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

When Kia launched the Stinger, we called it Kia’s 3 Series. Although it was never quite at the level of the Bavarian juggernaut and sales success did not materialise, it was in the conversation and was a huge show of confidence and ambition. 

When Kia revealed the Kia EV9, we called it Kia’s Land Rover Discovery. Yet now people are already trading in their Land Rovers - and Audi Q7s and even Porsche Cayennes - to get their hands on the new large electric car even without having driven one.

It is quite clear that Kia has had its A-team working on the EV9, and the result is an exceptionally durable, versatile machine that progresses the Korean marque’s current Opposites United design style

They don’t need to wait too much longer, as UK EV9 deliveries will start in January. We’ve driven an early Korean-spec single-motor EV9 on Korean roads and now a dual-motor version in Denmark. Six-seat and seven-seat versions will be offered. 

Additional driving impressions by Steve Cropley

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Kia has stolen a big march on the usual SUV suspects such as Volvo, Land Rover and Porsche and even on its parent company, Hyundai, in launching a desirable seven-seat family SUV. But the arrival of this car definitely drops the flag on an electric SUV race that will surely follow.

Like its smaller, two-year-old sibling, the Kia EV6, the EV9 sits on the Hyundai Group’s electric-car-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.

It’s long and boxy, but it’s also a car like no other, somehow not shocking enough to deter new arrivals

Walk up to the EV9 for the first time and what strikes you 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 big – 5cm longer than a Discovery even – but boy does it have presence. The boxy styling (admittedly a big, boxy car with a creditable aerodynamic drag factor of 0.28) is fantastic and the bright blue of our test car really lifts the mood on a gloomy autumn day.

We tested it alongside a sea of other new-for-2024 arrivals at a Car of the Year test event and, to my eyes, the EV9 was the most striking design of all 24 different models assembled. It’s not pretty or beautiful, but it makes you smile and could still pass for a concept car. How many other family SUVs can you say that about?

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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 three-person 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. No passenger has been left as an afterthought in the EV9 and all seven seats are substantial. The third row wants for leg room but not head room. 

The interior feels like the modern heir to a Volkswagen from a decade ago, back when they were confident and offering a quality product that's not overthought.

There are unique “extreme comfort” settings for both the front passenger’s seat and the middle-row 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. 

The technology and screens (twin 12.3in displays for the driver and infotainment) are well integrated but never at the expense of usability or bamboozling the driver. Equipment levels are excellent and they need to be for the EV9 to wear its price tag, for as good as the layout and usability are, some of the materials don’t sit well with the £70k price, given their familiarity from other Kias. 

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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 four-wheel-drive version has a pair of motors of equal power (189bhp each) mounted front and rear, which means the car has a total of 378bhp 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.

Based on our early tests, the single-motor version should provide the best blend of performance and range.

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 of close to 300 miles in the rear-motor version, 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!)

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. 

The four-wheel-drive model has excellent real-world pace and is as quick and torquey as you'd want a car of this size and weight (2.6 tonnes!) to be. It's a smooth and refined drivetrain that's not far behind market-leading BMW for these traits while offering a real-world range of 260 miles on our test route.

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We loathe to give caveats in verdicts, but there must be one on the EV9 concerning its ride and body control until we can test it on our roads and in final UK trim. The ride was unsettled at higher speeds even on the silky smooth roads of Denmark and there was also lots of wind and road noise that undermined the refinement of the drivetrain.

The body also felt unsettled at lower speeds, crashing over some bumps and leaving a prevailing sense of a car that felt a bit wallowy and lacking sophistication in its chassis. It’s worth noting that Korean-spec cars didn’t display these traits, pointing to an erroneous direction being taken in its European tuning.

The ride quality isn’t enough to spoil what is otherwise a superb package and a car that’s so easy to like: it’s more an ‘and’ rather than a ‘but’.

The rest of the dynamic package is much better: the handling is predictable and the steering precise, and the boxy corners make this a very easy car to place despite its size.  

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Kia is offering two powertrains and three trim levels on the EV9. The standard Air model starts at £64,995 and this is the single-motor rear-wheel-drive model. The GT Line adds four-wheel drive and costs from £73,245.

Those pair are offered with seven seats only, the six-seat option coming in with range-topping GT Line S trim, which is also four-wheel drive. The seven-seat version costs from £75,995 and the six-seater is an extra £1000. From launch, only the GT Line S models are offered but Air and GT Line will arrive soon after. 

Although not a direct on-paper rival, the EV9 shares a fun, easy-going spirit with the VW ID Buzz.

At the moment, rivals for the Kia EV9 are limited because it sits in a class of one of seven-seat family electric SUVs. The Volvo EX90 will come next and is expected to be priced from around £75,000 when it reaches the UK in 2024. There remain a glut of traditional seven-seat family SUVs to rival the EV9, including the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq, although Kia’s aspirations go much higher than conquering this traditionally small segment. 

The real-world range of the single-motor model is around 300 miles and the twin-motor around 260 miles. Both use the same 99.8kWh battery, which can be fast charged at up to 350kW. 

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The EV9 is a real achievement for Kia and a crowning glory for the firm after making huge strides forward in the automotive industry over the past two decades.

The design of the car is fantastic and will successfully woo many buyers alone. Yet more will be won over by the spacious and versatile interior. Only the ride quality provides a note of caution. Still, this is not enough to detract from what is another deeply impressive electric car from Kia overall. 

The burning question is whether the EV9 is a good car, and the answer is a resounding yes.

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.