First Look Review: Kia EV6 GT-Line
While Kia has built other all-electric crossovers, namely the pocket-sized Soul and compact Niro crossover, the EV6 is the brand’s first vehicle riding on a purpose-built electric architecture. Developed together with Hyundai, the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) is available in RWD or AWD variants and will make its Hyundai debut with the Ioniq 5. Hagerty’s first time experiencing the E-GMP, however, came when Kia invited me to drive the EV6 in and around northern California’s wine country north of San Francisco.
Kia has helped the EV6 cover a wide swath of the electric vehicle market with three trim levels—Light, Wind, and GT-Line—that are differentiated by different battery capacity levels and optional AWD. Light, offered with a 58-kWh battery pack and 167 hp powering the rear wheels, starts at $42,115, including destination. It offers an EPA-estimated range of 232 miles. Stepping up to the Wind or the GT-Line adds a 77.4-kWh battery pack and uncorks the electrons on the rear motor to produce 225 hp. They start at $48,215 and 52,415, respectively, and have an estimated range of 310 miles. For more power and added confidence in adverse conditions, both Wind and GT-Line EV6s are available with AWD, starting at $52,115 and $57,115, respectively. They both use a 221-hp rear motor and a 99-hp front motor for 320 total horsepower. Later this year, a 576-hp GT model will be available, promising 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. For the drive in which I took part, Kia supplied RWD and AWD variants of the GT-Line car.
To assuage those with range anxiety, Kia built the EV6’s batteries to accept 800V charging that can juice up the battery from a nearly depleted 10-percent charge to 80-percent capacity in just 18 minutes. That’s up to 217 miles of range. If you’d prefer to use your at-home, 240V, 40-amp Level 2 charger, then the 77.4 kWh models can top-up from a 10-percent charge in 7 hours and 10 minutes.
Opening the EV6’s flush-mounted, pivoting door handles reveals a cabin of blacks, grays, and silvers that somehow manages to remain interesting thanks to great uses of striping and varied textures. Kia noted that some of the trims offer animal-free leather seating and all EV6s use recycled plastic for many of the interior trim pieces. None of that was on my mind when I dropped into the seat. At over six feet tall, my first impression was that the driving position could drop a bit lower, as the large sunroof in the EV6 does remove a bit of space at the top of the cabin. However, after reclining a bit to a comfortable position I found that there was plenty of room. Another point worth noting: I’ve often found that my preferred driving position in vehicles demands that the seat track be as far aft as possible. More and more I’m finding that’s not necessary, and it wasn’t with the EV6. Either my legs are getting shorter, or more vehicles are being designed with seats that do a better job catering to taller drivers. While we’re on the subject of personal driving comfort, I tend to drive with my right leg splayed toward the center of the car. The EV6’s console reined that posture in a bit, but the center tunnel is high enough that it didn’t provide a sharp edge to dig into my shin. (A pet peeve of mine that pops up from time to time in smaller cars and crossovers.) The console does place the shift dial and start button within easy reach, and also houses a wireless charger, twin cupholders, and a medium-sized bin that fits a full-frame DSLR camera, just in case you were wondering.
As with other EVs of a similar power range, like the Polestar 2, I was pleasantly surprised at how assertively the RWD GT-Line accelerates. Even though I should know better by now, it’s still a bit unusual to get such throttle response and acceleration. There’s no mechanical throttle to crack open, no turbo to spool, and no transmission controller processing gear selection or torque converter lockup. It just goes. Moving to the AWD GT-Line introduces you to even more impressive launches.
Like the Mercedes EQS, the EV6 uses steering wheel–mounted paddles to control levels of regeneration rather than transmission gears. Four settings bump up regenerative braking from nothing, which allows the vehicle to coast, to maximum regeneration, which slows the vehicle to scavenge energy and feed it to the battery pack. Even in its most aggressive setting, however, the regenerative braking isn’t alarming. You can use it to drive with one pedal, provided you plan far enough in advance. Moving between the modes while under power shows noticeable changes in throttle mapping, as added regeneration also reveals itself by requiring more maintenance throttle to keep similar speeds under similar loads.
A drive-mode selector, also mounted on the steering wheel, allows for quick selection between Eco, Normal, and Sport modes and the difference in throttle mapping is readily apparent. Not only do the modes affect the throttle, but also where the power comes from: Sport mode keeps the front motor engaged at all times, while Eco mode will only add the extra power and grip to get rolling and when aggressive throttle demands it. Normal mode splits the difference.
The EV6’s cab-forward design and short hood make for excellent forward visibility that was actually a bit disconcerting at first. My first foray behind the wheel required me to away from the curb as I was parallel-parked with a long line of other EV6s. Not wanting to trade paint in the first six feet of driving, I considered a three-point turn to get past the vehicle parked ahead of me. The 360-degree camera, however, assured me that there was more than enough space to get by … and indeed there was.
The sloping hood doesn’t intrude into the driver’s sight-line. Rear visibility is nothing to write home about, as the rear window, while fairly large, sits rather far behind the driver. With a 114.2-inch wheelbase, the EV6 is a bit larger than it seems. Ample side-mirror coverage plus side-view cameras whose feeds populate in the dash when the turn signals are activated effectively eliminate any blind spots.
On highways and curvy backroads, the EV6’s low center of gravity makes it feel sure-footed with little body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and seems well-sorted for a family-friendly crossover. Road noise is not a concern on smooth roads, and wind noise is virtually nonexistent, perhaps due to the steeply sloping windshield. When driven over bumpy, broken pavement, the low-profile 20-inch tires from the GT-Line combined with its firm suspension do create a bit of noise, but the experience is not at all jarring. The sounds of the tires doing their jobs is just something that’s typically drowned out by the typical noises of an ICE engine and transmission. If the near-silence of normal driving in an EV is still a bit strange, and you’d like your EV6 to make some appropriately futuristic sounds as you motor along, Kia has programmed a light whirring that changes in pitch with vehicle speed. Think of the Jetsons bubble-top family hauler, but without the warble. I enjoyed the novelty of it for a bit but chose to keep the tone silenced, as is the default setting.
When choosing my own soundtrack, I often chose to experience the Meridian Premium Audio system via Apple CarPlay, which is available only when a phone is plugged in; wireless phone-to-car connections aren’t supported just yet. The on-board navigation also worked well and the wide, 12.3-inch TFT screen allowed for plenty of customizability, displaying audio input, navigation, or HVAC info among other things. Split-screen functionality allows for multiple viewing options to share screen duties with audio and navigation, for example. There’s plenty of screen real estate to go around. Using the onboard navigation adds functionality to the head-up display that projects information onto the windshield. Kia’s “augmented reality” navigation—again, reminiscent of the doubly expensive EQS’—displays arrows in the windscreen-projected display to highlight turns as they approach, which is especially handy when there are multiple possible turns in close proximity.
Below the screen and a set of HVAC vents, a thin strip of controls does double duty as the HVAC panel as well as the infotainment interface. A tap of the panel toggles between the two functions. It’s convenient and a clever way to keep the center stack from becoming cluttered while keeping the most frequently used functions no more than two taps away. There is, however, no dedicated volume knob on the dash. The driver gets the final say on that matter with a steering wheel–mounted toggle.
The EV6 delivers a well-rounded driving experience and offers thoughtful interior packaging that should give it broad appeal. The fast charging, solid range, and competitive pricing are proof that Kia is serious about the EV crossover segment and is an impressive debut for the E-GMP platform. Especially for those that have easy access to 240V charging at home, this looks to be a compelling way to make the jump into an EV.
2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line
Price: $52,415 (RWD) / $57,115 (AWD)
Highs: Sleek design inside and out. Responsive, adaptable drivetrain.
Lows: Not much frunk.
Summary: A stylish debut for the E-GMP platform for Kia.