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Road tests

New Kia EV9 Air 2024 review: entry-level model is appealing in almost every way

The all-electric Kia EV9 SUV has a new entry-point, and it just might be the pick of the range

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Verdict

The new entry point to the Kia EV9 range becomes our favourite of an already very appealing line-up. Very few will need the benefits that the more powerful model brings; we’d be more than happy to save some money on a car that is still comfortable, packed with equipment, and, thanks to a larger front boot, even a touch more practical. If you’re in the market for a seven-seat SUV, this is one of the very best – regardless of the fuel it takes.

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This is the Kia EV9 Air – the latest and least expensive model in the Korean brand’s striking seven-seat electric SUV line-up. 

The last model we tested (a flashy, dual-motor GT Line S) came to £75,995 – a car which, incidentally, is £750 cheaper now than it was when we encountered it back in December. However, this new Air model drops things even further (£64,245) – not far off what you’ll pay for a basic Land Rover Discovery D300 mild-hybrid diesel.

And even though this is the cheapest EV9 you can buy, it’s absolutely packed with kit. As standard, the Air comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, twin screens (both of which measure 12.3 inches), wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry, a 360-degree surround view camera, heated and ventilated seats in the front two rows, plus level 2 autonomous driving tech, which enables the big Kia to steer itself within a lane for limited periods of time.

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Elsewhere, you benefit from the same strong points as found on the rest of the EV9 range. The cabin is smart – a step up from other Kia models in terms of perceived quality, if not quite on the level of a Discovery – and there’s loads of space inside. Slide the middle row forward (it’s still roomy in its most advanced position) and a pair of adults can quite happily sit in the third row.

What that low price sacrifices is power. Instead of the dual-motor set-up we’ve sampled previously, this model has a single rear-mounted motor instead. This drops overall power from 378bhp down to 200bhp. Torque is halved from 700Nm down to 350Nm, too. On the plus side, no front motor means a larger front boot – frunk volume increases from 52 litres to 90 litres.

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Predictably, performance takes a hit. The 0-62mph time drops from 5.3 seconds to 9.4 seconds – or roughly the same speed as the seven-seat diesel-powered Kia Sorento. On the road, that difference can certainly be felt, though it shouldn’t be an issue; the fact that so many humdrum EVs can now dip below five or six seconds to 62mph has rather skewed the perception of performance standards across the board. On the road, the Air still delivers more than enough performance for a seven-seat SUV. That does come with the caveat that we haven’t sampled the car loaded with seven people, though.

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The brakes feel up to the task of bringing that significant mass to a halt, and the paddles behind the wheel allow the driver to adjust the level of regenerative braking on the fly – a brilliant feature that we wish every EV would have.

Kia has really got its priorities right with the EV9’s suspension set-up. This is a car for wafting; the ride is soft and forgiving, which makes it a very relaxing and comfortable motorway cruiser. Our only slight criticism is that there’s a slightly brittle feel at low speeds, and across deeper potholes. But the marginally smaller wheels fitted to the Air takes the edge off compared to the GT Line and GT Line S.

Of course, soft suspension and lots of mass means that it can take time to settle from sudden manoeuvres. But with smoother inputs, the EV9 reveals itself to be well-balanced, predictable and fairly grippy. The steering is nicely weighted, too, so if you work with it, it’s really rather pleasant on a twisty road.

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While the performance suffers, the most important thing is that the Air still gets the same 99.8kWh battery as its more expensive siblings. So unlike many EVs, a base model doesn’t compromise on range. Quite the opposite, in fact; the less potent powertrain means that the Air has the longest range of all according to WLTP figures. 

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Officially, it’ll cover 349 miles between charges, which is an increase of 36 miles over the more powerful models. But having driven the Air back-to-back with the dual-motor GT Line, the difference in efficiency between the pair is negligible. In cold conditions that are unflattering for an EV’s range, we averaged 2.7 miles per kilowatt hour over a varied 50-mile route, which translates to about 270 miles of real-world range. The Air still gets the same 210kW charging speed, so a 10-80 per cent top up takes as little as 24 minutes. 

As well as premium rivals like the Discovery, it’s also worth noting the price of Kia’s existing seven-seater, the Sorento. Prices for that model start from much less – £45,025 for the base Vision trim with a diesel engine, and up to £57,025 for the top spec Edition PHEV. However, not only is the EV9 packing more modern EV tech, but a better ride, more spacious cabin (especially in the third row) and a smarter cabin – going a long way to justifying the higher price point.

Place a £5,000 deposit on a three-year PCP deal with a 10,000-mile annual limit, and the Air comes to £863 per month. The all-wheel drive GT Line is £1,028 on matching terms.

Model:Kia EV9 Air
Price:£64,245 (from £64,245)
Powertrain:99.8kWh battery, single e-motor
Power/torque:200bhp/350Nm
Transmission:Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:9.4 seconds
Top speed:114mph
Range:349 miles
Charging:210kW, 10-80% in 24 mins
Size (L/W/H):5,015/1,980/1,780mm
On sale:Now
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Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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