Aug 5, 2022 - Economy

What we're driving: Kia's electric, control-morphing EV6

Photo of a Kia EV6 plugged into a charging station on an urban street.

2022 Kia EV6 is the Korean carmaker's first electric model. Photo courtesy of Kia

There's a lot to love about Kia's first electric vehicle, the EV6: the SUV's daring design, roomy interior and, of course, the satisfying response you get from hitting the accelerator.

  • The $56,195 GT all-wheel-drive version I drove has a 274-mile driving range and recharges in about 20 minutes at a 350-kW fast charger.
  • But, oh boy, that infotainment system is maddening.

Why it matters: Electric vehicles open up all kinds of opportunities for car designers to try new things. When they don't have to work around an internal combustion engine and transmission, they can reimagine a car's interior, creating more room for passengers and adding innovative features and storage spaces.

  • Bigger, flashier touch screens are becoming the norm, not just in EVs, but in many new cars.
  • But touch screens are difficult to operate — not to mention distracting — at 65 miles per hour.

Give Kia credit for trying to find a better way. By default, the EV6's center screen is dark while the car is operating. The lower left corner shows the current radio station, and that's about it.

  • If you want more information on the screen, you have to press the separate radio, climate or nav buttons on the center console, near the shifter.

To simplify the dashboard (and save a tiny bit of weight, it turns out), both the climate and entertainment systems are controlled by a single narrow touch bar on the center stack between the driver and passenger.

  • Knobs on the left and right of the touch bar control either the volume and tuning, or the dual climate system — depending on which mode you're in.
  • Ah, there's the rub: You have to toggle back and forth between entertainment and climate modes using nearly invisible arrows on the touch bar's black control panel.
  • And that means taking your eyes off the road to squint down at the touch bar. You might think you're adjusting the fan, but wind up blasting the music.
Side-by-side images of the Kia EV6's touchbar, which controls both entertainment and climate.
On the left, the touch bar displays climate controls; on the right, the touch bar morphs into controls for the entertainment system. Photos: Kia

The other side: Editors at WardsAuto, a well-respected industry publication, named the EV6 to its 2022 10 Best Interiors and UX (user interface) list, citing its stylish and sporty interior "and highly innovative morphing controls that save space and reduce clutter."

My thought bubble: Buttons and knobs are actually good, especially in a moving car.

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