New Kia EV6 vs New Polestar 2 vs Tesla Model 3
The class-leading Tesla Model 3 is being challenged like never before by promising new electric rivals from Kia and Polestar. Can it fend them off...
New Kia EV6 77.4kWh RWD GT-Line
List price £43,945
Target price £43,945
A 328-mile official range, super-fast charging and some clever new features make Kia’s large electric car seem very compelling
New Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor
List price £42,900
Target price £42,900
Dual Motor version has previously lost out to the Model 3, but this new Single Motor model is considerably cheaper and can cover more miles on a charge
Tesla Model 3 RWD
List price £41,990
Target price £41,990
The electric car to beat for around £40,000 when it comes to performance, technology, charging infrastructure and range
Here's some What Car? trivia for you: which was the first electric vehicle (EV) to win our overall Car of the Year award? No, it wasn’t a Tesla. And it wasn’t the original Nissan Leaf, either. It was, in fact, the Kia e-Niro.
You see, while Tesla undoubtedly revolutionised the electric car when it launched the Tesla Model S nearly a decade ago, it was (and still is) very, very expensive. And while the original Leaf was more sensibly priced, its real-world range of around 70 miles was never going to persuade many motorists to ditch fossil fuels.
The e-Niro, however, combined a genuine 250-mile range with a practical interior and a sensible price tag – and it remains a fine buy to this day. But now there’s a new electric Kia that would seem to be even better. The Kia EV6 is a bigger car, for starters, so it’s even more practical – plus it has a bigger battery for even longer periods between charges. Yes, it’s more expensive, but not by a drastic amount.
The main car it has to beat is a Tesla – not the enormous Model S, but rather the newer, smaller and far more popular Tesla Model 3. Recent updates to the entry-level version have traded some performance for a better range, and it’s actually slightly cheaper than a similarly well-specced EV6.
Our final contender is the Polestar 2, a car that has another chance to prove itself thanks to the introduction of a new and cheaper single-motor version. It isn’t nearly as powerful as the dual-motor model that first went on sale in 2020 (and lost to the Model 3 back then), but it can actually manage greater distances between charges – provided you choose the optional Long Range battery.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The entry-level Model 3 used to be called the Standard Range Plus. That name has been dropped (it’s now referred to simply as the Model 3) and you also get a larger battery with 57kWh of usable capacity. This is good news for range and boosts the official distance you can travel between charges by 27 miles (to 305 miles).
Of course, just like the official fuel economy figures for petrol and diesel cars, this range figure should be taken with a pinch of salt. Based on the energy consumption of the old Standard Range Plus, which is very similar to the new car, a real-world range of about 230 miles should be easily achievable, as long as the weather isn’t too chilly and you aren’t overzealous with your right foot.
Despite having a much larger (75kWh) battery than the Model 3, the Polestar throws that advantage away with relatively poor real-world efficiency. Based on its energy consumption in our test, you can expect around 220 miles from a full charge. The EV6 couldn’t get close to the Model 3’s efficiency, either, but it wasn’t as far adrift as the Polestar and has the biggest battery here (77.4kWh). All of that adds up to the best estimated real-world range of around 260 miles.
As well as a bigger, heavier battery, the new Model 3 has a slightly less powerful electric motor than before. We can’t tell you by how much (the US brand doesn’t publish power figures), but it no doubt explains the increased official 0-60mph time of 5.8sec. Cars with the new battery won’t arrive in the UK until early 2022, but we’ve little reason to doubt Tesla’s claim because, in our test, the old Standard Range Plus exactly matched its official 0-60mph of 5.3sec.
In any case, the Model 3 will be by far the quickest of this trio; the EV6 managed 0-60mph in 6.9sec and the Polestar a relatively tardy 7.5sec. We use the word ‘relatively’ simply because we’ve come to expect electric cars to be significantly quicker than petrol and diesel equivalents, not because the Polestar is frustratingly slow. Indeed, it can almost keep up with a BMW 320i.
While the EV6 and Model 3 are driven by their rear wheels, the Polestar is front-wheel drive – and that means it’s prone to a phenomenon called ‘torque steer’. Accelerate hard, especially if there’s any sort of camber on the road surface, and the steering wheel will suddenly tug left or right in your hands as though it’s connected to the front wheels via an angry snake. If this sounds somewhat sketchy, don’t worry; it isn’t so dramatic that you’ll end up in a field, but it can be annoying.
Another mildly annoying thing about the Polestar is its ride. Our car was fitted with optional 20in alloys (£900) and tended to fidget around at all speeds – even along roads that appeared quite smooth. You won’t be treated to a super-smooth ride if you choose the Model 3, either, but it is noticeably calmer than the Polestar – particularly at motorway speeds – on its standard 18in wheels.
The EV6 is no magic carpet (as with all EVs, its heavy battery puts extra strain on its suspension) but it’s the most agreeable car here and not in the least bit irritating along most roads. There’s no choice of wheels with GT-Line trim; you get 19s.
The EV6 is the quietest, too, with the least tyre and suspension noise at motorway speeds. There’s a noticeable amount of both in the Model 3, although the Polestar is by far the worst for tyre and suspension noise, recording the highest decibel readings in our tests at both 30mph and 70mph.
Noisy cruising manners and a relatively bumpy ride would be easier to forgive if the Polestar were super-agile and fun through corners. Sadly, it isn’t. It can ultimately go around corners at faster speeds than the EV6, no doubt thanks largely to our test car’s fatter, lower-profile tyres, but you’d hardly call it sporty. In fact, the EV6 has the better-judged, more naturally weighted steering; the Polestar’s is slow and numb, so it doesn’t give you a great sense of connection with the front wheels.
The Model 3 stays far more upright than either rival through corners, grips harder and generally feels more agile. Some will find the incredibly quick steering hard to get used to, but it’s certainly very precise. Just be aware that while the Model 3 handles very well for an EV in this price bracket, it isn’t in the same league as the BMW 3 Series for driver involvement.
Page 1 of 5
Best sports cars 2022
If you want ultimate driving thrills, a sports car should be at the top of your shortlist, but the best can do more than simply go fast
MG 5 long-term test review
The MG 5 is one of the cheapest electric cars on sale, and the only electric estate, but is it any good? We're living with it to find out