Driving electric SUVs from Tesla, Kia, and Hyundai showed me why the Korean brands are gaining on Elon Musk
- The Kia EV6 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 are some of the trendiest new electric vehicles challenging Tesla.
- After driving both — and Tesla's popular Model Y — I can see why.
Tesla is by far the US leader in electric-vehicle sales. But as the market continues to grow, Elon Musk's slice of the pie is shrinking.
After driving two of the most popular new Tesla rivals on sale — the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 — it's easy to see why Americans are warming up to new faces in the race. The trendy Korean SUVs are stylish, fun, and technologically advanced — and are making trouble for Tesla's Model Y.
They're just plain cool
For years, Tesla's main competitors were dorky little hatchbacks. With daring, head-turning styling, the EV6 and Ioniq 5 are anything but. Driving both cars around New York, I had several people stop and stare or ask questions.
Anyone who isn't a fan of the Ioniq 5's has stubby proportions and cyberpunk aesthetic can opt for the EV6's swoopier design. The Model Y, nice looking as it may be, has done so well that it's nothing special where EVs are popular.
High-tech with fun features
The two SUVs excel where it matters most: range. Both are rated for at least 300 miles of driving in their pricier, large-battery variants, which is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, they can charge exceptionally quickly. They claim to recoup 70% of their battery level in just 18 minutes when plugged into a high-powered charging station.
Interesting features include onboard electric power, which you can use to charge a laptop or even prepare a meal on the go, as I did. The Ioniq 5 in particular makes great use of space. It feels surprisingly big inside thanks to a flat floor and a big open space in front of the center console for a backpack or purse.
Electric cool in a regular car
With a generously sized touchscreen packing an impressive assortment of unique capabilities — like games, a surveillance system, and a web browser — a Tesla is a lot like a smartphone on wheels. That big screen and resulting button-free interior are big selling points, but some people may want a more conventional user experience. That's what the Kia and Hyundai deliver.
They're high-tech and feel modern inside, but also work basically like the cars everyone is accustomed to. They do each have a touchscreen, but they're more modestly sized and aren't the sole way of controlling everything like a Tesla's command center is.
In a Tesla, you need to tap the screen or shout a voice command to adjust the wipers, pop the trunk, or dial up the A/C. The Kia and Hyundai have relatively normal controls for the climate, radio, and more.
Plus, they drive great
The Model Y accelerates like nobody's business and takes turns like a sports car. But having your own personal rollercoaster sacrifices comfort, and the Y's suspension can feel stiff over bumps.
The Hyundai, however, glides comfortably down the road. The EV6 delivers sporty steering and is more geared toward driving fun, but it doesn't feel as hardcore as the Model Y. In their dual-motor, all-wheel drive configurations, both models are plenty quick enough to put a smile on your face and shock your unsuspecting passengers.
Of course, the Model Y has plenty of pros, too. Exclusive Supercharger access, a minimalist interior, and high-tech features still make it an appealing choice, especially for buyers who need to live on tech's bleeding edge. So it isn't going away anytime soon.
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