2022 Kia EV6 first drive review: An EV defying expectations

“Woof”. That’s the actual word that escaped my lips when I first engaged Sport mode on the EV6. However, it could be used to describe most of my experience with the vehicle during a first drive event.

Kia’s shift from an entry-level automaker to a mid-market favorite with the help of the Telluride SUV continues with its latest offering. The EV6 shows the evolution not only of the brand but also of its electric vehicle offerings. The EV6 is a larger-than-expected vehicle that Kia calls a CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicle) with the space of an SUV and the driving posture of a sedan. Everything about it is more than you anticipate.

2022 kia ev6 first drive review: an ev defying expectations
Roberto Baldwin/Clear Tips

While other automakers have boasted about their move to electric vehicles with their first vehicles in recent years, Kia has been in the game for a few generations. From an electric version of the Soul to the Niro EV, the Korean automaker has been busy. Hyundai Motor Group (Kia’s parent company) recently introduced an EV architecture called E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform). The EV6 is Kia’s inaugural take on that battery and powertrain system, while Hyundai has its own Ioniq 5.

In the photos, both vehicles look smaller than what you experience in real life. The reality is that the EV6 has the exact same wheelbase as the Telluride at 114.2 inches. The illusion is achieved thanks to the wheels being pushed towards the edge of the vehicle. So while it may look like a compact hatchback, it actually has dimensions closer to a midsize sedan, coming in at 184.3 inches in length, just an inch and a half shorter than a BMW 3 Series.

Everything about it is more than you anticipate.

Its actual size is not the only surprise. Frankly, the EV6 probably offers a lot more than most people expect from Kia. As it drives the all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive versions of the GT trim level in Northern California, it’s clear the Korean automaker is ready to take on both automotive upstarts and traditional OEMs.

At the heart of this performance is powertrain technology that has, in many ways, evolved beyond automakers like Mercedes. The most impressive part of E-GMP is that it has an 800-volt architecture, which means it charges fast. The vehicle will support charging up to 350 kW at compatible DC fast charging stations. That’s faster than anything else on the road right now and is only matched by the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Kia says it will charge from 10 to 80 percent in less than 18 minutes at a 350 kW charging station.

Fast. Maybe too fast.

That is sitting. On the road, the GT version is fast in a way that the numbers don’t quite capture. The AWD version has 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque, giving the AWD version a zero-to-60 time of 5.1 seconds, two seconds quicker than the RWD GT version at 7.2 seconds. It’s not the fastest electric vehicle I’ve ever driven, but that initial jolt can push you back in your seat in a way the Volkswagen ID.4 and Chevy Bolt just don’t.

kia ev6 next to a vineyard
Roberto Baldwin/Clear Tips

While cornering in Northern California, I found a little more body roll than I expected in a vehicle with this much power. For 90 percent of drivers, it’s not a problem; Kia unleashed us on technical mountain roads with more curves than most people encounter in a month. But for those looking for a hot hatch with acceleration matched by its curves, the EV6 just isn’t there. Although it is close.

As expected, there was more oversteer in the RWD version of the vehicle than in the AWD variant. Even when I did get the tires to come loose, the security system was quick to fix things. And even with the body roll, I still enjoyed it on roads that were probably more suited to the Kia Stinger than the EV6.

Lots of space for activities

Inside, again, it’s bigger than you think. The vehicle feels spacious. The large windows only enhance the dimensions of the midsize vehicle. Tall people should rejoice. At over six feet tall, I usually have to push the seat all the way back to drive. In the EV6, there was still room for those taller than me to sit comfortably behind the wheel.

Even with the driver’s seat so far back, I was still able to sit comfortably in the back and even had a few inches of space between my knees and the front seat. The rear seats also recline to further enhance the experience. There’s room for three in the backseat, but one of them needs to be a toddler for all three to survive more than 30 minutes before getting chafed at their teammates’ elbows.

inner front seat kia ev6
Roberto Baldwin/Clear Tips

Cargo space is in the middle of the EV SUV field. With the rear seats up, the trunk has 24.4 cubic feet of space. With both rear seats folded down, that increases to 50.2 cubic feet of space. That’s more than the Volvo XC40 Recharge and on par with the Kia Niro EV, but less than the Ioniq 5, ID4 and Mach-E.

Meanwhile, the materials felt more luxurious than you might expect. This is something of a secret weapon from Kia and Hyundai: make the interior feel like you paid more for your vehicle. The vegan leather seats felt like suede without the whole killing the animal part. Dash and center console materials were equally impressive.

The layout of the controls took a few minutes to get used to, considering the interesting layout of the vehicle’s center console. Heated seats and steering wheel controls are at the end of the console. Once you find them, it makes sense. But, I confess, I spent a few minutes trying to figure out his location.

One intriguing feature is that the control panel below the 12.3-inch touchscreen changes from climate controls to hotkeys for the infotainment system. The physical knobs do triple duty as temperature control, volume control, and tuning control. It’s a bit of a nifty trick that gives the driver physical buttons without too much clutter. While it may seem a bit misleading at first, it struck me as an exceptional compromise in a world with fewer and fewer controls available outside of the infotainment system.

2022 kia ev6 first drive review: an ev defying expectations
Roberto Baldwin/Clear Tips

The infotainment system is no different from what we’ve seen in recent Kias and Hyundais. It is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android. There was little to no latency when switching between features and home screens. Overall, it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it gets the job done without forcing the driver to hunt for hidden features.

The fun part is the head-up display (HUD), like the Mercedes EQS and S-Class. Yes, Mercedes. The EV6 has improved turn-by-turn direction arrows that appear and point you in the right direction as you approach a corner or intersection. At a roundabout (we managed to find a few in California), the arrows were a great help in navigating the circular intersections. Also, like Mercedes, with active adaptive cruise control, the HUD will place a bright line under the bumper of the vehicle that the EV6 is tracking. It’s a good reminder that the car’s sensors and computer are doing their job.

Go! Go! Go

Kia is launching the EV6 with six trim levels and a starting price of $40,900 (not including a $1,215 destination fee). The least expensive version is called Light. It will ship with a smaller battery than the rest of the lineup at 58.0 kWh and a target range of 232 miles.

The automaker will then split the trim levels into Wind and GT. Both will have AWD and FWD variants, while the Wind will get a third “tech package” trim. All of these vehicles will come with the larger 77.4 kWh capacity battery pack. Kia did not share information about whether that capacity number was the gross package size or the usable package size. Hopefully, they will share that information in the future.

kia ev6 front vineyard side
Roberto Baldwin/Clear Tips

What we do know is that the RWD versions of vehicles with that larger package target a range of 310 miles, and the AWD versions target 274 miles.

But those numbers may be conservative. Cruising between 40 and 55 miles per hour at a steady pace in the AWD vehicle, the vehicle told me that it was achieving 4.9 miles per kWh well above the expected efficiency of 4 miles per kWh. The AWD GT version I drove started the day with an estimated range of 290 miles, but gave me a range of 254 miles by the end of the day with 88 percent capacity remaining, instead of the anticipated 241 miles.

After some overly aggressive driving later, I’ve obviously lowered those numbers, but both AWD and RWD vehicles are likely to have a bit more range than Kia allows once they hit the real world.

Right time, right car

The EV6 may not be as tall as an SUV, but its intriguing design and tailgate give it the feel of a taller vehicle in a package that drives more like a car than a utility vehicle. Its weight creates more body roll than I’d want from a compact car, but it doesn’t really go after that market, even though the AWD GT trim level is fast.

While the $40,000 model doesn’t break the 250-mile range barrier, the $47,000 RWD Wind will take you 310 miles from home nonstop. Best-in-class 350kW charging makes even the smallest battery pack less of a problem, because the time spent at the fast-charging stations will be much less than anything else on the road. Additionally, the vehicle is eligible for the $7,500 tax credit.

Once again, Kia offers a vehicle that feels more expensive than its asking price with technology and features found in luxury-class vehicles from Germany. It’s doing all of this in a package that deftly spans the world of SUVs and cars, and has a design that stands out from the crowd.

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