ELECTRIC KGM TORRES

Korean newcomer looks to find its groove in local SUV market with appealing, good-value proposition.

You might not know it (we certainly didn’t) but Korea’s KGM Group has over 70 years of automotive heritage behind it and surprisingly strong global reach despite only exporting 55,000 cars last year. After acquiring SsangYong, it has quickly set about rebranding to KGM in Australasia and is doing so with great energy and enthusiasm. It says a lot that key Seoul-based executives flew to Auckland to oversee a critical product launch and celebrate the opportunity ahead. KGM, it seems, has the potential to ride a popular Korean wave and be a not-so-quiet disruptor.

It is no exaggeration to say that KGM Torres received a glittering unveiling worthy of a motor show debut. A distinctive-looking mid-size SUV, the Torres range comprises petrol and pure-electric derivatives and we were able to briefly drive the latter under cloudless Auckland skies. The flagship electric costs $68k and is logically badged EVX. Compelling value is a prerequisite for traction in our small, challenging marketplace and KGM with its rationalised 12-dealer network acknowledges this. An incentive for the first 40 purchasers sees them get the latest family EV in their garage plus an EVNEX wallbox installation for $70,000 in total. At entry level, meanwhile, the front-drive Torres with a 1.5-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine and Aisin 6-speed auto sneaks in below $50k. A 4WD version follows mid-year.

New brands need to get noticed and the Torres EVX certainly begins on the good foot. For starters, KGM has adopted a purple accent colour to set it apart and it has a strong, memorable nameplate in Torres (especially if it can find consistency with the pronunciation). So that you know, the name is inspired by the landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia.

The top-of-tree EVX stands out because it best exemplifies KGM’s ‘Powered by Toughness’ design philosophy. But while KGM wants us to believe that the design direction “draws heavily on our unique heritage”, elsewhere it confesses to drawing “inspiration from iconic SUVs on the market” and Range Rover and Jeep look to be a primary sources for borrowed design cues.

Initial (albeit brief) on-road impressions of the EVX are sound. Dual 12.3-inch digital displays for instruments and infotainment dominate a comfortable and spacious cabin and en vogue copper inlays offset the less-trendy, less-practical gloss-black treatment. In typical EV fashion, the EVX accelerates smoothly and effortlessly and seems about as brisk as you need it to be. Noise levels are low and the ride on large 20-inch alloys perfectly acceptable. The driver enjoys an eight-way powered seat and exemplary outward visibility while rear legroom is excellent for the category. KGM also claims best-in-class luggage space across all Torres variants. We weren’t expecting Gangnam-style attitude and blaring K-Pop tracks but the promised sense of fun must have been tucked away for the timebeing.

The 73.4kWh battery is sourced from BYD so features its impressive blade design tech and comes with a 10-year warranty. On the WLTP scale, the EVX range is quoted at 462km. We look forward to putting that claim to the test soon while seeing how well KGM can capitalise on a positive start and cater to the Kiwi sense of adventure. Torres might not excite quite like elements of Korean urban culture but the EVX has the quality and credentials to benefit from Kiwis’ strong appreciation of Korean automotive and tech products.

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KGM TORRES EVX

ENGINE Single electric motor

BATTERY 73.4kWh li-ion

OUTPUT 150kW / 339Nm

TRANSMISSION Single-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN Front-wheel drive

LENGTH 4.72m

WEIGHT TBC

WHEELS 20-inch alloy

TYRES 245/45 (f, r)

0-100km/h 8.6 secs

RANGE up to 462km

PRICE from $67,990

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