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Kia steps up its game for the electric era with a distinctive and dynamic family EV

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Quietly, Kia and Hyundai have become forerunners in the electric car race. It's now back with the Kia EV6

With electric versions of the Kia Niro and Soul and the Hyundai Kona, these stablemates proved they had the talent and know-how, demonstrating that EVs with a decent range could look pretty normal, drive in a familiar fashion and needn’t be prohibitively expensive. As a result, while some other manufacturers struggled to shift their EVs, Kia and Hyundai amassed substantial waiting lists for theirs, even before the current supply chain issues started wreaking havoc.

Kia enters the electric age with a new logo and a bold design language. Thankfully, the latter doesn’t include too many fake grilles. This top one is ornamental, but the one lower on the valance actually does cool the battery.

So far, though, these trailblazing Korean-built EVs haven’t been very exciting. They’ve looked like their conventional counterparts (which was entirely the point), they’ve left keen drivers a little cold and, other than in the broadest sense, they didn’t pioneer any new technology. But the new EV6 represents Kia shifting gears with its EV line-up and leaving behind the compromises of platforms that need to also accommodate an engine. It sits on the group’s new E-GMP skateboard platform, which is shared with the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and forthcoming Genesis GV60, and ought to show what Kia can really do with an EV when the shackles are removed.

Hyundai-Kia is by no means the first automotive group to launch a dedicated EV platform. Of the volume car makers, the Volkswagen Group beat them to it, but also demonstrated the pitfalls. The roll-out of its MEB-platform cars has been beset by software issues; and although those cars are reasonably distinct in how they drive, the shape of the design of many of them is rather samey.

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Can Kia avoid those issues and make a car with an identity that’s sufficiently distinct from the related Ioniq 5? Let’s find out.

The Kia EV6 line-up at a glance

Kia tends to keep its model ranges simple. There’s just one battery size and it can be had with a single motor and rear-wheel drive or two motors and all-wheel drive. A 577bhp Kia EV6 GT version is aleady here too.

For now, there are also just three trim levels: Air, GT-Line and GT-Line S. Air is always rear-wheel drive, so you need to step up to GT-Line for an all-wheel-drive version, although you can also have GT-Line trim with rear-wheel drive, like our test car.


2 Kia EV6 2022 road test review side pan

Opinions on the Kia EV6's exterior design are divided. Some really rate the car’s unusual detailing, especially at the back. Others struggle to appreciate it.

At the very least, though, Kia should be commended for coming up with a distinctive-looking car. The EV6 doesn’t hide its alternative positioning or seek to look ‘normal’ and it makes full use of the benefit that freedom brings.

EV6 is covered with unusual shapes and surfaces. The sloping rear and wraparound tail-lights might be its most peculiar features. Distinctiveness is good, of course, but the blindspot created by the rear quarter panels isn’t.

It rides on the EV-specific Electric-Global Modular Platform, or E-GMP, and, as with the Volkswagen Group’s MEB, the battery pack is carried within the floor of the car and powers one big motor in the rear and an optional motor in the front. All versions share the same suspension layout: MacPherson struts at the front and a five-link axle at the rear.

Being modular, the chassis is set to spawn smaller and larger EVs with a range of bodystyles. Since it’s a dedicated EV platform (as opposed to one that can underpin both EVs and ICE cars), there is no need to reserve space for an engine and the EV6 makes full use of that with a short bonnet and a long wheelbase with a generous passenger compartment.

Kia has also resisted the temptation to stick a huge phoney grille on the front. While the top section of the car’s ‘face’ is ornamental and supposedly evokes Kia’s normal ‘tiger nose’ grille, the lower air intake is functional, feeding air to the battery cooling system and channelling it across the flat floor for aerodynamic benefit.

And the downside of carrying that battery pack under the floor? It eats into the available cabin height, so although the EV6 isn’t really an SUV, it needs to be a little taller than most hatchbacks in order to offer enough passenger space.

As well as the usual benefits of an EV platform, the E-GMP, and by extension the EV6, has a few more tricks up its sleeve, most notably its 800V electric architecture. This enables charging at up to 350kW without needing impractically thick cabling and has previously been found on only the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-tron GT.

The car’s other party trick is reverse charging. Officially called vehicle to load (V2L), this can supply up to 3.6kW through an adaptor with a three-pin socket that connects to the charging port. That’s enough to power a fridge during a power cut or even to top up another EV.

As is common with Kias, you don’t get a lot of choice in the model range or options, and all EV6s have a 77.4kWh battery pack. There are just three trim levels: Air, GT-Line and GT-Line S. Every EV6 has a single 226bhp motor at the back, but GT-Line and GT-Line S cars can be ordered with an additional front motor for a total of 321bhp and all-wheel drive. In time, there will be an EV6 GT range-topper, too, with a Tesla-baiting 577bhp and 546lb ft.


13 Kia EV6 2022 road test review cabin

The inside of the Kia EV6 calls up similar conflicting feelings to the outside, mixing hatchback and SUV cues. Getting into the driver’s seat, you drop down, car-like, but you don’t sink down quite as low as you do in, say, a BMW 3 Series saloon or a hot hatchback. At the same time, you have a legs-out driving position as if you were sat down fully recumbently, because the whole floor is quite high.

The steering column comes at you at a steeper angle than you might expect, given how you’re sitting. But you look out at a short bonnet and over a seemingly low scuttle in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of being in a mid-engined supercar. It’s slightly unusual – not unpleasant, just different.

The driving environment is unusual. It’s at once quite open thanks to the seemingly low scuttle and floating centre console but it also evokes the feeling of a traditional sports car, with a high console and the instruments and controls canted towards the driver

Thanks to its architecture, the EV6 has a flat floor, but rather than making an MPV-like airy cabin with a minimal centre tunnel, Kia has chosen a very driver-focused cockpit with a tall centre console. It houses the drive selector, a wireless charging pad, controls for the heated seats and steering wheel, and more storage space than you could shake a Renault Espace at.

You could argue that not creating a completely open cabin is a missed opportunity, but the effect contrasts nicely with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which goes all in on the airy lounge vibe. The result is that the Kia feels like the more low-slung sporty option, while the Hyundai is more upright and relaxed, neatly differentiating these mechanically similar models.

The detailed design and specification of the cabin is a more mixed success. Glossy black plastics abound, and while some of the other materials are interesting, none of them feels particularly premium. That floating centre console is not the most securely fixed and its sheer length means that items within it can rattle and jingle around as you drive.

In the eternal battle of switchgear versus touchscreens, Kia is refusing to take sides. Under the central air vents, there is a separate panel of virtual buttons and two physical knobs. Rather unusually, these double as both infotainment and HVAC controls and can be switched between the two. It’s a novel solution, but not always an intuitive one.

Space in the rear is generous, with limousine levels of leg room. However, because of the high floor, taller adult passengers will sit with their knees in mid-air and their thighs unsupported, which can be tiring over long distances, and there isn’t much room under the front seats for feet, either. As a result, the space isn’t quite as comfortable or usable as the raw numbers would suggest. It’s a similar story with the boot: there is plenty of floor space, but because of the battery, the floor itself is rather high, and outright loading space is restricted in some ways.

Kia EV6 Infotainment and sat-nav

Hyundai-Kia has one of the best touchscreen-only infotainment systems – not because it’s particularly flash or does anything unusual but simply because it’s clear, logically laid out and reliable and has all the functions you need. It’s also responsive and has useful shortcut buttons, so its usability is first class.

There’s still scope for improving it, though. The way the infotainment shortcuts and climate controls have to share a touch panel is a little awkward. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring are included, but neither is available wirelessly; and although there are countless USB-A and USB-C ports around the cabin (including in the seat backrests), only the USB-A port would fire up CarPlay during our test.

The navigation system can suggest chargers, but it’s not always clear which type they are and whether they are publicly accessible. So you still need to check ZapMap or similar to make sure you’re not en route to a dead end.


24 Kia EV6 2022 road test review charging port

The 226bhp Kia EV6 is not only more powerful than direct rivals from the VW Group but it’s also lighter. It’s just under two tonnes, whereas the equivalent Audi Q4 E-tron and Skoda Enyaq iV are 100kg heavier.

That’s reflected in the EV6’s acceleration times. Taking 6.9sec to reach 60mph, it’s more than a second faster than the Audi. The 7.3sec 0-62mph time we measured is exactly as claimed by Kia. A standard-range, low-powered Ford Mustang Mach-E is a fraction quicker still. The Kia’s acceleration tails off less at faster motorway speeds than the Enyaq’s, too.

It’s quick enough to keep you interested in a straight line but it’s also enjoyable in corners, with fine roadholding, good body control and a clear rear-drive dynamic vibe.

On the road, the instant shove makes it pleasingly brisk in all situations, and the accompanying mild motor whine gives a reasonable sense of speed. You’ll need the 321bhp dual-motor version if you want indulgently explosive power, but this sort of performance feels very healthy indeed for a family car, especially when it arrives instantly.

Like other Kia and Hyundai EVs, the EV6 has steering wheel paddles to adjust the level of regenerative braking through six settings. Level 0 has no regen and lets the car coast with seemingly no friction at all. Level 1 is similar to engine braking in a manual petrol car, and Level 2 and 3 further ramp up the regen.

There is also Kia’s ‘i-pedal’ setting, which enables full one-pedal driving. In addition, there’s an adaptive mode that uses navigation and radar cruise control to vary the level of regen automatically. Giving the driver this much control over regen preferences is the right route to good drivability in any EV and it’s easy to find a setting you’re comfortable with.

Drivers who prefer to use the brake pedal to mete out the regen, meanwhile, will find decent pedal progression here once into the meat of the travel, but at the top of the pedal the brakes can be a bit grabby. Outright braking performance as tested was poorer than in the Enyaq iV, but only fractionally.


25 Kia EV6 2022 road test review cornering front

We know EVs can be rapid, quiet and easy to live with – but, short of a Porsche Taycan, few really impress in the corners. The Kia EV6 goes some way towards changing that. Part of the issue is that the current crop is made up mostly of taller SUVs, and although the low centre of gravity created by their battery packs mitigates the effect of their high-rised bodies somewhat, it doesn’t fully redeem their inherent dynamic compromises.

However, the EV6 feels like it has a lower centre of gravity than many of its rivals and it is also quite stiffly sprung and rear-wheel drive, with relatively wide axle tracks and a slightly rear-biased weight distribution. As a result, it handles with very little body roll. Good grip from the 235-section tyres helps to create strong roadholding and the car feels planted at all times, with a keenness on turn-in that belies the amount of mass that’s changing direction.

On a motorway, I rest my hands on the wheel in a relaxed way, but Kia’s lane keeping system clearly prefers a white-knuckle grip, because the EV6 constantly nagged me to keep hold of the wheel.

Ultimately, all that weight moving around on top of tall- sidewalled tyres means that there is some imprecision about the car’s response when you’re probing its limits, but not so much that it might discourage you in the act.

Unlike the VW Group’s MEB cars, the EV6 feels distinctly rear driven, too. On the road, if you get on the throttle hard on the way out of corners, you can feel the rear squirm and begin to rotate the chassis underneath you. In the traction control’s middle setting, the EV6 can even take a little bit of attitude when cornering, and a few laps of the Millbrook Hill Route revealed that turning the ESP off even allows it to come out of hairpins on opposite lock, if you’re so inclined to let it.

However – and this is a common complaint with Kia, Hyundai and Genesis – the steering lets the car down. It’s accurate enough, but it’s devoid of any convincing feedback or tactile fluency. That’s not unusual in a modern car, but in the absence of actual feel, it’d be nice to have some weight to push against at least, and the EV6 lacks even that. This doesn’t stop it from being one of the most engaging-handling family EVs of the moment, of course, but it certainly provides room for improvement.

Ride comfort and isolation

There’s a predictable price for that remarkable dynamism and, given the title of this section, you can guess what it is. Adaptive dampers will be available on the forthcoming full-fat EV6 GT, but on the ‘regular’ models they’re not even an option. And the passive ride and handling compromise that Kia’s chassis engineers have chosen for the car is definitely tuned on the sporty side.

It’s not crashy thanks to good damping and 55-profile tyres, so it’s not uncomfortable as such, but it always feels busy and firm, whether you’re in town, on rural roads or on the motorway. The trade-off will be worth it for some people and less so for others. As with the interior, this is a pronounced point of differentiation compared with the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which is much more comfortable and luxurious-feeling, but also more ponderous to drive.

Cabin noise is filtered out very well. The EV6 proved a few decibels quieter than the Skoda Enyaq at 30mph, 50mph and 70mph, so it’s an effortless long-distance car, with the exception of the seats, which may not suit everyone. Some testers found them perfectly comfortable but others thought the base was too soft and the adjustable lumbar support too harsh.

Assisted driving notes

Even the cheapest EV6 gets adaptive cruise control with speed limit recognition, as well as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance systems. GT-Line adds blindspot assistance and rear cross-traffic assistance. Annoyingly, you need to upgrade to GT-Line S to get the eminently useful blindspot camera views in the instrument cluster, but other than that, the car is well equipped for this kind of tech.

The lane following assistance is fairly well integrated. It’s helpful and smooth on the motorway and you can turn it off using a button on the steering wheel. The same button also turns the lane keeping assistance off.

The adaptive cruise control doesn’t anticipate all that well, though, and it isn’t especially smooth when coming to a stop in traffic. Letting it adjust to speed limits automatically is basically unusable since it will decide randomly to abandon variable speed limits and start accelerating to 70mph.


1 Kia EV6 2022 road test review lead

The Kia EV6 ought to be one of the easiest EVs to live with because it has a big battery and is one of only a few EVs that can use the fastest rapid chargers. Its 800V architecture allows for charging speeds of up to 350kW, which in theory can top up the battery from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes. On a more common, 50kW public charger, that takes 73 minutes.

The car’s 77.4kWh of usable battery capacity makes for a WLTP-certified range of 328 miles. We averaged 3.4 miles per kWh across road and track testing, giving a real-world range of 263 miles. That’s not groundbreaking (it’s on a par with the Skoda Enyaq 80), but it’s still impressive and you might well improve on it in more typical real-world usage.

CAP expects extremely strong values for the EV6 in the first year. After that, it’s level with rivals, but still very good.

As for servicing, Kia prescribes a routine workshop visit every 10,000 miles or 12 months. If something were to go wrong, the EV6 has a seven-year warranty and that extends to the battery, whose capacity is also warranted up to 70% of its original factory state. However, a number of other manufacturers warranty the battery for longer.

An EV6 Air starts at £40,945, rising to £43,945 for a rear-wheel- drive GT-Line and £48,445 for a GT-Line S. A front motor for more power and four-wheel drive adds another £3500. So, sporty or not, this isn’t one of the most competitively priced electric cars. But as a higher-spec, longer-range EV, it’s not bad value. A Hyundai Ioniq 5 with similar equipment to our test car is cheaper, but a like-for-like Volkswagen ID 4, Enyaq or Ford Mustang Mach-E is slightly more expensive – and a matching Mercedes-Benz EQB, BMW iX3 or Tesla Model Y costs more again.


27 Kia EV6 2022 road test review static

The EV6 is the first product of a new Kia. It shows a completely new design language that will trickle down throughout the range and it sits on an entirely new and innovative EV platform that will spawn several other models. A lot is riding on the EV and, with a few caveats, Kia has knocked it out of the park.

It avoids one significant pitfall by having a substantially different character from the mechanically similar Hyundai Ioniq 5. It’s a much more dynamic car to drive than the Hyundai – and most other full-sized EVs, too, short of a Porsche Taycan. That’s also reflected in the car’s driving environment, which doesn’t go for the lounge-on-wheels style of some EVs but instead has a more traditional executive car feel, while still reaping the packaging benefits of the EV architecture.

Spec advice? A 226bhp GT-Line is brisk enough and provides a happy medium of kit and price. The only option is a heat pump, which is a good idea if you want to preserve range while keeping warm

The practical bases are likewise well covered. The Kia EV6 has a long range and is ready for the fastest public chargers. It could steer better and the interior doesn’t have the high perceived quality you might expect from a £40,000 car, but those don’t stop it from being one of the most impressive EVs yet.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Kia EV6 First drives