Kia EV9 review: it's go big or go home time for Kia's range of EVs

Big and bold, the EV9 is a dominating presence. Credit: KiaBig and bold, the EV9 is a dominating presence. Credit: Kia
Big and bold, the EV9 is a dominating presence. Credit: Kia | Kia
Kia’s largest and most expensive model ever is breaking new ground for this ever-improving brand, writes Matt Allan

The EV9 is without doubt Kia’s most ambitious model yet. The Korean brand has been growing in stature in recent years, with the EV6 in particular propelling it into new territory. But the EV9 is on another level, it’s an electric car the size of a Range Rover, priced at north of £65k and aiming to steal sales from the established premium brands.

So, have Kia lost their minds or is this really the car to have over a Mercedes or Audi?

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Visually, the EV9 immediately makes a statement. It is very different from the slippery EV6, and is all about bold upright surfaces and a square design that emphasises the car’s size. At five metres long and two metres wide, it is bigger than a Mercedes G-Class and it has immediate, unapologetic road presence. But while it isn’t subtle it is well proportioned, stylish and modern, enhanced with features such as the long thin LED lighting strips front and rear, clean unfussy lines, and touches such as flush-fit door handles.

Inside, there has also been an effort to keep things simple, with a minimalist layout. Dominating proceedings are 12.3-inch digital instruments that flow into a 12.3-inch touchscreen but beyond them is a neat easy-to-use arrangement. It’s not the most adventurous of cabin designs but it feels more upmarket than the EV6 thanks to clever use of colours and materials, including fabric made from recycled plastic and a leather alternative that uses plant-sourced elements. Key controls, such as temperature settings and drive modes have physical buttons while the illuminated touchscreen shortcuts are integrated into the dashboard fabric in a similar way to the Nissan Ariya’s hidden controls. It adds up to a calming, user-friendly environment where everything you need is close to hand without unnecessary distractions.

. Credit: Kia. Credit: Kia
. Credit: Kia | Kia

The cabin is full of practical storage spaces, from the multiple cup holders in every row to the generous room in the multi-level centre console, and deep, wide door pockets. There are also two USB ports per row to keep everyone’s devices charged, and top-spec cars get twin sunroofs to flood the massive cabin with light.

Unusually, the EV9 comes in six- or seven-seat configurations. The seven-seater is the usual 2-3-2 arrangement, with a wide middle bench offering reasonable space for three average-sized passengers. Legroom is fantastic for those in this row and it’s the same for those in the massively comfortable, endlessly adjustable front seats. Those seats feature heating, ventilation and massage functions as standard and GT-Line cars get a reclining feature with leg rest for relaxing while charging. Row two passengers (in the outer seats, at least) also get multi-stage heated and cooled seats as standard. Predictably, those in the rearmost two seats miss out on those comforts and get limited legroom. Despite the size of the EV9, row three doesn’t feel much more spacious than in a Sorento, and it’s best reserved for short journeys or short passengers.

The six-seat version aims to add a little luxury. The middle bench is replaced with two individual seats that slide, recline and swivel to face the door or rear seats for a more “sociable” environment when stopped. It’s an interesting gimmick designed to create a lounge-like atmosphere but its real appeal is making it easier to get kids in and out of car seats.

Even with all seven seats in place, the EV9’s boot will swallow 333 litres - more than a Skoda Fabia’s. With the rear seats folded into the floor, that expands to a massive 828 litres. There’s also a 52-litre “frunk”, which grows to 90 litres in two-wheel-drive models.

So, it’s a big car, yet on the move it doesn’t feel anywhere near as massive as it looks. You’re aware of its width on narrower roads but from the wheel, it feels far more agile and controlled than anything this size has any right to.

Normally we talk about sports cars “shrinking” around the driver. The 2.6-tonne EV9 is definitely no sports car but it doesn’t feel any different to the EV6 on the move. The steering is responsive, smooth and controlled, and the EV9 can hustle along a twisting Highland road with remarkable poise. Yet it never feels uncomfortable or jarring, with impressive damping that absorbs bad road surfaces while eliminating most body roll.

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The impression of being at the wheel of a smaller car is aided by the powerful pull from the all-wheel-drive setup. With 378bhp and all the instant torque you could ask for, the EV9 is quick - 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds - and surprisingly responsive whatever the circumstances. More practically, the all-wheel-drive models can tow 2.5 tonnes and feature three terrain modes for different surfaces.

There’s also a 200bhp rear-drive version on the way in spring 2024, which we haven’t had the opportunity to test yet.

Built into the EV9’s floor is the biggest battery yet fitted to a Kia - at 99.8kWh. Officially, that gives a range of 349 miles in the two-wheel-drive ‘Air’ spec. On our freezing test route amidst the stunning scenery around Inverness, our all-wheel-drive car was on track to provide around 260 miles compared with an official range of 313. That’s quite a significant drop but it’s a problem encountered by all EVs in cold weather and Kia has a good track record in getting the best out of its batteries in most conditions. And, as with the EV6, the EV9 can charge at up to 350kW, taking the battery from 10 to 80 per cent in just 24 minutes.

The Kia EV9 comes in both six and seven-seat configuration. Credit: KiaThe Kia EV9 comes in both six and seven-seat configuration. Credit: Kia
The Kia EV9 comes in both six and seven-seat configuration. Credit: Kia | Kia

Prices for the EV9 will eventually start at £65,025 for the rear-drive Air spec, rising to £73,275 for the GT-Line and £76,025 for the GT-Line S, both of which are all-wheel-drive as standard. As usual, your money gets you a lot of kit with Kia, with highlights including 19-inch alloys; full LED lights; a heat pump; adaptive cruise control; three-zone climate control, 360-degree parking camera and a power tailgate, plus the very latest in driver assistance and active safety systems. GT-Line adds 21-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, powered memory seats and remote smart parking, while the ‘S’ gets a head-up display, 14-speaker Meridian sound system and the double sunroofs. The six-seat option is an extra £1,000.

Facts and figures

Kia EV9 GT-Line S

Price: £76,025

Motor: Dual motor

Battery: 95kWh usable

Power: 378bhp

Torque: 516lb ft

Transmission: Single-speed, four-wheel-drive

Top speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 5.3 seconds

Range: 313 miles

Consumption: 2.3m/kWh

Charging: up to 350kW

There aren’t many rivals out there to consider. Tesla’s Model X is a £100,000+ left-hand-drive oddball and Mercedes produces the only other seven-seat electric SUV in the shape of the EQB. The Kia actually costs more than the Merc, something that 20 years ago would have seemed ridiculous. But here and now, it’s no laughing matter, with the Kia offering more space, power, better charging and a nicer interior than the tacky Mercedes.

So, yes, the EV9 is more expensive than anything Kia has launched before but its combination of striking design, spacious and flexible interior and impressive electric performance mean it’s more than a match for anything at the same price point and is the latest in a long line of brilliant cars from Kia.

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