The good: Smooth ride and excellent handling, interior 240-volt powerpoint, low road-noise
The bad: Bulky steering wheel, slow acceleration, auto-parking
“It’s such a smooth ride, we love it,” were the words of a couple of new Kia EV6 owners I met recently at the Ballina Chargefox fast-chargers.
The couple (let’s call them Brian and Sheryl), were freshly arrived in the Northern Rivers’ relative winter warmth from Bathurst, and were grinning from ear to ear as they told me how much they have loved driving the EV6 across country NSW.
Available in Australia starting from $67,990 for the rear-wheel-drive Air option, up to $82,990 for the GT-Line all-wheel drive, the EV6 is Kia’s first pure electric offering (as opposed to the Niro EV, which is based on the ICE Niro).
Brian and Sheryl chose the AWD option in red, and haven’t regretted going for the higher-priced option.
Particularly as, as they told me, they were one of the very few able to walk into a dealership and take delivery of their vehicle only weeks after purchase. (Most EV6 buyers have had to tackle an online order process that has been beset with disappointment and is resulting in the practice of “flipping.”)
But this intrepid couple are not flipping theirs. Instead, they told me they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the different fuelling approach of recharging and stopping for a coffee or lunch, the generous driving range (504km WLTP) and are completely in love with the bold curvy hips of their new EV.
They hadn’t tried out the vehicle-to-load capabilities yet, but said they are weighing up whether they can use it to help power an off-grid shack on their property at night by charging it off a new solar installation.
So enamoured they were with their new zero-emissions chariot, the couple even ordered it a custom plate: EV66.
When I recently also got to test drive the blue rear-wheel-drive EV6 pictured above, I must say I was also taken by surprise.
From the outside, the EV6 offers all the appearance of a muscle car, and from the inside with its ambient 64-colour lighting options (we chose purple) and diagonal 80’s aesthetic, it seems aimed at the key audience for Stranger Things.
But in reality, its brawny exterior and pop-culture attitude belie its smooth handling and EV credentials.
Beautifully quiet drive, serene attitude
The Kia EV6 really is a beautifully quiet drive, and has benefited greatly from the tuning expertise of Kia’s chassis engineer Graeme Gambold. In fact, it is the only Kia car to be tuned to Australian conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RWD GT-Line mid-range option I drove was probably a little more serene to drive than the AWD – outputting 168kW power and 350Nm compared to the AWD’s 239kW and 605Nm torque. Its 7.3 second acceleration from 0-100 is certainly not heart-stopping, but it still has enough power to take that inside lane when needed.
The comfortable, gentle damping combined with very low road-noise, amounts to a huge plus. It’s especially noticeable driving on our typical country roads in Australia (and believe me, there’s plenty of those with winding corners and undulating surfaces near me).
It has three drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco adds more resistance to the motor, requiring you to put your foot down a bit more. It tends to discourage you from taking off which will extend the life of your tyres also.
Normal sits between Eco and Sport, and I found myself using this most of the time.
Sport mode gives the RWD EV6 a bit more oomph; but if you’re looking for a car that has a sporty appearance, you probably want it to perform that way also. I suspect this is why Kia says there is more interest in the yet-to-be-released, high performance GT. If you are after more thrill though, the AWD’s 5.2 seconds could be enough.
Battery, charging and V2L
Literally underpinning the EV6’s handling is the underfloor 77.4kWh battery. Its width helps with the stability of the ride and makes it difficult to roll.
Added to this Kia has added an 800-volt architecture which enables charging from 10-80% in just 18 minutes. Unfortunately I didn’t get to try this out at our closest 350kW charger wouldn’t play nicely.
The car has vehicle-to-load capacity – in the single-motor Air this is only present in the form of a 240-volt powerpoint underneath the backseat of the car.
The AWD GT-Line option however offers the capability both internally and via the external plug: perfect for those who may be on the road a lot for work, and also for outdoors activities like camping or charging electric bikes.
The charge port for the car is located on the back right of the car, underneath the upper edge of the tail. Other reviews have pointed out this is much better for cold conditions where icy sludge can jam the charge port lid if located on the front (as in the Niro EV).
On the outside, the EV6 sports the new Kia logo and tigernose design which consists of a horizontal line under the front of the hood set with LED running lights on either side.
This is complemented with a curved nose giving it a sporty look, that is offset at the back with a high tail, and sloped rear window. Instead of window wipers there is a rear spoiler that helps to flush water off the windscreen as you drive.
Door handles are flush to improve aerodynamics. In the GT Line, they pop out automatically when you approach the car with the RFID key.
Adding to the external design are wheel designs with angular spokes set with diagonal line details. This dynamic diagonal design language is continued on the inside with a carbon fibre look dash that wraps around the two horizontal displays.
Kia has used recycled materials on the interior of the car, and combined it with gloss black accents on the stick, door rests and around the interior Nike-style tick door handle. There’s no missing how to get out of this car, shall we say.
Dash and centre console
The dash and centre console made from recycled plastic bottles are the first touchpoints when you get into the EV6, and although the vehicle uses the same operating system as the Ioniq 5, Kia has made some interesting and different choices.
Perhaps the first thing that leaps out is the gear selector on the centre console (on the Ioniq 5 gears are selected via a stick hidden under the steering wheel).
Kia has made some really cool little design choices in the centre console, such as access to the different gears at your fingertips on the center console, as well as the EV “on and off” button.
Kia has also added a little space for wireless charging of your phone – and I think almost cheekily it has also added a diagonal upright where that EV on-off button is, so you can actually lean your phone if you are wanting to catch up on a work presentation or your latest YouTube.
(Of course, you’d only do this while keeping your eyes on the road and taking advantage of driver-assist features!)
On the front of the centre console, there is access to heated seats and ventilated seats and heated steering wheel options.
There are sleek touch buttons below the central screen, which give you immediate access to climate and comfort controls as well as volume.
Extra buttons found above the climate control buttons in the Ioniq 5 that bring up settings on the centre display are missing. The result is more fiddling with the touchscreen to find things, which I think was a bit of a mistake on Kia’s part.
Spacious but compact front row
Because it’s an EV built from the ground up on the Kia and Hyundai platform, there is more space to play with on the inside.
The front seats are electronic, and there’s plenty of legroom. The vegan velour upholstery adds to the retro vibes, although the dark seating and snug fit make the car feel smaller than it really is. The lack of the sunroof in the RWD options added to this, so if you’re looking for
In particular, for the centre console and dash, this means that they’re not actually joined up. They’re not as separated as in the Ioniq 5, but there is enough room underneath the centre console big enough for a small to medium-sized bag. It also makes a great place to charge devices.
There are four USB-C ports in total, including under the centre console where there is a 12-volt port and a USB-C port.
Down underneath the dash where there is one USB-C port and a USB-A port, and then Kia has also added some USB-C ports in the side of the front seats. What this means is if you’ve got small humans in the back (or even normal-sized humans), they’re able to charge devices from there as well.
There’s also lots of other storage in the centre console: lifting up the lid there is very deep storage, and the glove box is very generous in size also. Inside the doors you’ve got enough space for medium to large size bottles, and in the centre console you’ve of course got two spaces for small bottles or coffee cups.
Kia made an interesting decision is which buttons to place underneath the centre touchscreen. There are only climate control buttons which means that to access other car controls, you do need to reach across and interact with the touch screen. It’s not immediately intuitive, and although I think over time you would get used to I would have preferred to have the full range of access buttons present in the Ioniq 5.
The main touchscreen display screen has a picture of the car and some information about it including range. One quite cool thing is this will show you the range with the air conditioning on and with it off. That will give you an idea, if you’re getting low on charge, of the gains that you could make by turning some auxiliary services off in the car.
On the right is a visualisation of the navigation. To get to the full navigation screen, you need to press somewhere in that area. From what I could work out, that’s really the only way to get to the full map in the car, which I think is a bit of a miss on Kia’s part.
Really, navigation has got to be one of the key features that a driver should be able to access in the display.
It’s not given as an option to add in one of the custom function buttons, which only allow choices for ending calls, turning on privacy mode to turn off access to contacts, start a voice memo, rerouting, or turning on quiet mode.
On the steering wheel there are buttons where you can scroll through display settings, including driver-assist features including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and so on.
You also have the ability to adjust the volume and scroll through media modes. There’s also a voice control button – but for now, this only works if you have your phone plugged in and using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Kia has just announced that it will include a full telematics experience in the next design refresh of the EV6 so hopefully, these issues will be resolved sometime in 2023.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the steering wheel head was something of a deal-breaker for me. It’s quite wide and requires the driver to sit with knees further apart than I would personally like, unless I had the electronic adjustable seat placed lower (which is not my preference). Adjusting the steering wheel didn’t seem to improve this.
The Kia EV6 offers lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control, which is effectively what Tesla offers in its Autopilot. However, unlike Tesla’s Autopilot which is very prescriptive (god forbid you nudge the steering wheel lest you turn it off), I think Kia and Hyundai have implemented these features really well.
If you have both features turned on, all you need do is keep your hands on the steering wheel (and of course your attention on the road.)
The Kia EV6 gently guides the car within the lane – and unlike the Ioniq 5, doesn’t turn overenthusiastically across the lane divides on a corner.
If you put the indicator on then it will allow me to change lanes without giving you a lane departure alert, but it stays active while you do it.
I really prefer this approach to Driver Assist features, as well as Kia’s blind spot alert system.
From the inside of the car, there is decent visibility in both the front and the back. There is also reasonable blind spot visibility but because the car has great driver-assist features there’s absolutely no feeling that you’re unable to see what is around you. When you put the blinker on, the EV6 will show you a display from the side camera in the steering wheel display.
In addition to this, Kia has added alert lights on the side mirrors which turn red if there is a car in the blind spot. And, the EV6 also has a heads up display which gives you immediate access to see what the car’s speed is, what the current speed limit is, and if there’s a a car in the blind spot.
Also to be commended is the EV6’s rear camera displays. With a split screen view from the top thanks to well-combined fish eye lenses, plus rear vision. Kia and Hyundai have both done this exceptionally well (when compared to the Taycan, its quite mind-boggling).
Autoparking – as with the Ioniq 5 – was a disappointment however. In the fifteen minutes we had to test it, it only managed to find a parking space one, and then baulked at navigating to reverse next the car it had chosen. We hope both Kia and Hyundai can correct this in future software updates.
Cargo space and tailgate
With 480 litres of space in the boot and a generous 1,260 litres with the 40/60 seats folded down, there’s plenty of room for baggage. There is a net provided to hold things in place, as well as a retractable cover. Sadly though, the Australian EV6 does not have a gear tunnel opening, or bag hooks. The GT-Line variants get an electronic tailgate.
Under the bonnet of the RWD option, there is a generous 52 litre frunk (“front trunk” to use the US vernacular) that is big enough for two bags of ice. Unfortunately the AWD option does not get this amount of space as it is taken up by the extra front-wheel-drive motor, leaving a modest 20 litres.
Front and rear seats
In the front, electronic 8-way adjustable seats come with two-way powered lumbar support, as well as heated seating. Headrests are adjustable, but I found then tipping forward a bit too much for my liking.
The velour two-tone theme continues in the back where there is plenty of legroom, as well as two air vents on the B pillars and a fold down central armrest with space for coffee cups or bottles.
The rear seats can be folded down either by releasing the lever at the top of either side seat, or by using a handy lever in the back of the cargo area.
For those with small children, there is a powered rear door lock (in the Air variant there is only a manual door lock). Two ISOfix points allow for child seats on either side, and there is a third top tether in the centre.
Ode to the future
Overall, I found the Kia EV6 pushed my expectations in both good and disappointing ways.
With loads of EV-specific bells and whistles, the Kia EV6 is without a doubt an ode to the future. But the surprise is just how different a vehicle it is to the Ioniq 5, with which it shares Kia and Hyundai’s electric global modular platform.
As opposed to the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which is something of a “space-age” loungeroom on wheels, the EV6 definitely has more at those after a sporty look and feel. There are moments when you forget you’re driving an EV, except for the fact that the ride is so quiet and smooth.
However, there are some conflicts in my mind between the large exterior proportions – 1,890mm wide and 4,695mm long – and the snug feeling of the interior.
I’d also say that to truly experience all the EV6 has to offer, try the AWD for the extra acceleration, both exterior and interior V2L capacity and the sunroof. That said, you lose the larger frunk, and approximately 20km driving range (and approximately $15,000 before on-roads!).
You can download the full 2022 Kia EV6 spec sheet here.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.