The Kia EV9 propels this firm into premium territory

The EV9 is Kia’s largest and most expensive car to date. Ted Welford tries it out in the Scottish Highlands.

The rate of growth at Kia over the past couple of decades has been nothing short of staggering. If you’d said even a few years ago that this South Korean firm would have a car capable of taking on cars like the BMW X5 or Audi Q7, you’d have been met with laughs.

But in 2024, Kia will have just that with the EV9. It’s the second bespoke electric car after the EV6, and is this brand’s most ambitious car yet – being considerably larger and more expensive than anything Kia has ever sold before. We’ve been behind the wheel to try it out.

Like the EV6, this new EV9 is built around a specific electric car platform – giving Kia greater flexibility regarding technology, design and interior space. It’s that latter point that has been fully utilised, with this being one of the first proper ‘full-size’ electric seven-seat SUVs available and is well ahead of Audi and BMW for this.

Photos: PA Media

The 99.8kWh battery isn’t just the largest fitted to a Kia to date, but also one of the largest of any production car, with Kia claiming up to 349 miles in the most efficient configuration – an impressive figure considering the EV9 weighs more than 2.6 tonnes.

Kia is offering the EV9 with two powertrains, though each currently uses the same 99.8kWh battery. A rear-wheel-drive version producing 200bhp kicks things off, with this being capable of the headline range figure.

But we’re trying the top-spec all-wheel-drive version available. This features two electric motors generating a healthy 378bhp and 700Nm of torque, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 124mph.

It drops the claimed range down to 313 miles, however, and even on a fairly cold Scottish test route, we were underwhelmed by the efficiency figures, which equated to less than 250 miles from a full charge. That said, all EV9s are equipped with an advanced 800-volt charging infrastructure, meaning – in ideal circumstances and with a quick enough public charger – you could top it up from 10 to 80 per cent in just 24 minutes.

There’s no hiding the sheer size of the EV9, which at more than five metres long, is very similar to a Range Rover. It’s easier to manoeuvre and drive than you might expect, though the sheer width and height mean it will only just sneak into a typical multi-storey car park and through width restrictors.

But out on the road, the EV9 is impressive. Wind and road noise is hardly noticeable, and considering its size, the EV9 is more agile than you might expect and doesn’t feel anywhere near as heavy as it actually is through the corners. Performance is plentiful in this all-wheel-drive guise as well.

A slightly choppy ride is the only complaint, not being helped by the huge 21-inch alloy wheels on our test car. When a car is as heavy and large as this, a softer air suspension setup – favoured by other premium electric SUVs – would likely be a better fit.

It’s safe to say you won’t struggle to find the EV9 in a car park, as it’s quite an imposing thing. There’s the obvious size factor, and it really does look huge on the road.

Many similarities have been carried over from the original 2021 concept car, including the minimalist front end, gigantic LED rear lights and boxy wheelarches that make it look reassuringly rugged. It’s worth commending Kia for not just replicating the design of the EV6, either, as the EV9 is quite different to everything else it sells.

If we’re nit-picking, the flush pop-out door handles are a bit of a pain, particularly for the rear, as there’s no way to ‘unlock’ them externally other than pressing the key fob or the ‘unlock’ button from inside.

With a perfect balance of modern screens, physical buttons where needed (such as for the climate control and heated seats) and high-grade materials, the EV9’s interior is a great place to spend time. A wide range of recycled and sustainable materials have been used too. Though it might not feel as plush at first as a leather-filled Audi, it feels no worse for using substitute materials for environmental purposes.

Then there’s the space on offer, which is vast. If you’re in the front seat and take a look over your shoulder, the car just seems to keep going and going. Seven seats are standard, and with each row placed right, seven adults can fit in the EV9, while still having enough room for a couple of suitcases in the boot. You can choose to have it with six seats, with two middle independent chairs able to swivel to face rear passengers, but we reckon having seven seats is more suitable here.

Three trims are available on the EV9, though even the standard ‘Air’ version – which is only available in the 200bhp rear-driven configuration – gets just about everything you could need, such as three-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front and rear seats, a 360-degree camera system and a full suite of driver assists.

A GT-Line grade brings the more powerful all-wheel-drive setup, along with 21-inch alloy wheels, an electric steering column and sportier looks, while the flagship GT-Line S, adds a superb 14-speaker Meridian sound system, twin sunroofs and an option for six seats.

Kia set out to create a halo car with the EV9, and it’s managed just that. Given what this firm has achieved in recent years, it shouldn’t be such a surprise that it’s made a car as good as this SUV, but yet it still is.

The EV9, with its radical design, vast interior space and upmarket feel – is a worthy challenger for the premium German brands. There are slight grumbles about the efficiency and the ride, but these are slight. So the EV9 might be expensive, but impressively – and perhaps even more surprisingly – it feels worth every cent.

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