The Kia EV9 has arrived, pushing the Korean brand further into premium territory. We like the EV6, a highly competent operator, so is it a case of bigger being better with the EV9?
Kia is busy in the EV space. While it has a full range of vehicles with internal combustion engines and hybrids, the Korean brand is humming along on its EV development too.
At a recent EV Day, it rolled out a couple of concepts showing its dedication to the cause with the EV3, a compact SUV, and the EV4, a sedan of sorts.
It also showed the production version of the EV5, a medium-sized SUV that will go on sale later in 2024, joining the Kia EV6 and this, the big new EV9.
So we guess there’ll be an EV7 and an EV8 at some point too. But now, we have the new EV9, the all-electric seven-seater SUV.
The new range topper
The EV9 starts at $105,990 for the RWD Light, while this model you see here is the AWD GT Line, all $134,990 of it. The RWD model uses a 76kWh battery, Kia stating a WLTP range figure of up to 443km.
Its single motor makes 160kW and 350Nm, and that means it takes 8.3sec to hit 100km/h. The AWD models get a bigger 99.8kWh battery, with range quoted at between 492km and 505km, depending on model.
With two motors, total output is 282kW and 700Nm, which sees the 0-100km/h time fall to six seconds. We found it to be somewhat quicker than that even, stopping the clocks at 5.4sec.
That’s pretty quick for something that in top spec weighs in at a claimed 2624kg.
Some other facts and figures; the AWD model can tow up 2500kg braked, the EV9 uses a heat pump for improved efficiency (better range in winter) and there’s a heater system for the battery to ensure optimal temperature, which also improves overall efficiency.
Along with the five-year/150,000km vehicle warranty, the battery is covered for eight years/160,000km.
It’s a big sucker too at 5.1m long, almost 2m wide and 1.8m tall. It makes the firm’s other seven-seater SUV, the Sorento, seem small when parked next to it. Kia’s styling takes a bold new leap with the EV9; there’s nothing quite like this on the road at present.
So if presence is what you are after, this delivers exactly that. And then there are those wheels, out there man, along with the flush fitting door handles and side view cameras.
With its big battery comes a big range, though how far always depends on where and how you drive.
We’ve had this vehicle twice now, and when we first picked it up it had 519km to empty displaying from fully charged, and then again a month later that same figure was 470km.
So somewhere in between those seems like a good indication. On test we noted consumption of between 22kWh/100km (sedate urban ramblings) and 26kWh/100km (the highway figure).
It rose up to 30kWh/100km during more vigorous driving. The average for this tester over 2100km was sitting at 22.2kWh. That’s okay for something so large, whereas a small hatch like the MG4 does about 17kWh/100km.
The big battery will likely necessitate a wall box for home charging, the fastest AC rate being 11kW and taking a stated nine hours from 10-100 per cent.
The AWD models can handle up to 235kW of DC charge, meaning 10 – 80 per cent in 24mins under optimal conditions. On a 50kW DC charger, that’s more like an hour and a half.
Not too confusing to drive I hope?
The hardest part is finding the start button, which is on the gear selector stalk, and that is semi-hidden behind the wheel. But then it’s all pretty straightforward.
The drive mode button is on the wheel, but will rarely be pressed, Normal is just about right for every occasion.
Kia always gives you a multitude of options for brake regeneration from fully off to a one-pedal mode.
We like that you can hold the left paddle and it’ll initiate max regen, the retardation coming in smoothly but strongly, and bringing you to the smoothest of halts.
And when you need to use the actual brake pedal, this feels rather normal too, neither snatchy nor inconsistent.
The steering, while light, is a tad slow with 2.9 twirls between the stops. And that long wheelbase doesn’t lend itself to an easy turn around, the turning circle measuring 12.4m.
It’s a bit of a beast in tight spots, occupying all the available tarseal of a car park space. The extremities aren’t easy to judge either but the excellent all-seeing camera helps there, and it is quickly summoned thanks to its own dedicated button.
There are plenty of different angles to choose from too, even a god-like overhead view.
The ride is decent, not overly plush, but refined enough and it’s quiet on the go.
With two motors powering you on, even the 2.6 tonne kerb weight does little to restrict the EV9’s enthusiasm; it’s pretty rapid considering.
And there’s always plenty of torque available – this feels effortless everywhere and always smooth, the tuning of the power delivery refined.
What about those safety bongers?
Unfortunately there are a couple of overly persistent safety beepers reminding you of the fact you are three kays over the speed limit, and that you may not be paying the strictest attention to the road in front.
You can turn these off, but then they’re back after every restart.
The active cruise adds a lane changing assistant (a bit slow but gets it done calmly) and also is quite adept at taking corners on the motorway.
It could be smoother when tracing in the lane and while it accurately keeps tabs on the speed limit, there’s no single tap to get the cruise matching the new limit.
The lane keeping can be nannying on highway roads but is easily turned off via a steering wheel button. The top EV9 has camera mirrors, a novelty really, but they help with aero and relay a wider angle view of what’s alongside you.
Too big to be sporty?
While it’s big, it’s also rather stable on that long wheelbase. Wide tracks and tyres help too while the suspenders strike a likable balance between maintaining an agreeable ride quality and keeping things relatively under control.
It feels comfortable on the cruise, the steering easy and the brake regen slows you calmly for the corners. Plus, there is plenty of stonk when the need arises to overtake.
That’s the happy place for the EV9. Sport mode adds some urgency to the power delivery, and some weight to the steering, but the connection is still rather faint.
It remains collected, but the weight is telling, and at times the rear end gets a little lively, prompting some action from the ESP. Stick to the Kia EV6 GT if it’s dynamic antics you’re after.
Surely it’s practical?
While it’s big, it doesn’t range too high off the deck, so the seat height is conducive to human loading; you literally slide on in while there is virtually no sill to negotiate, the doors opening out wide too.
And it’s not such a climb for wee folk, being an urban-centric SUV.
There’s oodles of room in the second row, a flat floor giving the middle passenger ample space for lower limbs, though the squab is inhospitably firm there. You fare better on the outboard spots, which are rather plush and reclinable.
Access to the third row is grand, the middle seats sliding and tilting quickly and smoothly at the touch of a button. The space back there is good for kids.
Adults do okay for headroom but the second row needs to slide forward to give them a semblance of leg room. Here, there are yet more USB-C charge points, cup holders and air vents.
On boot space, the EV9 has plenty of that too. The third row seats sink into the floor easily when not required, the boot being wide and long, although height is somewhat limited.
While there is no spare underneath, there is space for the charging cables.
With all seats in use, there’s some luggage space left over, while you’ll find a 250V, 16A power outlet, another 12V point and buttons to fold the second row of seats flat.
There’s a small storage spot under the bonnet too, but not really a frunk as it’s too small. Another practical note, the floor mats are thoroughly decent and Kia has concocted a great mat for the boot too.
This prevents all the grit falling into those nooks and crannies between the seats, but it also allows them to pop up unhindered. Most other boot mats need to be removed to raise the third-row seats up.
The cabin has a premium feel to it, the plastics top notch, and most with ‘eco’ credentials, recycled this and bio-based that.
There is the usual twin screen set-up, the driver display clear but non configurable and keeping tabs on the DTE, the safety systems and speed (both your rate and the prescribed limit).
Buttons have been kept to a minimum, just ones to quickly adjust the ventilation and audio volume, and a few on the wheel for the usual stuff.
The rest is in the touchscreen area, which is all rather straightforward, in that home screen and sub-menu manner.
The seat has plentiful adjustments, including a fully reclined relax position, massagers, ventilation, and super comfy headrests.
The verdict then?
The EV9 is a unique proposition, given there is little choice in the seven-seat, full-size, fully electric SUV space; the other option is the Mercedes-Benz EQS, starting at $196k.
You can no longer get Tesla’s Model X here. The EV9’s presence is immense, it’s spacious and practical and a refined drive, while the towing capability might appeal too.
If you’re not convinced that bigger is better, or don’t have the need for so many seats, Kia’s EV6 will be a better fit.
|Kia EV9 GT-Line
|single-speed auto, AWD
|ABS, ESP, TV
|AEB, ACC, BSM, LDW,
RCTA, ALK, AHB
|750kg (2500kg braked)
|12 months, 15,000km
|not yet rated
This article first appeared in the December/January issue of NZ Autocar Magazine.