Kia EV9 2024 review – a Range Rover on a budget?
The all-electric EV9 is an impressively refined SUV offering, with comfort and technology in abundance
A seven-seat, full-sized SUV is far from an evo car, but with the new EV9 leading the way for Kia’s ambitious ‘Plan S’ electrification strategy, it’s one of the firm’s most important, and advanced cars to date. The first of nine new Kia EV models set to enter the UK market by 2027, this new flagship offers an early look at what we can expect from its clutch of upcoming relatives. There's plenty of cutting-edge technology set to trickle down through the lineup, on this evidence.
The EV9 is available to order in three variants; the entry-level, rear-wheel drive Air, the middling all-wheel drive GT-Line and the GT-Line S range-topper we sampled here in Scotland – pricing stands at £64,995, £73,245 and £75,995 respectively, with the six-seat GT-Line S costing an additional £1000. Deliveries will begin in early 2024 for the latter, with buyers of the GT-Line and Air having to wait a little longer.
While there’s over £10,000 between the bottom and top of the range, each UK-supplied EV9 is equipped with the same, huge 99.8kWh battery pack, sending (and receiving) its power through the latest 800V, 48V systems – there’s also a standard heat pump for optimum efficiency. One downside of that large battery pack is that it weighs 566kg on its own, which happens to be the same as the evo Fast Fleet Caterham Seven…
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The GT-Line S offers plenty of performance for the task at hand. With a motor at the front and rear, 380bhp and 516lb ft of torque are enough to haul all 2648kg from standstill to 62mph in 5.3sec and go on to a 124mph top speed. Unlike some EVs, throttle mapping is very well calibrated, offering lots of modulation and control in all scenarios. As you switch from Eco, through to Normal and up to Sport mode, the throttle becomes incrementally more responsive – while damping is active, these drive modes only change the throttle map and traction settings, with suspension configuration adapting automatically to the road conditions.
Thanks to its strong regenerative braking, the EV9 is capable of one-pedal driving, activated via the wheel-mounted paddles. Should you push-on and require the brake pedal, though, the blend between regen and the friction brakes is impressively seamless, with the 360mm front, 345mm rear brakes providing adequate stopping power for the most part – initial bite isn’t particularly strong, and the EV9’s weight certainly makes itself known after a few stops, but this won’t be a problem for most buyers.
Ride quality is perhaps the most important factor for those cross-shopping with a Range Rover, and the EV9 does an excellent job in this department. Even on the 21-inch wheels of the GT-Line S, isolation from the road is up there with the very best, with well-judged spring rate and damping making light work of Scotland's rutted tarmac. Increase the pace on a less-than-perfect, off-camber road and you can induce the occasional lurch, with the EV9 fighting to control its weight, but these moments are quickly dealt with and fail to disrupt the sophisticated feel.
Its steering is without much feel, predictably, but it is direct, with an added dose of off-centre heft adding a pleasant layer of quality to the controls. Our only complaint is the slow ratio and a lack of rear-wheel steering, which makes three-point turns more frequent than we’d like in low speed scenarios.
Design is certainly divisive, with its boxy styling and removable wheel aero covers bound to raise eyebrows. A clean, modern aesthetic is what you’ll find throughout, though, with slim LED headlights creating a distinctive L-shaped signature even in the daytime. Despite a length near-identical to a full-sized Range Rover, at 5010mm, the combination of the boxy design and large 21-inch wheels does create the illusion of smaller dimensions at a distance. Get up close, though, and the true size becomes clear.
Unlock the EV9 via its part-recycled (more of that to come) key, and its flush handles emerge from the doors. Despite its size, stepping inside requires far less effort than with many conventional full-sized SUVs, thanks to a near-flat door sill and low floor. Its floor-mounted battery pack gives a completely flat floor throughout, this provides Kia with the opportunity to fill the EV9 with endless storage compartments.
Interior design is modest, with minimal ambient lighting, the use of sophisticated, sustainable materials throughout and a simple dashboard layout. A pleasant faux carbonfibre trim piece spans the width of the dash, incorporating illuminated haptic controls for the standard 12.3-inch infotainment system – while we appreciate the use of haptic motors, this system isn’t particularly slick, with multiple button presses often required for an action. The touchscreen infotainment display is a little more responsive (although still not as quick as we’d like), and runs one of the more intuitive in-car systems we’ve seen – Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard, with the former accessible wirelessly. Some more dedicated physical buttons would be appreciated, but thankfully, climate controls are all accessible via a dedicated display to the left of the driver.
Large, cushy, massage-equipped seats make the cabin a comfortable place to be, with bespoke foam-insulated, 285-section Pirelli P Zeros, thicker glass and active noise cancellation making it a very quiet cabin, even at speed – the smaller 19-inch wheels of the entry-level Air can only improve this further. Build quality is strong throughout, with no creaks or rattles even in the sub-zero temperatures of our test. While its materials may look somewhat mundane, each EV9 features 34kg of recycled materials, with the seats and interior coverings made from bio polyurethane (derived from corn) and elements such as the carpets made from bottles and fishing nets.
This being a seven-seat SUV, practicality is an important factor. Thankfully, the EV9 has put its large dimensions to good use, with the cabin feeling spacious even with three rows of seats. Opt for the six-seater (with just two seats in the second row), and you unlock the ability to swivel those two seats while parked, allowing for a ‘conference’ style setup while at a standstill – nifty, although with passengers in the third row, leg room does get a little tight.
There’s no sense that Kia has skimped on anything in the EV9, with seats heated and cooled front and rear, a total of six USB-C ports scattered throughout the cabin (including the third-row), roof-mounted air-con vents for all rear passengers and even a full-sized three-pin UK plug socket fitted in the boot. Fingerprint recognition and a digital rear view mirror are a first for Kia, with the EV9 even going as far as to prevent the windscreen washer scent from entering the cabin when you use the washers.
Aside from its ludicrous weight, another byproduct of that large battery is the high cost to charge it. The EV9’s 800V architecture does allow for lightning-fast 350kw charging for a 10-80 per cent charge in as little as 24 minutes, but a 3kw home charger would take over 40 hours, with even a fast 11kw wall box expected to take nine. Quoted range for the GT-Line S does stand at 313 miles (349 miles for the Air), but efficiency isn’t as strong as we’d like – while far from a scientific test, we used 191 miles of range in 154 miles of normal driving (albeit in 0 degree weather).
The EV9 is the flagship for Kia’s next-generation lineup, and it shows. Impressive refinement, sophisticated dynamics and plenty of everyday practicality make it a perfect buy for the target demographic, but whether its badge will deter more premium buyers remains to be seen…
Price and rivals
Regardless of whether buyers dislike the high £64,995 starting price, there is currently no direct alternative to the Kia EV9, with the upcoming Volvo EX90 and all-electric Range Rover the next closest competitors. Given their position in the market though, there’s no doubt they’ll come at a steep premium – the full-sized, combustion-powered Range Rover currently costs from £103,720, with the EV likely to cost considerably more.
The Kia EV9 range starts with the £64,995 Air, steps up to the £73,245 GT-Line, with the GT-Line S range-topper priced from £75,995, rising to £76,995 in six-seat form.