2022 Kia EV6 First Drive Review: Kia’s Mainstream EV Is a Practical Winner

Kia’s hot streak continues with the all-electric EV6, which blends great styling and laudable handling in an approachable, usable package.

byJames Gilboy| UPDATED Jan 31, 2022 8:27 AM
2022 Kia EV6 First Drive Review: Kia’s Mainstream EV Is a Practical Winner
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This past decade has seen Korean carmakers finally come into their own as threats to makes from America, Europe, and Japan. The billions they've invested into electric vehicles are finally bearing fruit, too, in the form of the country's first purpose-built, mass-market EVs, such as the 2022 Kia EV6; one of many electric Kias to come.

As a compact, five-seat crossover, the Kia EV6 sounds pretty formulaic as an EV goes, and like one that could easily fade into anonymity as the segment grows. Instead, though, the EV6 sustains Kia's hot streak, delivering distinct styling, superb driving dynamics, and nicely competitive max range of 310 miles. I'm not on board with every aspect of its interior and tech, but the EV6 overall is a compelling package that sets a high standard for electrics to come—both from Korea and beyond.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD in California's wine country, James Gilboy

2022 Kia EV6 RWD Specs

  • Base Price (As Tested): $42,115 ($52,415)
  • Powertrain: 58- or 77.4-kWh battery | permanent-magnet synchronous motor | 1-speed transmission | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 167 or 225
  • Torque: 258 lb-ft
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.2 to 8.0 seconds
  • Curb Weight: 4,017 to 4,255 pounds
  • Seating Capacity: 5
  • Cargo Volume: 27.7 cubic feet with rear seats up | 50.2 cubic feet with rear seats folded
  • Range: 232 to 310 miles

2022 Kia EV6 AWD Specs

  • Base Price (As Tested): $52,115 ($57,115)
  • Powertrain: 77.4-kWh battery | permanent-magnet synchronous motor | 1-speed transmission | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 320
  • Torque: 446 lb-ft
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.1 seconds
  • Curb Weight: 4,539 to 4,661 pounds
  • Seating Capacity: 5
  • Cargo Volume: 27.7 cubic feet with rear seats up | 50.2 cubic feet with rear seats folded
  • Range: 274 miles
  • Quick Take: Kia's first purpose-built EV drives even better than it looks, though some of its tech could be more straightforward.
  • Score: 8.5/10

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Photos make the Kia EV6 look like it's about the size of a Hyundai Veloster, or maybe a VW Golf. In person, it comes as a shock to find it's more SUV-sized, coming in between the size of the compact Kia Sportage and midsize Sorento crossovers. This is a big boy, as Kia's brand experience director Michael McHale put it to me.

As Kia's first EV designed from the ground up, the EV6 is Kia's first implementation of its E-GMP platform, which it shares with Hyundai and Genesis, and whose name resembles that of my OnlyFans. Like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Genesis GV60 it mirrors, it tucks a lithium-ion battery into its floor, starting with a 58 kWh pack in base RWD "Light" trim good for 232 miles of range with a maximum DC fast-charge rate of 180 kilowatts. Paired with a single permanent-magnet motor on the rear axle, it makes 167 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

I'm guessing most EV6s, though, will be built with the larger 77.4 kWh pack, whose RWD setup returns 310 miles of range with 225 hp and 258 lb-ft. That battery also underpins the twin-motor AWD version of the car, available on the Wind and GT Line trims and standard on limited-run 1st Edition models, which are all sold out anyway so that's a fairly useless fact. More useful is the knowledge that the AWD EV6 lays down 320 horse and 446 torque, has a 274-mile range, and can tow up to 2,300 pounds. (Later on, there'll be a high-performance, 577-horsepower EV6 GT with 316 miles of range—hoo boy.)

Both batteries are liquid-cooled and can be preconditioned by a heat pump that's standard on AWD models and optional on the rear-drive, big-battery trims. As the drivetrain is 800 volt-compatible, the 77.4-kWh battery can accept a maximum charge wattage of 240 kW DC, allowing it to charge from 10 to 80 percent in 18 minutes (the smaller battery fast-charges just as quickly), or on a Level 2 charger in just over 7 hours. 

However, one of Kia's killer apps is the reverse—the EV6 has a bidirectional V2L charging system, meaning it can send 3.6kW of power back out to run all manner of electrical appliances off the big battery. It's set up to automatically shut off if the battery level falls below 20 percent so you don't accidentally brick your car while hosting a pop-up rave in the woods. This is possibly one of the biggest conveniences that an EV can offer and one that might go a ways towards increasing overall adoption, but sadly V2L is only offered on a handful of electric cars at the moment, most of the Hyundais or Kias.

A Technical Showcase

Being such an important car to the Kia brand, the EV6 comes with generous amounts of technology as standard. Its headlights, taillights, daytime running lights, and cargo lamps are all LEDs; there's a rear parking distance warning, and on the road, its ADAS suite eases commutes. There's blind-spot watch, automatic high beams, rear cross traffic alert, and lane-keep and lane-follow assist, all of whose statuses are shown in a head-up display with speed limit recognition, current speed, and navigation directions. Paired with active cruise control, these give the Kia EV6 a driver-assist package that ranks as high on the SAE's vehicular autonomy scale as Tesla's Full Self-Driving Beta does. The Kia's lower tolerance for misuse, however, makes it less likely to lull the driver into a false sense of security that could risk a crash.

In the cabin, much of the tech suite is controlled through twin 12.3-inch infotainment screens, through which passengers can play music via either Bluetooth or wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Oddly, while those systems aren't wireless, phone charging is. Its smart key includes no-subscription remote start, and because parenting is hard and has no silver-bullet solutions, the second row benefits from dual USB-C charge ports and a wifi hotspot. Together, these serve only as the foundation for the EV6's reasonably equipped base trim.

The EV6 Hierarchy

Kia has effectively structured the EV6's trims as short range, long range, and AWD, though they're not exactly named accordingly. Light trims get the base battery, Wind and GT-Line the big one, as well as the choice between RWD (longer range) and AWD (better performance). All roll on standard 19-inch wheels, which up front are aimed by a leather-wrapped steering wheel accompanied by an interior shod in cloth and artificial leather.

The mid-level Wind trim includes many conveniences and luxuries unavailable on the Light, introducing cooling, heating, and power adjustment to both front seats, not to mention heat to the steering wheel too. Its liftgate becomes powered, parking distance warning works front and rear, and it gains a 14-speaker Meridian sound system that aced the Mana test—it's pretty kick-ass. Some features remain optional, like the useful surround-view monitor, and remote smart parking assist, which eases the EV6 into and out of tight parking spots. On rear-drive EV6s, the battery's heat pump remains optional too, and should you live in a clime that sees significant cold weather, it's indispensable.

This also applies to the GT-Line, which standardizes some of the Wind's options, and includes exclusives like a power sunroof, automated pop-out door handles, automatic evasive steering, and machine-learning smart cruise control. Still, a few goods remain optional, namely 20-inch wheels, heated outboard back seats, and suede upholstery.

Seat Time

I tested a pair of GT-Lines in both RWD and AWD forms, whose huge wheels belied their sizes in photos and in person, and made their fastback proportions work surprisingly well for a crossover. The EV6's front end is conventional Kia (which is to say anything but conventional at this point), while the continuous line down its side meets at the rear to gusset the taillight-slash-spoiler, and frame the concave trunk lid in a way that reminds me of the Shelby Daytona.

Inside, its marvelous floating center console left room for a storage area underneath without sacrificing console bin space—the latter comfortably held my Nikon, the former is an ideal camera bag dock. Headroom front and back pleasantly exceeded expectations set by the low roofline, while rear leg room wasn't lacking. Cargo space admittedly ranks the lowest in the segment, with the smallest trunk and no truly usable frunk space, though utility doesn't seriously suffer. It still has double the trunk space of a Toyota Corolla, not to mention decently sized cupholders, door pockets that'll fit a midsize bottle.

As I suspect the finest trimmings are being saved for the Genesis GV60, the EV6's materials didn't blow my mind, as something about the suede upholstery's perforations and textures reminded me of seat covers (this ceased to be a complaint with the Misty Grey interior scheme). I didn't find a seat setting that fully satisfied me, and they could have used more bolstering around mid-back, though terrific ride quality meant these were of limited issue.

Wind and road noise deadening weren't anything special, especially for an EV, and I'm still not enthusiastic about its touchscreen infotainment setup. The function of the climate control knobs, for example, changed depending on what screen I was on, forcing eyes-off operation which we know to be dangerously distracting. Its slightly obtuse implementation seems antithetical to the inclusion of the HUD, whose blind spot monitor partially made up for the EV6's visibility: It's strong forward and to the right, but mediocre to the rear, and basically nonexistent over your left shoulder.

The rest of the ADAS features managed alright too; steering assist didn't meander far from the lane's center, and active cruise kept a safe distance as long as the car ahead didn't deviate too far from dead center. Its GPS-linked speed reduction for corners could've stood to slow more for turns over hilly terrain, though those are places you'll want to leave anything to the EV6 anyway, as it's simply delightful when the roads get good.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD, James Gilboy

Hairpin Hero

Unlike some EVs with their black plastic cladding, Kia makes no buts about what the EV6 is built for, with only 6.1 inches of ground clearance; it's no off-roader. Minimal ride height keeps its 1,052-pound battery close to the road, lowering the EV6's center of gravity and making it maneuver like a significantly lighter car. (The lighter 58 kWh pack weighs a paltry 816 pounds.)

Engage its quick, 2.67-turn lock-to-lock steering, and its actively damped MacPherson strut front and five-link rear suspension compress, rolling softly to communicate exactly how much grip you're using. In Sport mode, the steering weights up accordingly, the tires emitting whispers of scrub well in advance of the limits of their grip. Cross it and wash wide, and the steering lightens with a textural shudder signaling the driver to whoa, cowboy.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD, James Gilboy

The EV6's four-corner 12.8-inch disc brakes offer laudable pedal feel that makes it worth engaging with during classic two-pedal driving, though it's also sometimes needed in the one-pedal "I-Pedal" mode whose calibration isn't quite my favorite. I felt a dead zone up near the top of the accelerator, and wish the regenerative effect was stronger. Still, its liftoff curve was predictable, and being electric, so was the smooth reapplication of the throttle.

Neither the 225-hp RWD nor 320 AWD EV6 GT-Line are nerve-shatteringly quick in a straight line, though they're both able to surge past slow traffic. In the case of the rear-drive model, pinning the throttle while exiting a roundabout is enough to kick the rear out just enough to dump some adrenaline, but not enough to put you in a real slide. Even though you're in the safe hands of its stability control, it still feels like cheeky fun.

Sustainability

The Kia EV6 employs recycled PET plastics in its floor mats and parts of the seat covers, along with artificial leathers, whose organic counterparts are still to be found on the wheel—and seats too, on some trims. Kia does not disclose the EV6's manufacturing CO2 impact the way, say, Polestar does, though its production has been certified by the Carbon Trust.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line RWD, James Gilboy

Into the Thunderstorm

Kia's far from a trailblazer of the compact electric SUV segment, which already counts the likes of the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Volkswagen ID.4, and Tesla Model Y among its numbers. As the Tesla is the most expensive of these by far, though, and is no longer eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit, it doesn't compete on price and thus isn't worth more than a passing mention. (The Nissan Ariya, Subaru Solterra, Toyota BZ4X, and Chevrolet Equinox EV are also hard to compare as little is yet known about them.)

All are pretty much all in the same territory as far as back-seat space goes (there's plenty), though they're far from interchangeable space-wise, as the Kia has the least cargo room of any of them. At the entry level, the VW offers more range at a lower price, though that comes at the cost of enduring its frustrating interface.

Given how many desirable features are left off the base EV6, the smart move seems to be to vault up to whichever premium powertrain better suits your needs. The Kia's long-range rear-drive version has some of the best range, even if it's on the pricey end, and it still undercuts the big-battery Mach-E. Ford, Hyundai, and VW do AWD cheaper, though none of them compete with the AWD EV6's range near its price point, which makes me think this is the one to get if you're looking for value for money.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD, James Gilboy

Kia-p It Up, Guys

The 2022 Kia EV6 loses some points for its (relative) lack of cargo space, unexceptional interior, and slightly overcomplicated touchscreen and climate controls that aren't easy to adjust on the go. Still, it's easy to recommend on the basis of still being everything you want from a technologically advanced new car; it looks spectacular, handles great, has competitive range, trustworthy ADAS, and in case you're hesitant about being an early adopter, an exceptional warranty. It's hard to ask for much more from a new car—lord knows many EV buyers don't get nearly as much for their money.

The 2022 Kia EV6 hits dealers this quarter.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com