New Kia EV9 2024 review: the seven-seat EV that’s packed with tech
It’s not cheap, but the new all-electric Kia EV9 might just be the brand's best car yet
Kia claims that many of those who have already put down deposits for the EV9 are trading in premium cars like the Land Rover Discovery, and we’re not surprised by this. The Korean brand’s new flagship does feel like a bit of a practicality king for the electric age, mixing great everyday usability with a comfortable ride and plenty of refined performance. It may be Kia’s most expensive car ever, but it might just be its best, too.
This has been another record year for Kia, with the company topping its 2022 benchmark with weeks to spare. And it will enter 2024 with even more confidence, thanks to its new flagship, the EV9 – a huge all-electric SUV that is set to open the brand up to a whole new sect of customers.
We’ve been impressed by the car in Korea, the US and in France, but now it’s time to deliver a verdict on how it feels on the tighter confines (and worse surfaces) of UK roads.
Let’s run over the EV9 basics again first, though. With this model, Kia has beaten group partner Hyundai to the punch on a true jumbo electric car, because the EV9 is a full five-metre-long creation with imposing styling (lots of simple creases and hard edges, plus an unashamed SUV profile) and proper three-row accommodation.
There’s a single battery on offer – a whopping 99.8kWh pack (96kWh usable) – and a choice of two motor configurations; a rear-drive set-up with 200bhp and 350Nm, or a dual-motor, four-wheel-drive layout with 380bhp and 700Nm of torque.
The lower-powered model is restricted to the entry-level ‘Air’ trim level. It starts at £64,995 – a figure that would have seemed inconceivable for even a range-topping Kia only five years ago – and gets 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, gloss-black exterior trim, body-coloured flush door handles, an eight-speaker audio system and power-adjustable front seats.
That battery and motor combination promises around 359 miles between charges, incidentally, while all EV9s get a heat pump as standard, and fast enough charging to take the battery from 10 to 80 per cent in less than half an hour.
Anyone who wants four-wheel drive will need to step up to GT-Line. It costs from £73,245 and features 21-inch alloys, two-tone upholstery, electric adjustment on the steering column, and massage functionality on the driver’s seat, plus adaptive-beam headlights and exterior styling tweaks.
GT-Line S is the launch trim, arriving with the first customers in January, with the other two due from March onwards – so it’s the version we’re sampling here. It takes GT-Line and adds a head-up display, a 14-speaker sound system, and front and second-row sunroofs. This is also the only version available with the six-seat layout, incorporating ‘captain’s chairs’ in the middle row; they can rotate 180 degrees when the vehicle is stopped, allowing occupants in the back to interact more easily.
Standard kit across the entire range includes a triple-screen dashboard layout, with twin 12.3-inch displays plus a 5.3-inch climate-control panel in between. There are six USB-C sockets (two per row), front and rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate and second-row window blinds.
Kia didn’t pull any punches on its choice of UK launch location, throwing the EV9 out into rural roads near Inverness in early winter. But it still delivered on the promise shown abroad. The twin-motor version weighs more than 2.6 tonnes, but the power and torque on tap is enough to make this car feel quick when you want it to. This is a car that, believe it or not, will crack 0-62mph in just 5.3 seconds.
The star turn is ride quality, for this is a vehicle unashamedly focused on comfort. It does an excellent job of soothing out suburban road scars, with a soft, pillow-like compliance that is quite the achievement in a car that does without air suspension or any sort of adaptive dampers.
The trade-off at higher speeds, and in corners, is that, more often than not, the EV9 does want a second stab at dealing with shifts of direction, as the body wallows a little within the scope of its own suspension travel. The steering is perhaps a little light too, but it remains accurate enough and the car never feels like it’s genuinely struggling to get out of its own way. We’d say this slightly weaker body control is a price worth paying for an overall set-up that should be great over long distances, or coping with school runs.
The hardest part of the second of those tasks, in the confines of city streets, would be the EV9’s size. It feels smaller from the front two seats, although a quick look over your shoulder soon reminds you of how much car is behind you. A little more steering lock (or rear-wheel steering) would help with tighter manoeuvres, certainly – though all-round visibility is better than you might expect in something this vast.
Range takes a hit in the two-motor EV9, but the official figure drops to a still-respectable 313 miles. And based on our extended test run over icy Scottish roads, in sub-zero temperatures and at a mix of speeds, you can probably expect to get north of 260 miles, even if you’re pushing on. That’s encouraging for a car that can carry seven people.
And make no mistake: the EV9 is a genuine, proper seven seater. The middle row can slide fore and aft to help free up extra legroom for anyone in the sixth and seventh seats, and this flexibility is matched by good shoulder room and excellent headroom across the cabin, even in the final row. Even the boot is big, with 333 litres in the seven-seat configuration. Plus there’s a further 52 litres beneath the bonnet, for cable storage.
The cabin quality is definitely more smart than luxurious, but there are soft-touch materials anywhere you’re going to touch regularly. We’re not blown away by the touch-sensitive panel beneath the infotainment screen; it’s needed for jumping around between key functions on the system, but it needs a surprisingly hefty prod to register an input. At least the system itself is quick enough, albeit with an interface that’s no longer as stand-out crisp and easy to use as it once was; blame an ever-increasing range of functions for that.
|Model:||Kia EV9 GT-Line S 99.8kWh|
|Powertrain:||99.8kWh battery, 2x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive|
|Max charging:||210kW (10-80% in 24 min)|