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2022 Kia EV6 Test Drive Review
The first ground-up EV from Kia is a smash hit even when held back by a weak battery.
We didn't expect them to go there. But the designers and engineers behind the 2022 Kia EV6 did—and deleted the template of their company's affordable, cost-conscious brand. This is a $60,000 electric performance car that can genuinely compete with a Tesla Model 3 on everything from tech to style to acceleration to charging time. It's a masterclass of fresh thinking in a market segment dominated by rehashed ideas. And yet, it's hampered by the same major problems that, for decades, remain unresolved. The EV6 would be amazing with battery technology that hasn't yet been invented. For now, we'll tell you what the present life is like with this most unusual and exciting Kia in years.
Look and Feel
A Tesla Model Y is a sedan with a puffed-up, bubble roof. The Kia EV6 is sportier and svelte like a Ford Mustang Mach-E. Better still, the EV6 is lower and wider—at least visually. The short highback tail has a lip spoiler that doubles as a lightbar. The wheels are stretched to the absolute furthest corners of the chassis and they're so offset from the cabin that the body has hips. Just like the wide fenders that curve outward from the glass on a Porsche 911, the EV6 has those same voluptuous curves for both style and stability. The headlights squint in anger and trace a V-shaped pattern that mirrors the black trim below on the bumper. That trim mimics the air intakes of a gas car, but since electric motors don't need to ingest tons of air, they're sealed. The wedgy profile looks blade-sharp up top with the angled roofline and the twin ducts in the rear spoiler. Down low, it's smooth and silken, especially in our test car's matte silver paint.
The Hyundai IONIQ 5, the corporate couse that naturally competes with Kia EV6, looks techy and unique. The EV6 goes for a more sporty aesthetic. There's so much style, Kia put recessed lights below the rear spoiler that illuminate the body, not the ground. The chrome trim below the taillights hangs like a thick platinum necklace, for no other reason than to sparkle. The reverse light isn't so much a light as it is an architectural model of acrylic blocks. The flush door handles retract when unlocking. The rear charge port is hidden beneath the right brake light powers open and has a magnet to keep it closed. There's no practical reason for any of these features, which is why the EV6 kept our full attention. Industrial design like this is why cars—and the people who make them—matter.
The interior features a curved section of dual 12-inch screens laid on top of a linear dash, a floating center console, and black and white seats covered in suede and leather (both faux and convincing). Ambient lighting flows around the dash and circles the rear passengers, who stare at front seat backrests that belong on the set of a sci-fi movie. The hockey-puck shifter and digital controls further separate the EV6 from basic Kia models. We like wild and crazy, but mostly, the aesthetic is car first, computer second. That's why the EV6 is so enjoyable to drive.
We tested the most powerful EV6 available at launch, a GT-Line e-AWD with two electric motors making 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque. With a 77-kilowatt-hour battery mounted low in the chassis, this 4600-pound car zips to 60 mph in a claimed 4.6 seconds and corners like a getaway car. The top-power GT trim is coming in fall 2022 with 576 hp and a 0-60 time of less than 3.5 seconds, while the base EV6 Light (and, thankfully, only the base EV6 Light) has the smallest battery (58 kWh) and a measly little motor (167 hp and 258 lb-ft). We don't recommend even looking at it. However, the single-motor Wind and GT-Line models are more acceptable, since their drivetrain pairs the larger battery with a higher-output single motor (225 hp, same torque).
On the dual-motor GT-Line, there's so much twist when you hit the accelerator pedal in Sport mode. Simply point, steer, and you're gone. The EV6 routes torque so quickly and effectively that we never noticed a lurch or an interruption in power. Whether on pavement or deep snow, in a straight line or around a decreasing-radius turn, the EV6 handily outguns Kia’s other performance sedan, the Stinger. In most driving situations, only the rear motor drives the wheels until you demand full power or start slicing corners. That’s when the front motor activates. You can feel the torque shifting instantly, whereas on many gas-powered all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossovers, there's a heartbeat between your right foot and when the non-driven wheels begin to engage.
When braking, the EV6 gives almost too much control: There are more than eight settings for the regenerative braking that control how intense the car decelerates when lifting off the accelerator. In the maximum I-Pedal setting, it's so strong it can stop the car without touching the actual brake pedal, allowing for one-pedal driving. In auto mode, it can slow down to pace the car in front using the adaptive cruise control's radar sensor. You pick a setting with the left or right steering wheel paddles. In the touchscreen, you can select two firmness settings for the brake pedal. That's harder to adjust and can't be changed while moving, but everything else is on the fly. Selecting drive modes is super quick: It's a large button on the lower-left corner of the steering wheel, similar to the position used by Ferrari and Porsche. This is a car that changes moods as fast as you can flick a finger. And the excitement it delivers—wow.
The fun doesn't last. Our weeklong test with the EV6 in below-freezing temps (20-30 degrees farenheit) revealed disappointing driving range, no doubt zapped by the cold and the EV6's tremendous power output. We used Kia's Winter Mode, which like in the Niro EV uses some extra power to keep the battery at a more constant state of charge. On startup, we ran all the heating accessories at max settings—and thanks to the car's highly efficient (and optional) heat pump, switched them to low or off within 15 minutes of driving. But the climate, an occasional speed burst on the highway, and using Sport mode a small fraction of the time can't justify the excessive amount of energy our EV6 needed to run in a New England winter.
After charging the battery to 95 percent on a warm 45-degree day, the EV6 showed an estimated 249 miles of range in the default Normal drive mode. The computer adds a few miles when switching to Eco mode—great on a highway cruise but agonizingly dull—and subtracts miles in Sport mode. Using the heat on a moderate setting—72 degrees with the fan speed on level 2 or 3—subtracts about 20 miles from the estimate in any mode. That's all well and good. Estimates are exactly that.
But after two days—more than half of our time on the highway—the EV6 was down to 15 percent battery. That's 80 percent of the battery's capacity to travel 143 miles, roughly the distance from Hartford, Connecticut to New York City. When adding the remaining range, that meant the EV6 delivered only 65 percent of Kia's 274-mile EPA estimate. After another charge to 80 percent, we drove in similar conditions and consumed 74 percent of the battery's capacity in 125 miles. Any way you break down these numbers, this is poor efficiency.
The EV6 performed much better when the electrical flow was reversed. The car can accept up to 240 kW—among the fastest EV charging anywhere—but the four Electrify America fast chargers we used in Connecticut could not output more than 130 kW of peak power. (We plugged into every 350-kW charger we could at each station, none of which were operable. Instead, we had to use the 150-kW chargers. At one station, a fellow EV driver in a Lucid Air couldn't get his car to charge at the top rates, either.) Even so, the EV6 took 35 minutes to go from 15 to 80 percent battery, gaining an estimated 148 miles. At an EVGo station running at only 50 kW, we charged from six percent to 50 percent in 40 minutes, gaining about 100 miles. Back at another Electrify America station, we charged from 59 percent to 95 percent in 36 minutes, gaining 100 miles. That's more impressive, as charging stations throttle back their outputs when EV batteries reach 80 percent to avoid heat damage.
Still, this is nowhere near Kia's claim of adding 217 miles in 18 minutes. Maybe in other parts of the country, the charging networks are better. But in the Boston to New York corridor, this is the present reality of driving an electric car in the cold weather. Sad to say, it's no better since we tested the Kia Niro EV in these same conditions three years ago. We can tolerate long charging times, but the energy consumption is disappointing even for an EV with a performance powertrain. Charge at home every day, or don't buy one.
Form and Function
The EV6 reinvents a few core functions, such as the door handles (they pop out when you get near the car with the key), the paddle shifters, and the twisting rotary shifter that always returns to center. But the craziest one is combining the climate controls with the stereo and shortcut controls in a thin touchscreen. With one small touch (showing a fan icon and an arrow icon), the knobs change from adjusting temperature to adjusting volume and tuning. The screen reveals the shortcuts for the stereo, nav, and vehicle settings, and then poof! They're all gone and replaced with climate controls. It's neat to see at first but frustrating when driving. More often than not, you adjust the volume and don't realize you've raised the temperature to 82 degrees.
With a low floor, you'd expect generous legroom and headroom in all seating positions—and that's exactly what you get. Although there's no panoramic moonroof stretching to the rear cabin, the back seats recline and have air vents with optional heated cushions. It’s an airy, open space that lets everyone spread and stretch out. But while the rear cabin rivals a midsize SUV, the cargo hold matches a subcompact SUV. The high load floor and the low roof height eat up space: Just 24 cubic feet behind the seats and 50 when folded. On rear-wheel-drive (RWD) models, the front trunk offers a few more. But on AWD models, there’s an electric motor hogging the space.
Towing capacity, when equipped, is rated at 2,300 pounds. More useful is the onboard power generator, which can run 120-volt equipment (or charge another EV) by using the charging port or the outlet beneath the rear seats.
The EV6 infotainment system works like other Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis models. Which is to say, it's simple, quick, easy to adjust settings, and is full of connectivity (except wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—the projection systems are available but they require a wired connection). The instrument panel shows vehicles in surrounding lanes when using the Highway Driving Assist (HDA) and shows a 3D bar graph of the car's power and speed, but otherwise, it doesn't offer any customization. That's OK because it shows live feeds of your blind spots when changing lanes—a feature all cars should have. There are two versions of HDA. Only cars with HDA 2 can automatically change lanes and detect if other cars are nearby, but in our testing, we found this lane-change feature worked half the time and often disabled itself. The rest of the system is very good.
The 360-degree surround-view cameras are sharp and clear, plus they have a 3D rendering of the car you can rotate on the touchscreen. You can customize "engine" sounds and even change how quickly the tone rises and falls in pitch. The head-up display (HUD) uses augmented reality to display directional arrows that change size and location based on your position. It can also track a car in front of you with an underline when using the adaptive cruise control and the HDA. The software can adjust the display automatically based on your seat settings. So much of the tech comes standard (HDA, blind-spot monitoring, fast-charging, dual 12-inch screens, wireless charger, navigation). Higher trims like our test car have a 14-speaker Meridian stereo with surround modes and a remote parking system that lets you stand outside the car and move it forward and backward. Overall, the tech isn't overwhelming. It’s impressive.
One thing to note: Kia disables all Kia Connect features, such as sending the car's 360-degree camera images to a phone or dialing 911 in an accident, if the car is registered in Massachusetts. Automakers must share a certain amount of proprietary software and repair tools with independent shops in Massachusetts, but some automakers like Kia have not figured out how to make their telematics systems (such as Kia Connect) comply with the law. So in the meantime, they've switched it off for Massachusetts residents even though it’s supposed to be standard on every EV6.
The EV6 has no published test results from any government or independent agency in the U.S. But the available tech (and a driver's knee airbag) that comes equipped on every EV6 is nonetheless impressive. The HDA system is standard on the base Light trim, which includes lane-keeping, cyclist and pedestrian detection, front and rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention monitor, rear parking sensors, safe exit warning, and rear occupant alert. Front parking sensors come on the Wind RWD trim, while the Wind AWD has automatic rear braking and 360 cameras. The GT-Line adds evasive steering assist and "machine learning" to the adaptive cruise that claims to "attempt to drive as the driver would."
The EV6 starts at $40,900 for the base Light trim that we don't recommend for its small battery pack and undersized single motor. Start with the Wind RWD at $47,000 and go from there. Our loaded GT-Line e-AWD was $58,200 with destination. The forthcoming GT will crest $60,000. They're all expensive cars—and the most expensive Kias on sale. The EV6 has plenty of competition, from the Mustang Mach-E to the Volkswagen ID.4, the Polestar 2, the upcoming Nissan Ariya, and even its Hyundai cousin, the IONIQ 5. There's little value in the EV6, given how these electric vehicles rely on a non-Tesla charging network that in 2022 is still not up to speed with the performance and capability of modern EVs. The cold-weather range also needs serious improvement. But the EV6 is so fun to drive and integrates useful technology within an extraordinary design. If you're not concerned about driving 200-plus miles in the cold and can charge at home, it's definitely the hot car to buy.
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