8.5/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

7.5

Comfort and space

9.0

Engine and gearbox

9.0

Ride and handling

9.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Exceptional ride and handling
  • Performance even from base-spec RWD
  • Price to access EV incentives

Not so much

  • Missing features
  • Rear row comfort

8.5/10Score

Score breakdown

8.0

Safety, value and features

7.5

Comfort and space

9.0

Engine and gearbox

9.0

Ride and handling

9.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Exceptional ride and handling
  • Performance even from base-spec RWD
  • Price to access EV incentives

Not so much

  • Missing features
  • Rear row comfort

The top-spec 2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD earned this year’s coveted Wheels Car of the Year – only the second electric vehicle ever to do so in the award’s long history.

Out of a highly competitive field of 21 cars, Kia’s new swoopy EV crossover reigned supreme with the judges unanimous.

But with that bar set so high, how does Kia’s entre-level EV6 Air RWD sibling fare?

The EV6 Air shares a single electric motor with the mid-range GT-Line RWD and offers a longer range but a leaner equipment list.

Our COTY winner, the range-topping GT-Line AWD, has two motors – one front and one rear.

Pricing and features

Pricing for the Kia EV6 increased by $4600 across the board in mid 2022. Disappointingly, that pushed the base EV6 above $70,000 – now starting from $72,590.

With on-road charges added, it’s closer to $80,000 ($78,435 based on Sydney pricing).

The GT-Line RWD costs $79,490 and the GT-Line AWD rising further to $87,590 – all before on-road costs.

Supply of all variants is incredibly limited. Just 500 units were available initially against a reputed 25,000 expressions of interest, so getting your hands on one any time soon may prove tricky.

There are several electric SUV rivals at this price point. These include the EV6’s twin, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, and the Tesla Model Y.

Compact electric SUVs from some luxury brands are also in the frame: the Mercedes-Benz EQA250 and Volvo XC40 Electric.

For buyers less focussed on body style, there’s also the Tesla Model 3 sedan and Polestar 2 sedan.

As standard, the EV6 Air gets features such as LED daytime running lights, headlights and tail-lights, three USB ports (one type A and two type C) in the front, plus two USB-Cs for rear occupants in the front seatbacks, two 12V power outlets (in the front and boot), a wireless phone charger, and a six-speaker sound system (versus a 14-speaker Meridian Premium setup in the GT-Line grades).

It also has 19-inch machined alloy wheels and Kumho/Nexen 235/55 R19 tyres compared with the GT-Line’s 20-inch alloys and 255/45 R20 Continentals.

The Air misses out on features including vehicle-to-load exterior adaptor, head-up display, eight-way electrically adjustable seats, powered tailgate, heated and ventilated seats, privacy glass, sunroof, heated steering wheel, metal scuff plates, alloy sports pedals, ambient lighting and remote smart park assist.

The 2 x 12.3-inch combined infotainment screen and digital instrument cluster set-up found throughout Kia’s updated model range looks modern and borderline futuristic in its appearance and also delivers exceptional levels of simplistic functionality.

It’s clean, easy to use and doesn’t try to be too over the top or clever, while still offering plenty of tweakable options.

One exception was that we could not for the life of us figure out, despite changing every sound setting we could find, how to turn down the ‘SCHOOL ZONE AHEAD’ warning. Passing not one, but three, schools on the kindy run twice a day in each direction, this got really irritating very fast – so much so even our three-year-old started mimicking it and saying ‘Silly Kia’. Joy of joys.

Unlike many Kia base models, the EV6 Air doesn’t have wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto (though in our experience of wireless CarPlay in other Kia models, such as the Stonic, has patchy connection and so its absence is not necessarily a great loss).

The interchangeable haptic feedback buttons for the infotainment and climate control are user-friendly, although on one occasion switching between functions did cause the system to freeze and it couldn’t be rebooted until we restarted the car. A minor blip on an otherwise impressive performance.

The Air’s black interior with light grey cloth headliner distinguishes it from its GT-Line sibling and the cabin remains a neat, modern and inviting environment – while not so space-age that it could be accused of being stylistically too far-reaching for those who don’t want their first EV to feel like something from The Jetsons.

As an overall package, the Air feels cool and elegant and has a real eye-catching presence. Judging by envious looks from both our neighbours and the general public, it’s definitely a car that makes a statement.

While its flush door handles add to the visual appeal and no doubt help with aerodynamics, from a practical point of view trying to get them open while also holding a toddler or keeping them close by and trying to juggle a million other things in your hands is nigh-on impossible.

The EV6 was awarded ANCAP’s maximum five-star crash rating in 2022.

The Air’s safety features include: hill start assist, autonomous emergency braking (car, pedestrian, cyclist and junction turning), lane-keep assist, blind-spot collision warning and avoidance assist (with rear cross-traffic alert too), driver attention alert with lead vehicle departure alert, parking sensors front and rear and a rear-view camera with dynamic parking guidelines (with an impressively crisp picture).

It also has three top tether anchors and two Isofix points for child seats – not too difficult to find, but certainly could still be easier.

GT-Line models add parking collision avoidance assist, surround-view monitor with 3D mode, blind-spot view monitor and powered automatic child-proof rear door locks. The blind-spot view monitor is a particularly nifty feature that we missed in the Air at junctions or when changing lanes.

There are no options available on the EV6 other than premium paint. Runway Red is the only standard, no-cost colour and more colour options – including a $3295 Moonscape matte grey finish – are available only on the GT-Line.

On our test car, Kia had provided a Type 2 Single Phase five-metre 32A 7kW Straight Cable, which normally costs $492.91 (incl. GST). Prospective EV6 owners can also choose to buy a $2886 mini wall charger from Kia.

Comfort and space

In addition to lacking some modern creature comforts like heated seats and a powered tailgate, we didn’t find the Air’s comfort matched that of the GT-Line – as expected.

The manual adjustment coupled with the cloth and artificial leather combo for the seats makes them harder than is desirable, and not as sumptuous as the higher spec’s artificial black suede/vegan white leather. And where our COTY judges felt the GT-Line’s seats were made for sitting in rather than on, not all our testers were enamoured with the Air’s seats.

For parents considering the EV6 as a family SUV, it’s not possible to comfortably fit two adults plus a child’s car seat for more than a short journey.

Legroom is also generally best suited to average-sized occupants – with the front seats sitting so low down to the floor, there’s little room for rear passengers to stretch out their legs or feet into the space ahead.

However, the flat floor layout – common to most EVs – helps middle occupants, who aren’t forced to put their legs either side of a transmission tunnel like they would have to in most combustion-engined vehicles.

In addition to two USB-C charging ports, the rear cabin features air vents, two cupholders in the armrest and two bottle holders in the doors (in addition to the four up front), and map pouches on either side (though they’re not particularly geared to putting a child’s toys or snacks in for example).

Storage is generous up front, where there are multiple areas to keep things – there are nooks in both doors for smaller items, a surprisingly deep central cubby bin, and a cavernous cradle underneath the floating centre console filling the slot normally occupied by a transmission tunnel.

Even better? It’s big enough for that enormous 1L drink bottle no car ever seems to have room for.

The 490-litre boot is more than enough for everyday needs but offers less space than the smaller Sportage SUV’s 543-litre luggage compartment with the back seats up. Kia’s other large SUV, the Sorento, offers 616L.

With all seats down (easily done thanks to a quick lever pull in the boot) the EV6 provides 1270L and an additional 52L ‘frunk’ under the bonnet. (An EV-owning neighbour said they use their frunk for takeaways to stop the food smell pervading the car’s interior.)

Although the Air doesn’t get the GT-Line’s powered tailgate, its grab handle makes it easy and light to pull down and not awkward as can often be the case.

On the road

The 2022 Kia EV6 Air is powered by a single electric motor producing 168kW and 350Nm, driving just the rear wheels.

It’s capable of 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.3 seconds, and its 77.4kWh battery provides an estimated 528km of driving range.

By comparison, the mid-spec GT-Line RWD offers the same set-up and outputs but with a lower driving range of 504km, while the top-of-the-range GT-Line AWD utilises two motors and all-wheel drive to offer 239kW/605Nm, propelling it to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds – though this comes at the expense of driving range, which falls further to 484km.

Having undergone Kia’s local ride and handling program, the EV6 is well matched to our roads. The steering is well judged. It’s neither too light nor too heavy and the wheel moves fluidly and instinctively.

The EV6 is controlled around corners and roundabouts and gives the driver a confidence that the vehicle is nicely planted on the road. The 2000kg kerb weight is well hidden, as the car feels fun and nimble. There’s plenty of grip and traction, and there’s also less body lean than you’ll experience in a Model Y.

In fact, the EV6’s low centre of gravity making it feel more sportscar than SUV, and thanks to the composed suspension it glides over uneven road surfaces with little fuss. And when we travelled in the second row, the ride was so smooth even speed bumps were barely noticeable.

There are three driving modes available, influencing performance only: Eco, Normal and Sport, easily toggled between thanks to a small button on the steering wheel. Sport mode is a lot of fun, offering an enjoyable thrust of torque.

Such driving will dent your driving range, of course. Eco is, as expected, more reserved, though is also all that’s needed for everyday driving while still delivering a quick response.

Normal mode is nestled in between and is more keen than Eco without feeling as urgent as Sport.

Saying an EV is quiet seems a little obvious, but aside from the absence of any din generated by the burning of fossil fuels, the EV6 is near silent in almost every other regard, too.

Wind and tyre noise are at an absolute minimum, providing a quiet and refined journey for all occupants. There’s a slight hum from the power surge you get when you put your foot down, which is vaguely reminiscent of a jumbo jet using its library voice, but no other noise of note.

Changing from reverse to drive is straightforward using the sleek-looking rotary shifter, but changing from one to the other can, on occasion, be a tad awkward and we found it can get stuck in neutral if your foot is not fully depressing the brake pedal.

The brakes themselves are well-judged and are a good backup to the regenerative deceleration that results in easing your foot off the accelerator. At first, the one-pedal driving style (as found in many electric vehicles) can feel fairly aggressive initially before you get used to it. If you don’t, it can be adjusted easily through the infotainment system to either be strong (the default), mild, or off altogether.

This tester found the mild option to be the sweet spot, offering just the right amount of deceleration to not feel like you’ve slammed your foot on the brake, but enough to reap the benefits of slowing down quickly and smoothly when needed (such as a sudden speed limit drop) as well as the obvious gain of turning motion into energy for the battery.

And with Australia’s EV infrastructure still very much being in its infancy, you’ll soon find yourself becoming hyper-aware of all the ways you can keep those kilometres topped up.

The EV6 will also show you how driving range is affected by the climate controls in real time – and offers a restrictive function and ‘driver only’ button to help lessen the impact.

To power its battery, the EV6 comes with a trickle charger, tucked away neatly underneath the boot floor, for plugging into a normal household power outlet – our only option at home. The bad news is that this offers just a maximum of 2kW of power, meaning it will take a very long time to reach a full charge.

That makes Kia’s optional mini wallbox charger – just shy of $3000 at time of writing – a wise investment. With 7.2kW, it’s capable of easily topping up the EV6 overnight.

Thanks to its 800V platform, the EV6 is capable of using a Type 2 350kW DC ultra-rapid charger to go from 10 to 80 per cent in 18 minutes, or a 50kW DC fast charger in 73 minutes.

If only rapid chargers weren’t such a rarity in Australia.

Ownership

Kia Australia offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with seven years or 150,000km of battery cover and capped-price servicing.

Service pricing

  • One year/15,000km $129
  • Two years/30,000km $333
  • Three years/45,000km $132
  • Four years/60,000km $358
  • Five years/75,000km $136
  • Six years/90,000km $354
  • Seven years/105,000km $141

Alternatively, Kia offers pre-paid servicing as an option, as follows:

  • Three years $594
  • Five years $1089
  • Seven years 1584

Paying as you go, however, actually saves you money – a grand total of $1 overall!

Compared to its Hyundai Ioniq 5 cousin, the EV6 can be bought in a Kia showroom rather than exclusively online. (When either can be bought at all…)

VERDICT

The EV6 in all forms remains without doubt one of the most convincing electric vehicles currently on the market.

Kia has created an exciting, capable and good-looking machine in the EV6 – and it’s compelling enough, in our view, to entice owners of petrol and diesel vehicles over to electric.

The mid-2022 price increase, however, does further emphasise the lack of some equipment in the base Air now that it’s realistically a circa-$80,000 proposition on the road.

We feel there is enough spec on the higher GT-Line grade to justify including some of its nice-to-have features on the Air, such as electric seats and auto tailgate – especially since the GT-Line has the sharper looks, fancier cabin, plus faster performance and all-wheel drive.

Yet while there is the slightly cheaper Niro EV, the EV6 in all forms remains without doubt one of the most convincing electric vehicles currently on the market.

2022 Kia EV6 Air specifications

Body 5-door, 5-seat large SUV
Drive rear-wheel
Engine permanent magnet synchronous motor
Transmission single speed automatic transmission (reduction gear)
Power 168kW
Torque 350Nm
AC charging max 11kW
DC charging max 350kW
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Battery 77.4kWh
Energy consumption 165kWh/100km (WLTP)
Weight 2000kg (kerb)
Suspension MacPherson strut (front); multi-link (rear)
L/W/h 4680/1880/1550mm
Wheelbase 2900mm
Brakes 325mm ventilated discs (front); 325mm solid discs (rear)
Tyres 235/55 R19s Kumho/Nexen
Wheels 19-inch machined alloys
Price $72,590 + on-road costs

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