Kia EV9

kia ev9 review 2023 01 tracking front
Having succeeded with its £45k electric SUV, Kia steps it up again with a £65k seven-seater – beating big-name rivals to the punch

People who don’t actually own large SUVs often purport to hate them on the grounds that their powerful engines create too much air pollution and their high CO2 outputs contribute to climate change.As often as not, there’s envy mixed in with the disapproval, because owning a big SUV is also a popular signifier of an owner’s prosperity. However, with the launch of the Kia EV9, much of this is going to have to change.True, this new Kia is a large, imposing and fully equipped SUV of near-Range Rover proportions, so that envy might linger, but its most important facet by far is a battery-electric powertrain. That means this large and boxy car (admittedly with a creditable aerodynamic drag factor of 0.28Cd) emits no toxic particles or greenhouse gases at the tailpipe, so to speak.Kia has stolen a big march on the usual SUV suspects like Volvo, Land Rover and Porsche and even on its parent company, Hyundai. But the arrival of this car definitely drops the flag on an electric SUV race that will surely follow. SUV-land is about to be very different.The burning question is whether the EV9 is a good car, and the answer is a resounding yes. It is quite clear that Kia has had its A-team working on it, and the result is an exceptionally durable, versatile machine that progresses the Korean marque’s current Opposites United design style (precise edges meet full forms) and bristles with quality materials and thoughtful product design – on switchgear, graphics, screen layouts, door coverings and the gracefully screen-based fascia.One vital feature of this “family-oriented” SUV is the extreme configurability of its seats. You can buy a six- or seven-seat model (the difference is that the middle row can be either a threeperson bench or two individual seats). With the latter, the seats can be swivelled so that the rear of the car becomes a kind of meeting room – and that’s much more than a gimmick, because, unlike in many big SUVs, the space is well utilised.The big rear also bristles with comfort items: connectivity ports, storage bins, air vents and controls, all neatly designed and located.There are unique “extreme comfort” settings for both the front passenger’s seat and the middlerow pair. These buckets offer the versatility of airline seats and are controlled from switchpads that are both easily understood and reached. The whole is a rare exercise in detail design that works well and seems very durable. No rival offers such versatility.Walk up to the EV9 for the first time and what strikes you first is the fresh and instant appeal of its new styling, an edgy treatment with an arrestingly modern plain front panel, technical-looking headlights, cladding along the body sides and a very plain tailgate design. It’s long and boxy, but it’s also a car like no other, somehow not shocking enough to deter new arrivals.Like its smaller, two-year-old sibling, the Kia EV6, the EV9 sits on the Hyundai Group’s EV-specific Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), and it shares much hardware, including its all-independent multi-link suspension and many powertrain components. The EV9 offers buyers a choice of rear- and four-wheel-drive versions.Entry-level models have a 200bhp motor that sends 258lb ft of torque exclusively to the rear axle, yielding 0-62mph acceleration of 9.4sec. The 4×4 has a pair of motors of equal power (189bhp each) mounted front and rear, which means the car has a total 378bhp and on tap and can turn a 0-62mph time of 6.0sec. Torque is an impressive 442lb ft, but this can be boosted to 515lb ft with an extra-cost, over-the-air software update that shaves another 0.7sec from the 0-60mph time.Such is the smoothness and easy response of the EV9’s controls that you soon forget it’s an EV. Instead, it’s an easy-driving car with a very quiet motor and a range close to 300 miles, depending how you drive. Motion is controlled from a small switchblock on the right side of the steering column and there are the usual ancillary switches (including a blessed one-touch operation to disable the lane-keeping assistance) on the steering wheel. Like in other Hyundai and Kia EVs, the intensity of the regenerative braking can be varied by steering wheel paddles. (Please, rivals, do this yourselves!)Our test car is a mid-range homemarket version, lacking some of the decor of a high-spec UK EV9 and without the second motor. The braking is powerful and easy to modulate, the steering feels most normal in, aptly, Normal driving mode (the others are Sport and Eco) and the controls all have that frictionless panache of brands in the BMW and Porsche realm. Such things show you how relentless is Kia’s march to greatness.What about the all-important ride comfort? It feels very good, notably supple and quiet on the bumps we encountered, but Korea’s roads simply aren’t bad enough for a UK-relevant verdict. Recent big EVs – and this one weighs 2.5 tonnes ready to roll – have shown an inability to handle suburban bumps very well at low speeds, and although the EV9 has no trouble in the back-blocks of Seoul, it can’t be pronounced brilliant until it demonstrates the fact more decisively in, say, London.But the signs are all good. My sojourn entailed crossing Korea to the east coast then driving back again, a matter of about 300 miles. Large parts of the trip were speed controlled at 100kph (62mph), but the single-motor powertrain still showed that it had plenty of smooth torque and, apart from a discreet whine under strong acceleration, it was nearly silent. Driven this way it was obvious this EV9 would achieve its promised WLTP range of 336 miles.Kia is still juggling competing export bids for the EV9 while coping with strong demand at home, so it can’t yet be precise about its plans for the UK market. However, it seems likely that the EV9 will command prices of £65,000 at the relatively plush entry evel and around £75,000 for the downright opulent 4×4 GT-Line at the top of the range.Predicting a precise arrival date is difficult (it takes a minimum of six weeks for a car to be built in and transported from Korea), but best estimates have it that the first EV9 should reach its owner by November. There will be more details on that very soon.
Source: Autocar

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