volts, 50A AC no matter where you live), you'll need to charge your vehicle at a DC charging station. In this area, Hyundai's vehicles are virtually unmatched. Both cars use an 800-volt systems architecture that enables them to use 350-kW charging stations to reach 80% battery charge from as low as 10% charge in approximately 18 minutes. That's incredibly fast.
By comparison, my Polestar 2 can only use 155-kW charging stations, and current-generation Teslas have a 480-volt system that can charge up to 250 kW.
Of course, that doesn't mean your car can always charge this fast. In addition to the capacity of the charging station, as with all EVs, the charging curve depends on your vehicle's current state of charge (SoC) -- meaning how depleted the battery is when it is connected to the charger and how the battery management system decides to condition the cells to optimize for battery health and life.
With the Ioniq 5 at Electrify America on a 350-kW charger, I could get the vehicle to accept 233 kW between 52% and 55% SoC, which is extremely impressive.
While I was unable to test this particular feature, the Ioniq 5 and the EV6 are also equipped with vehicle to load (V2L) 400-volt and 800-volt capabilities, which allow you to use the car's main charging port using a special adapter (as well as a 120V outlet in the passenger compartment) to charge external devices at 3.6 kW even when the vehicle is turned off -- so essentially the car becomes a generator.
But are they unobtainable?
After driving both of these incredible EVs for two weeks, I almost wanted to turn in my Polestar 2 and buy one of these instead.
Although the situation in your area may differ, you may have extreme difficulty finding these vehicles to purchase. In my discussions with Hyundai and Kia dealers in South Florida, I learned that when they receive these vehicles in inventory, they contact potential customers who have expressed interest in them on a first-come, first-served basis, and whoever comes in to make a deposit gets the reservation.
Hyundai dealerships do get SEs and SELs, but the Limited is a unicorn: Rumor has it the company produces only one Limited out of every 500 Ioniq cars. You can't even "build" a vehicle for future delivery -- what it will show you are similar vehicles in local inventory, and the max distance you can search on the website is up to 200 miles away.
The KIA situation is similar; lower-end EV6 in the RWD Light and Wind versions arrive in drips and drabs, but the higher-end configurations such as the GT-Line RWD and AWD are almost impossible to come by. When I wrote this article in early August 2022, a single EV6 GT-Line AWD was available for me to buy, for $58,000, in Key West, Fla., 150 miles away, with seven Wind RWDs in local inventory. When I looked the following morning, it was already gone.
A local dealer I spoke with on August 10 in Palm Beach Gardens, Northlake, initially asked $20,000 over invoice ($80,000) for a recently delivered EV6 AWD GT-Line, because of the highly desirable steel matte gray color it was ordered with. The asking price for a regular order (on which we placed a $100 refundable deposit) was $10,000 over MSRP and was told delivery could take up to two months.
On August 11, a day after the original version of this article was posted, a search on the open source EV Dealer Markup Tracker at Google Data Studio yielded a single dealer in the state of Florida, Regal Kia in Lakeland, that was not marking up EV6 cars. We were asked to place a $1000 refundable on build order and that delivery potentially could take up to a year, although some cars ordered in the spring arrived within 90 days of placing orders -- however much fewer of them were being ordered at that time. The EV6 contact at Regal, Greg Schmidt, cited that in May, they averaged one EV6 order a week in all trims, now they are ordering at least five per week.
You should consider yourself lucky if you can find any of these cars in inventory at a dealership near you in your desired configuration, irrespective of the color or trim it comes in, with minimal markup. Don't hesitate to buy it if you like the car because they fly out of dealerships as fast as they come off the boat from South Korea.