► All-new family-friendly electric SUV from Kia
► EV9 offers seven seats as standard, priced from £64,995
► Up to 350 miles from a single charge
It’s not often you get a frisson of excitement at the prospect of a long drive in a Kia. But as the EV9 slowly emerges from the transporter, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of intrigue and curiosity that is sometimes all too lacking when it comes to a big SUV. Will it be as brilliant and clever as it looks?
Kia has been on a roll recently, building the sort of desirable and (largely) affordable cars for the last near-decade that has meant the brand is frequently on people’s ‘what car to buy next’ lists. But the EV9 is a big step up, the sort of car and design statement that would never have seemed possible from Kia even three or four years ago, but which it is now confidently marketing as ‘re-shaping the way we move’. But still, a £75k Kia? It’s a stretch, for sure.
The styling is one of the EV9’s major USPs, especially in our car’s matte Pacific Blue paint (incidentally, one of few options on the car, at £725). Kias have been looking less and less amorphous ever since Peter Schreyer joined the design department in 2006, but the latest move the game on further. While Schreyer tightened things and gave a hint of a personality, the newer cars under Karim Habib have really upped the ante and none more so than the EV9 – never before have I been in a Kia and seen so many people do a double-take.
What versions of the EV9 are available?
Is this the car to really get the chattering classes excited about Kia? The hardware would make you think so. The EV9 is a multi-seat SUV that the Koreans insist can take on the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5, those long-standing stalwarts of the parked-three-deep school run.
The EV9 is available across multiple grades with a couple of seat options: most get seven as standard, with the base Air at £64,995 and the GT-Line (£73,245) and GT-Line S (£75,995) as the possible grades. But the top-spec ‘S’ also has a six seat option (£76,995).
The latter is the EV9’s party trick, with three rows of two seats with the possibility of rotating the middle row to create a sort of car living room. Only without the TV. Or a wet dog curled up in front of the fire. I’m not sure how often the seats will get rotated in the day-to-day grind of family ferrying. It feels like it might be one more way for the children’s left-over crisps to get ground into dust.
Standard kit is impressive. Even the Air gets three-zone climate control, artificial leather, electric front seats, heated and vented front and middle row seats, heated steering wheel, full infotainment suite. As ever, the mid GT-Line is where the sensible money lies, giving you the sweet spot of kit vs cost.
All variants come with a 99.8 kWh battery located skateboard-style under the floor, much like the EV6 that shares the E-GMP platform with the larger EV9. Crucially, that gives it 800V architecture and 350kW charging speeds, enabling it to add up to 136 miles on the all-wheel drive version in just 15 minutes.
What about the interior?
Quality is impressive throughout. Sadly our test car’s subtle blue non-leather won’t be available in the UK, Kia choosing to go with a far less tasteful black-and-white combination, but the materials mix and general perceived quality seem spot on.
The vast digital dash (a 12.3-inch cluster in front of the driver, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a 5.3-inch climate control screen in between) is easy to use and there are plenty of actual buttons on the steering wheel so you don’t have to stretch-and-stab all the way over to the infotainment ‘screen.
Thanks to the flat floor, in-cabin storage is good and on the GT-Line and up, the two front seats get a nifty recline function complete with footrest. For when you want to act all BA-business class while you’re charging your car.
In the back, there is a huge amount of leg and head room, with the middle row splitting 40:60 and sliding fore and aft. For access to the rear, the middle set also flip and slide forward using just a single lever. Adults would manage it back there for a short journey and if carrying stuff is required, both rear rows fold flat.
Each row gets its own climate control and vents in the ceiling. USB C sockets are aplenty. This all feels a bit like CAR does Which Report but having been on the receiving end of upset children and wife, this boring stuff makes a difference. Kia has done the dull stuff well.
As with most EVs, Kia is at pains to stress the eco credentials of all the materials with things like faux-leather seats and steering wheel (it feels good to the touch), bio plastics on the dash and console, and recycled fishing nets for the carpets. Downsides? There are some odd quirks, like a steering wheel that doesn’t adjust for enough reach or the air con controls being hidden behind the steering wheel. It feels weird to have obvious misses like that when so much thought has been thrown at the rest of it.
Am I going to be as excited about driving it?
The EV9 feels most at home lolloping along easy roads. Stable footprint, plenty of power – it’s an easy thing to soak up the miles with a quiet cabin and well-damped ride.
The comfort levels are good in the EV9. You notice it almost immediately – a softness to the controls and suspension that copes easily with broken tarmac and rolls across lumps without getting caught out. Crucially, given its family remit, it’s smooth around towns.
You can still feel the heft of the car in certain situations – high speed bumps or staggered cross-axle expansion joins don’t melt into the background as much as I’d like – but for the most part it’s an accomplished thing to waft along in.
Climbing gently across rolling hills, the EV9 never feels stretched. Easy pace is the over-riding theme, not neck-snapping brutality. But then we are in a family SUV and who wants warp speed in one of those – I certainly never found myself pining for the additional pace of a Tesla Model Y.
There are two power levels available, either 200bhp or our car’s 379bhp and 513lb ft from the twin e-motors, and with 2.5 tonnes to shift around, it’ll do 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds (it’s 9.4 seconds for the rear-wheel drive version). I’d worry about ordering the lower-powered one. I can’t speak from experience, but the way our more powerful EV9 sweeps down the road, I suspect the rear-wheel drive version could feel quite weedy.
Likewise, the EV9 isn’t anything special through a corner as it struggles to disguise its bulk. The suspension does a reasonable job of keeping the body roll in check, but it’s definitely set up for more leisurely demands – it pitches gently into a bend, rolls across the apex and then mooches away up the next straight. It’s like a cuddly cartoon bear – soft and enveloping but with none of the real-life version’s hidden fangs and teeth, nothing to give a sense of excitement or hidden edge. It’s plain and formulaic to the last.
Likewise the steering. It’s precise but entirely devoid of feel so it’s a safe and predictable machine, but with minimal reward or excitement. If you want seven seats and something that steers and corners with a bit more vim, you’ll need to head towards your local BMW dealer.
Having said that, I found it better than a Tesla Model Y, not because it’s any more engaging but at least it doesn’t get the Tesla’s appalling ride or weird steering speed. Things are much more relaxed in the EV9.
Verdict: Kia EV9
As a solution to families wanting to decarbonise their large car, the EV9 does an excellent job. As you’d expect from Kia, it does everything to make a stressed parent’s life easier with the sort of functionality and ease of use that doesn’t write headlines but does make surviving screaming children that little bit less stressful.
But those wanting excitement will need to look elsewhere. The EV9 is fast and extremely capable of absorbing many miles very comfortably (we did nearly 1000 miles in just two days, with no complaints), but it won’t give you that frisson of excitement that you’ll get from a BMW X5. But as an ease-of-use machine, few are better.