The Kia EV6 is the 2022 Wheels Car of the Year

Our COTY 2022 winner is a landmark model that stands as the exclamation point in its brand’s coming-of-age story

Wheels Events Kia Ev 6 COTY Main

Introducing the 2022 Wheels Car of the Year: the Kia EV6

It’s been a year of key releases for the Korean marque that brought three quality contenders to the fray in 2022. But its first ground-up electric vehicle, the EV6, is the genuine landmark model of the trio – and one that could well redefine the Kia brand from hereon in.

Not only is the EV6 Kia’s forward-thinking technical statement minted as an unabashed halo model; it demonstrates newfound levels of premiumness, build quality, refinement and luxury the brand has, to date, only hinted at.

Importantly, the electric newcomer’s core DNA promises to spearhead 11 new models moving forward, some undoubtedly more affordable and accessible, some more elaborate. New beginnings, then. But the EV6’s masterfully well-rounded showing at this year’s event bodes for an exciting future beyond the milestone it established today.

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Further, as only the second fully electric winner in the award’s long history, the EV6 bottles the true, undiluted spirit of a proper COTY victor.

But it was a close call. And in more ways than one.

It’s no secret that corporate cousin Hyundai’s related Ioniq 5 has claimed many 'best of' accolades lately, though mostly in the absence of the fresh-faced Kia, whose local launch coincided with our three-way test last month. The EV6 came out on top in a result that arrived just prior to COTY kick-off.

The big debate was whether the GT-Line AWD, the flagship of the three-tier EV6 range, brought mixed blessings in match fitness for COTY’s new single-variant format. For pluses, the top-dog version offers full-featured fruitiness paired with the most potent 239kW and 605Nm outputs from its exclusive dual-motor, all-wheel drive package.

Wheels Events COTY WINNER KIA EV 6 Bonnet Watermarked

For minuses, its 484km advertised range is the slimmest of its home stable and, at $82,990, the EV6 fronted up seven grand pricier than its similarly underpinned Ioniq 5 ($75,900) competition.

Two discussions remained hot topics. As Jez considered, would EV6’s campaign been better served with a vastly more affordable ($67,990) and longer-range (528km advertised) entry-level, rear-driven Air version? And, further, were the Korean EV siblings-of-sorts close enough in make-up and execution to be considered inseparable twins, wherever they would collectively land, in the final standings?

Not identical twins, on the surface or below

Despite sharing Hyundai’s Electric Global Modular Platform architecture, on paper at least, the EV6 and Ioniq 5 are not equals. The Kia, for its part, brings an extra 14kW and quotes higher efficiency (16kWh versus 19kWh) with superior theoretical max range (484km plays 430km). Just five kilos separate them (2105kg v 2100kg), though the longer and lower EV6 has a 10mm shorter wheelbase sat on Kia’s proprietary suspension hardware and tune.

Wheels Events COTY WINNER KIA EV 6 Wheel Watermarked

Initial walkaround assessment shook out more differences. Both Korean EVs offer similar 10-to-80-percent 350kW DC fast-charging in around 18 minutes and ‘quick juicing’ for 100km range boosts in around four and a half minutes.

But the Kia has the advantage of a seven-year warranty (versus five for the Hyundai) and there’s also the fact the Kia can be bought through a good old-fashioned dealership, rather than Hyundai’s online process.

Game on, then – every COTY challenger to itself.

The EV6 seduces in the flesh. Beauty, eye, beholder, of course, though Kia brings an unashamedly futuristic theme with a certain restraint that mostly avoids some other EV rivals’ kitschiness and ostentation.

Wheels Events Kia Ev 6 Taillight Wide COTY Watermark

“It’s a very stylish exterior,” opined Richard. “A really contemporary mix of curves and crisp lines.”

Its interior also garnered high praise from the judges.

“Rocketship acceleration in a swoopy crossover body” – Richard Ferlazzo

The EV6’s curved, dual-12.3-inch screens, with pin-sharp 3D-look display skins, anchors a theme equally conceptual and welcomingly natural. It maintains synergy and balance, nothing too oddball and with an intuitive user interface, anchored with driver-oriented controls and a purposeful vibe that doesn’t feel forced or heavy handed.

“It’s modern and smart without trying too hard,” observed Richard. “Spacious and accommodating, yet sporty and immersive.”

Wheels Events Kia Ev 6 COTY Interior

“Unlike the Ioniq 5, you sit in rather than on the seats,” said Jez, adding, “The coupe crossover format’s sloping roofline doesn’t compromise rear headroom, either.”

“Can’t believe this is a Kia,” Alex added. “It feels like a BMW. Also, tech, comfort and storage are all top drawer.”

Was the Kia’s sporty pitch just show-boating? Or placebo effect? Seems not. Despite identical claimed 5.2-second 0-100km/h performance for the Korean electric pairing, the EV6 proved one-tenth quicker than its maker’s claim, and two-tenths swifter than the Hyundai against the COTY stopwatch.

The Kia feels quick. Throttle response is clean and crisp; the thrust from its dual-motor all-paw drivetrain head-smackingly urgent off the mark and heady and relentlesson the move.

Its Sport drive mode delivers a tangible and satisfying lift in potency, though the Kia is so alert and real-world quick in its default setting that mode swapping seems largely superfluous in daily urban driving.

Wheels Events Kia Ev 6 Main Phone COTY Watermark

Its decibel reading (67.8dB) just pipped the Hyundai’s (68dB), but no matter how hard you pedal it, or which of the many and varied AARC surfaces you threw it across, the EV6 remained wonderfully quiet, refined, solid and exceptionally comfortable.

The Kia’s tuned-for-Oz suspension, that sees the fitment of bespoke ZF Sachs dampers (not offered on the Ioniq 5), does a remarkable job of masking the 2.1-tonne kerb weight and pays handsome dynamic dividends.

Along the AARC’s twisty ascending backroad, its low centre of gravity and generous mechanical grip brought engaging and impressively planted progress, with enough fluidity and character to feel properly sporty.

Its big party trick, though, was on gravel, where the Kia’s (and Hyundai’s) performance was, in some judges’ minds, a true revelation. Be it nudging neatly against the ESC threshold after a big-lift tail-slide or teasing a rally-style four-wheel drift on a constant throttle, the drive system calibrations offer the driver impressive cooperation, ever natural in dynamic response and predictability.

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The balance, grip, poise and user-friendliness across the circuit’s slippery coarse aggregate and finely graded pebbles was downright remarkable.

“The EV torque distribution and versatility offers incredible traction on loose gravel,” Dan wrote.

And its fine bump control brought both excellent grip in the face of 2.1 tonnes of swaying inertia and a sufficiently compliant ride that foisted the Kia’s EV6 comfort factor on a broken surface.

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End of play, Day Three, once judges’ silent finalist ballots were lodged and counted, it was quite clear what cream was rising most conspicuously to the top of the field.

The EV6, for its part, had sailed well beyond many preconceived expectations judges might’ve had at COTY kick-off. And in broader, more multi-talented measures than one might imagine. But so too had the Ioniq 5…

Day Four. Road loops. Crunch time.

The Korean EVs were grouped back-to-back, first for one-up road loops and then loaded three-up with luggage, pointed across a back-country course featuring a complexion on the nastier side of “typically Australian”. And in these conditions, the EV6 proceeded to broaden daylight to its competition while carving out what would become an unassailable lead over its Ioniq 5 nemesis.

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It’s a touch firm, most evidently so at low speeds, but with triple figures dialled up across the initial section of lumpy and pot-holed backroad, the EV6 assumed a planted and composed manner. Yes, it lacked the outright compliance of some ICE-powered competitors, but this is not out of kilter with its sports pretension.

Against its key Korean EV rival, though, the Kia demonstrated none of the fidgety vertical movement, the alarming bump steer or instability that would ultimately tarnish the Ioniq 5’s on-road experience.

“Composure on testing surfaces is impressive,” Alex noted. “It’s not as compliant as the BMW iX, certainly not as cosseting over bumps at the start of the road loop. But the trade-off is superior body control. You don’t get thrown around as much as you do in the Ioniq 5. There’s occasional shudder through the body but wheel control is impressive.”

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“Rides firmly at lower speeds but never feels crashy or fidgety,” Jez added. “And at higher speeds the suspension is really effective at blotting out prominent bumps.”

Bombing cross country, the EV6 proved impressively quiet, unflustered and comfortable. It would make a fine tourer as grand as battery range allows. But downright addictive is its relentless appetite for acceleration.

Its 239kW/605Nm combination is well-matched for its package, shining brightly enough through the COTY lens to where its lower-grade 168kW/350Nm rear-driven stablemates would surely feel downgraded by comparison once you’re properly stretching their respective legs.

“Owning an EV6 just might ruin petrol cars for you forever” – Dylan Campbell
E Dewar 220212 COTY 2022 Kia EV 6 Corner

On road, the Kia demonstrated fitter handling than the Ioniq 5, too, covering tricky ground as swiftly as you like, or dare, its sporting sheen an ally of underpinning confidence. Against the Hyundai, there’s a crisper dynamic edge, a more predictable and cooperative manner, and its more settled connection with the road doesn’t whiten the knuckles quite so quickly.

“The Kia has more breadth to its personality than the Ioniq,” Dan said. “It’s more focused when you need it to be but also less bothered by large bumps.”

“The chassis engages you enough that you want to keep punting it hard up a twisty road,” said Dylan. “Getting the best out of it is a challenge to relish.”

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Jez added: “The more immersive driving position compared to the Hyundai really enhances the Kia’s sporty feel.”

As Kia’s debut electric vehicle, the EV6 is a remarkably accomplished, impressively well-rounded package with very few shortcomings. And it drove a sufficiently large tie-breaking wedge between itself and the Ioniq 5 to take a resounding victory.

The EV6 drove home one theme agreed upon by the six-strong judging panel who ultimately and unanimously voted the Kia as the COTY winner: if this is our electric-car present, bring on the electric motoring future.

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“One drive of this car should allay any reservations about the driving experience of an EV,” Richard claimed.

“It brings together all the things that make electric cars great,” Dylan added. “Responsiveness, performance, refinement and packaging.”

So COTY 2022 will be remembered as the year Korea’s two global heavyweights really delivered on the potential that has been hinted at for years. But ultimately it was Kia that really stepped out of its bigger brother’s shadow to claim our highest accolade.

2022 Kia EV6 specifications

Price $82,990
Motor Dual (front+rear) 
Power  239kW 
Torque  605Nm 
Transmission Single-speed reduction AWD
Weight  2105kg
Consumption  16.0kWh/100km
Length/width/height 4695/1890/1550mm
Wheelbase  2900mm
Safety  Untested


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