First Drive: 2022 Kia EV6

We got a first look at the Kia EV6 during a splashy event in New York’s Times Square last May. The SUV is the first in what will become an extended family of battery-electric vehicles for the South Korean brand — and a key part of the electrification program parent Hyundai Motor Group is pulling together.

2022 Kia EV6
After a splashy debut last May in Times Square, we got to put the new Kia EV6 through its paces.

Now, after a nine-month wait, I finally got a chance to drive the new battery-electric SUV, traveling to the other side of the country to do so.

Eventually, Kia plans to offer four different versions of the compact crossover, including a high-performance GT model that will be added to the line-up a year from now. During a long day’s journey through Napa and Sonoma wine country, north of San Francisco, I focused on the current top-line EV6 GT-Line, a rear-wheel-drive package and a fully loaded all-wheel-drive model.

Overview

Kia already offers several battery-electric vehicles, including the Niro and a version of its popular Soul crossover. But the EV6 takes it into a new era. Where the Soul and Niro models used modified versions of their existing, gas-powered platforms, the EV6 adopts an entirely new “architecture.” Shared with sibling brands Hyundai and Genesis, the E-GMP platform is a skateboard-like design that moves batteries, motors and other key components below the load floor.

This approach offers a number of advantages, starting with a near 50:50 weight distribution and an extremely low center of gravity. But it also frees up space normally devoted to an engine compartment for passengers and cargo, starting with the “frunk” under the EV6’s hood.

2022 Kia EV6 side
The new EV6 electric crossover is bigger than you might think with a wheelbase equal to the Telluride.

Exterior

The EV6 doesn’t readily fall into a single design niche. There’s a blend of SUV, sport coupe and even station wagon, and it’s likely most folks will lump into the crossover category. Kia fans will notice some familiar design cues, the EV6 picking up on the brand’s latest “Opposites United” design language used for the brand’s updated Stinger model. But it pushes things a step further, much of that to enhance range-extending aerodynamics.

The familiar Kia “tiger nose” grille becomes the new “Digital Tiger” design. The reality is that there’s not much need for airflow under the hood of an electric vehicle, so what little remains of the grille is actually sealed off and largely for show. A smaller grille below the bumper provides cooling air for the motors and battery pack, with smaller intakes feeding the air curtains that reduce turbulence around the front wheels. Cheating the wind is, of course, critical to maximize aerodynamic range.

The EV6’s headlamps now offer a sequential dynamic light pattern. The exterior door handles are now flush to reduce wind drag. A high rear deck doubles as a wind-cheating spoiler. And there’s a new, cross-car rear light cluster.

2022 Kia EV6 rear
A high rear deck doubles as a wind-cheating spoiler. And there’s a new, cross-car rear light cluster.

Interior

While it may have a compact footprint, the electric crossover’s wheelbase is precisely the same as the big, three-row Telluride, at 114.2 inches. From an interior volume perspective, the 2022 Kia EV6 actually falls into the midsize category, with 102 cubic feet for occupants and 27.7 cf for cargo. That nearly doubles to 53.5 cf with the second row folded down.

It also boasts a flat floor, which translates into even more room for passengers and their “stuff,” A large center console adding to all the little nooks inside the crossover.

Inside, the Kia EV6 features a modern, minimalist layout with some surprisingly luxurious detailing. The interior design team also put an emphasis on sustainability. The “leather” in the cabin is actually vegan and there’s been an effort to use recycled plastics, where possible. Slim front seats, meanwhile, help boost passenger space while reducing weight.

Twin 12.3-inch displays dominate the instrument panel, starting with a reconfigurable gauge cluster. The touchscreen infotainment system abandons Kia’s old UVO operating system for a newer technology with a more intuitive voice assistant. But while many functions handed off to the touchscreen, there are still a number of manual controls, including a volume knob and toggles for the climate system — including steering wheel and seat heaters.

2022 Kia EV6 interior
Twin 12.3-inch displays dominate the instrument panel, starting with a reconfigurable gauge cluster.

Powertrain

EV6 buyers will get a variety of options, starting with the Light package. It’s offered exclusively in rear-wheel drive and draws power from a 58 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Range is a relatively modest 232 miles, with the single rear motor pushing out 167 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. At a starting price of $40,900, it’s likely to appeal to urban buyers on a budget.

For those who want more range and better performance, the volume line will be the EV6 Wind. It’s available in both rear- and all-wheel drive, both featuring a larger, 77.4 kilowatt-hour pack. That boosts range on the single-motor version to an estimated 310 miles, and delivers 225 hp and 358 lb-ft of torque. The peppier AWD version adds a second motor on the front axle, punching things up to 320 hp and 446 lb-ft. But range drops to 274 miles.

Also offered in either RWD or AWD, the top-trim GT-Line boasts the same range, horsepower and torque numbers. But it adds a number of useful features. That includes 20-inch — slightly grippier — wheels and tires and, with the all-wheel-drive model, a more efficient heat pump and heated rear seats and steering wheel.

2022 Kia EV6 cockpit
The touchscreen infotainment system abandons Kia’s old UVO operating system for a newer technology with a more intuitive voice assistant.

With the larger battery pack, expect to have your EV6 plugged in for at least 8 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charger. But the Kia crossover is one of the first new battery-electric vehicles to migrate to an 800-volt internal electrical architecture. One advantage is faster charging when connected to the latest public chargers. That means adding as much as 217 miles of range in as little as 18 minutes.

Safety and Technology

There are plenty of other high-tech features, starting with a hands-free power liftgate. Qi wireless smartphone charging, an available WiFi hotspot and the ability to use Apple and Android smart watches to track vehicle information, such as charge status. You can also pair the EV6 to the Alexa voice assistant and, among other things, use it to “pre-condition” cabin temperature while still connected to a charger, reducing demands on the battery pack.

Options range from a 14-speaker Meridian Premium Audio system to an augmented-reality head-up display. When using the onboard navigation system it projects arrows that show you precisely where to make a turn, among other things.

2022 Kia EV6 rear seats
The “leather” in the cabin is actually vegan and there’s been an effort to use recycled plastics, where possible.

Add a “roster” of advanced driver assistance systems, such as forward collision warning with auto-braking, remote smart parking assist, blind spot assistance and highway driving assistance, among others.

The 2022 Kia EV6 also gets what is technically known as “Vehicle-to-Load” functionality, something the automaker demonstrated during a lunch break by using the car to power up some kitchen appliances. The battery pack can easily be tapped into should you suffer a blackout at home, need to power tools at a work site or, perhaps, a TV while tailgating.

The Kia EV6 proved to be one of the quietest of the new BEVs I have driven lately. But that’s not always a plus. Some drivers simply want aural feedback. And, for them, the South Korean crossover offers several options. Enter the infotainment system’s Setup screen, go to Sound settings and you can pick a “soundscape” to your liking. It will give you a digitally simulated audio track matched to your right foot.

Driving Impressions

California wine country is more than just a nice place to go cruising. With its steep grades and winding back roads it provides a perfect place to put a new vehicle to the test — and the EV6 lived up to my expectations.

2022 Kia EV6 charging
Charging the EV6 at home will take a good 8 hours, but using fast chargers will get you 217 miles in 18 minutes.

I split the day in half, starting out in the GT-Line rear-drive model, then switching to the all-wheel-drive package. The base engine provided a reasonable amount of power, with the instant torque of its single motor able to deliver reasonable off-the-line acceleration and the muscle needed to climb steep grades as well as make high-speed freeway passes.

The crossover’s low center of gravity and weight distribution helped compensate for both its added mass and the low-rolling resistance tires that trade off some grip for improved range. The EV6’s steering is quick and offered a reasonable amount of feedback in corners, making it easy to correct when I felt the back end begin to come loose in tight corners.

The added muscle of the all-wheel-drive package was, nonetheless, a welcome improvement, boosting 0-60 launch times to around 4.6 seconds — about 0.6 seconds faster than the Mustang Mach-E AWD model (though slower than the Mach-E GT). After warming the tires, the GT-Line AWD seemed to hunker down and stay glued to the pavement during even more aggressive maneuvers.

Another plus: the EV6 features four levels of brake regeneration. At its most basic, “regen” is used to help recapture energy lost while braking, something that can add significant range over a long trip, especially if you’ve got steep drops like you’ll experience in Napa and Sonoma Counties. With the EV6 you can increase the amount of regeneration. The higher level the more you slow when lifting off the throttle. In 1-Pedal mode, it’s almost like downshifting a gas engine several gears. And you may find yourself flipping from throttle to brake during only the most aggressive cornering maneuvers.

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD specifications

Dimension L: 184.8 inches/W: 74.4 inches/H: 60.8 inches/Wheelbase: 114.2 inches
Weight 5,556 pounds
Powertrain  Two AC Synchronous Permanent Magnet Motors with a 77.4 kWh LIPO battery
Fuel Economy 116 mpg city/94 mpg highway/105 mpg combined
Performance Specs 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet of torque
Price Base price: $51,200; As tested: $55,900, not including $1,215 destination charge
On-Sale Date Available now

Wrap Up

Kia began taking advance orders for the EV6 last June. It sold out the 1,500 First Edition models — priced at $58,500 — in just 11 hours. And the automaker admits it could take a while to meet the rest of its order bank. It’s “negotiating” with the parent company back in Korea to boost the anticipated supply of the electric crossover.

2022 Kia EV6 in Times Square
The 2022 Kia EV6 made its U.S. debut last may in Times Square in New York City.

The mid-range Wind is likely to be the high-volume trim package, with prices ranging from $47,700 for the rear-drive version, to $52,400 for the all-wheel-drive tech package model. The GT-Line runs $51,200 for rear-drive, $55,900 with all-wheel-drive and you can add $1,215 to all these numbers for delivery fees. Pricing has yet to be announced for the 570-hp EV6 GT model that Kia plans to launch either late this year or earlier in 2023.

As with most of the latest-generation of long-range battery-electric vehicles, you’re paying a premium to go electric. But you get a lot for your money with the EV6 — a striking design, inside and out, plenty of power, good range and reasonably quick charging. And, when you factor in the current $7,500 federal tax credits, as well as lower energy and maintenance costs, it starts looking like a much better deal.

According to many experts, 2022 is going to be a critical period, indeed, perhaps the tipping point for battery-electric vehicles. Just the number of entries on the market is expected to triple this year. I have driven many of the new offerings and, based on my initial drive, the 2022 Kia EV6 really stands out from the crowd. Indeed, it compares favorably with some new EVs priced substantially higher. If you’re looking for an all-electric crossover, it belongs on your shopping list.

2022 Kia EV6 ­— Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kia EV6?

It’s the first battery-electric offering from the South Korean brand featuring its new E-GMP platforms, which will serve as the base for a wave of EVs expected from the company for the next several years. 

How much will the EV6 cost?

The pricing ranges from $42,115 to $57,115, which includes the $1,215 destination charge, depending on the trim level, according to the company. The company’s now sold out First Edition models went for $58,500 and it hasn’t released pricing for its GT model coming next year.

Where is the EV6 built?

The new EV is being built in the company’s home country of South Korea as its Hwasung plant.

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