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By venturing into luxury SUVs, has Kia bitten off more than it can chew?

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Few new model introductions better illustrate the sheer scale of ambition harboured by an up-and-coming car brand than the full-sized, unashamedly eye-catching Kia EV9 all-electric SUV.

Becoming the Korean firm’s fourth zero-emissions passenger car, it is by some way its largest and most luxurious yet. It takes Kia into market territory where it has never dared venture before and allows it to square up to European premium brands on closer terms – and with the unmistakable confidence that it has been building since the launch of the Stinger executive GT in 2017.

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

Kia’s familiar design appeal is at the heart of this car’s positioning – but so is space, versatility, usability and relative value. As one of the few electrically powered seven-seat family cars, it’s here to undercut the Tesla Model X and Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV; to outwork, with its sheer space and usefulness, the likes of the Audi Q8 E-tron and BMW iX; to outshine the forthcoming seven-seat version of the Volkswagen ID Buzz, and the Mercedes EQB; and perhaps simply to beat the upcoming Volvo EX90 to the punch.

The EV9 lacks some of the drivetrain and suspension technologies commonly used on big SUVs like this by the premium brands. But, for the money Kia is asking, it does not seem short on power, range or equipment. Read on, then, to find out how its finer details rise to the challenge of life in the full-size premium SUV class.

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The range at a glance

RWD Air200bhp£64,995
AWD GT-Line378bhp£73,245
AWD GT-Line S378bhp£75,995

Kia offers a three-tier line-up. Entry-level Air has the longest claimed range, pairing the 99.8kWh battery common with the EV9’s range-mates with a single rear-mounted motor and 19in alloy wheels. Seven seats, three-zone climate control, 360deg parking cameras and a 12.3in infotainment system are standard.

Aside from the additional front-axle drive motor, GT-Line adds 21in alloys, adaptive headlights and a front-seat upgrade.

On a GT-Line S, you get Meridian premium audio, a head-up display and twin sunroofs, with matt paint (£1750) and a six-seat cabin configuration including a swivelling second row (£1000) both optional. Premium paint is a £725 option.


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The conventional layout of the electric car is now often bemoaned by designers, but where large SUVs are concerned, it may be considered a fine departure point. Because while a long wheelbase, big wheels, a swollen floorpan and an upwardly displaced roofline aren’t desirable for a sports car or compact saloon, the EV9 fully embraces all of them.

Stretching just longer than five metres, this car is almost exactly the same length as a Land Rover Defender 110. But while its roofline is more than six inches lower, its wheelbase is over three inches longer than the Land Rover’s. So the EV9’s proportions, while clearly very substantial, are also that little bit fresh and unusual.

The car’s general appearance is defined by a bold take on Kia’s Opposites United design philosophy. This was blooded on the Kia EV6 and developed on the Sportage but has now gained extra sophistication, turning out a full-size SUV that has remarkable visual presence without being particularly aggressive or visually challenging.

This is the second Kia to use the E-GMP electric car platform. It’s all-steel and makes the twin-motor car a little heavier than rivals (2660kg as tested to the iX xDrive50 M Sport’s 2593kg and Audi’s 2634kg triple-motor E-tron S Quattro, which has become the SQ8 E-tron since we weighed it).

It confers axles of MacPherson struts at the front and multiple links at the rear, the latter modified to cope with the EV9’s size and weight; suspension via fixed-height steel coils and ‘smart’ frequency-selective dampers, with a self-levelling function at the rear; and conventional passive steering and anti-roll control.

The EV9’s chassis makes room for a drive layout of either one rear-mounted, permanent magnet synchronous motor, or one per axle. In the case of the twin-motor car, each item produces 189bhp and 258lb ft.

A battery pack, made up of a fourth generation of Hyundai-Kia’s nickel-manganese-cobalt cells, is carried under the floor and has 99.8kWh of usable storage capacity. That isn’t quite enough to lead the segment on outright capacity but is impressive for the price.

And for its 800V charging capability, the EV9 also promises to shade its rivals and save owners time, with a 10-80% DC rapid charge supposedly possible in 24 minutes.


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Flush-fitting pop-out door handles more like those of a Range Rover Velar than of a Kia EV6 admit you to the interior.

On occasion, they fail to present when you need them or, worse, seem to need a second or third tug to open the driver’s door, but they work about as well as any retractable handle on the market right now (which is to say still not quite well enough for our liking).

Once you’re inside, the EV9 begins to reveal what it’s all about: space, comfort, versatility – and a luxuriousness that is, at least in some ways, well beyond the ken of any of Kia’s other current models.

The driver sits fairly high and upright in front of a largish steering wheel and Kia’s double-screened bank of digital display consoles. 

Taller testers wished for greater length in both cushion and squab in the range-topping GT-Line S version, which comes as standard with Premium Relaxation seats. Lateral and lumbar support are both good, but greater rearward adjustment in the headrest would improve comfort. 

The sense in fitting motorised recliner-style supports for your calves to the front seats (on GT-Line models and above) seems questionable, though. ‘Sleeping seats’ may work in the back of limos, where the front passenger seat can be slid and folded forwards out of the way, but in this case they add little true lounging potential.

The entry-level Air and mid-level GT-Line are seven-seat only, whereas the top-spec GT-Line S can be had in a six-seat configuration, which swaps the second row's three-seat sliding bench for a pair of swivelling ‘captain’s’ chairs. 

We’ve tested both the GT-Line S with six seats and the Air with seven seats. The former had as much outright second-row occupant space as we measured in the back of an iX in 2022,

That’s particularly impressive considering they leave a pair of third-row seats that are large enough for smaller adults and growing kids to travel in perfectly comfortably. Four of the five rear seats get their own cupholders and USB-C charging ports, as well as Isofix child seat anchorages. The rearmost pair stow and deploy electrically and are easy to access.

In the EV9 Air with seven seats, accommodation is excellent and the boot is big enough for a reasonable amount of shopping cargo. In five-seat mode, the loading space under that cover is a little shallow (blame those third-row seats and a motor on the rear axle) but it’s otherwise very generous.

This, clearly, is an SUV ready to make big families entirely comfortable and it caters to their needs very well indeed. That it could, in the front, look and feel just a little more materially rich and lavish becomes obvious as you fiddle with switchgear and run your hands over some of its mouldings, though. In this respect, the EV9 does seem like a £45,000 EV6 derivative ‘acting up’ more than perhaps a £75,000 car should.

Kia may claim to have invested its budget more responsibly, into the wider use of recyclable materials rather than showier perceived quality for its own sake, but what it has produced doesn’t have abundant appeal to the senses.

Although the car’s underlying material quality is good, for premium brand regulars who might otherwise buy a BMW, Volvo, Audi or Mercedes, the lack of material razzle-dazzle may be the one significant area where this interior is found wanting.

Multimedia system

The EV9 comes with twin 12.3in infotainment and instrument displays. There are two wired smartphone connections in the front row and four more USB-C charging ports in the rear. Go for a GT-Line S car and you get a driver’s head-up display as well, with customisable content.

Wired smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android is standard, with wireless mirroring supposedly coming to all variants via a software update. The layout of the home screen is pretty simple and there are haptic permanent shortcut ‘buttons’ below it to skip directly to the menu you need, so navigability is decent, although a physical cursor controller on the centre console or steering wheel would make it better still.

The navigation system is fairly easy to set and it is clear in its instructions, but voice recognition address input seems less accurate than in most premium cars. However, it is easy to choose a nearby public charger and follow the route.


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Broadly speaking, the EV9 performs and handles as you expect a big car to. In rear-wheel-drive form, its power delivery is more sedate and progressive, with 0-62mph dispatched in a relaxed 9.4sec. 

While that might sound slow, the single-motor EV9 has more than enough poke for A- and B-roads. It just lacks the punch of the all-wheel-drive car when accelertating from standstill. 

In twin-motor form, the EV9 accelerates with an assured power delivery that, when tested in damp conditions, left the traction control untroubled under full power as the car built speed without noticeable squat but with plenty of outright urgency.

There’s a familiar array of everyday-use on-road drive modes, with the GT-Line and GT-Line S versions gaining extra terrain modes for mud, sand and snow. 

Dial up the twin-motor car into Sport mode, flatten the accelerator from rest and 60mph comes up in 5.3sec, which bears comparison with almost any big EV – or almost any other big, seven-seat family SUV.

At higher speeds, the car’s bulk may be a little more of a factor (for 40-80mph at full canter, it needs 5.7sec, where an iX xDrive50 needs 4.0sec and an E-tron S Quattro 4.3sec). But the all-wheel-drive EV9 still feels authoritative in its motorway and overtaking performance.

The detail of the driving experience has been paid close attention. On all models, paddles on the back of the steering wheel allow you to cycle trailing-throttle motor regen very quickly and simply, from none at all, through an automatically managed regen setting, up to a one-pedal mode of operation. And if you prefer to let the car conserve its momentum and use the brake pedal only when you need it, the pedal is easy to modulate (which, on a big, heavy car, is important).

If the car gives you any frustration with which to regularly contend, then, it isn’t to do with its powertrain tuning, but rather its driver aids (to which we will come shortly).

We had the opportunity to test the twin-motor car’s off-road traction on wet grass, where its brake-based torque vectoring seemed to work well. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are no mechanical locking differentials or much true off-roading hardware here, the tyre specification is very much road-intended, and outright ground clearance is less than 200mm – so tougher off-roading clearly isn’t what the car is intended for.


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In both urban and out-of-town motoring, the EV9 conducts itself with decent composure and control. For a big car, it isn’t difficult to sweep into a parking space, although it does make those spaces feel predictably small.

Dynamically, both the single-motor and twin-motor versions handle simply, predictably and without any trickery. 

There’s no four-wheel steering system here to make the car extra-wieldy around mini-roundabouts and at manoeuvring speeds, or to mitigate the dynamic fallout from that long wheelbase. This means there’s plenty of arm twirling to be had, especially at low speeds. It isn’t sporty or athletic – and, from a big family car, you might well not mind that much. 

In twin-motor form, it does at least roll less than you might expect through the bends, cornering with the kind of body control that prevents the substantial mass from getting in its way. It would be a stretch to call it keen, but there’s a clear sense of togetherness, precision and calmness to the way the car handles, with some feel to its steering. 

Uneven roads challenge that composure a little, though, making the ride become just a bit busy and excitable over sharper inputs and underlining that, underneath it all, this is a car that prefers to take life that little bit easier.

In contrast, the single-motor Air feels softer, riding bumps and road imperfections well. With the Air carrying 168kg less weight than the twin-motor, the body is kept well in check through the corners. Point the EV9 down a winding rural road and it steers with accuracy, despite the limited feel through the wheel. Simply put, the Air feels a little more relaxed when ironing out lumps and bumps. 

It doesn’t feel as sure-footed as its twin-motor range-mates, due in part to those cars using a four-wheel-drive layout, which adds an extra layer of composure when pressing on. 

You can drive the EV9 fairly hard without feeling like you’re relying on its electronics to keep it stable and on line, while its suspension prevents it from rolling into understeer.

Comfort and isolation

While we had one or two minor gripes about the driver’s seat, we had no problem with the longer-distance comfort the EV9 affords.

You could easily cruise for 200-plus miles between stops, particularly in the GT-Line S, which comes as standard with heated and massaging seats - although the massaging function is only fitted to the driver side, strangely. 

Although it doesn’t get the Premium Relaxation massaging chairs, the entry-level Air's heated and ventilated seats offer a good level of comfort - and there is plenty of adjustability in them to help you find your optimal driving position. 

Our decibel meter recorded 63dBA for the EV9 GT-Line S at a 50mph cruise (and that on 21in wheels), making it slightly noisier than both the E-tron S we tested in 2021 and the particularly refined iX we tested in 2022 but still refined by wider passenger car standards. Neither wind nor road noise enters the cabin in intrusive quantities.

The exception comes when the EV9 has to deal with multiple sharper inputs at back-road speeds. In twin-motor form, its ‘smart’ dampers can suddenly be struck dumb, and the ride becomes momentarily brittle. 

Combine this with the EV9’s inability to maintain good close body control at speed when the surface underneath it turns choppy, and it falls short of the dynamic standards you might expect from a well-sorted modern Range Rover, Audi or BMW – even if, at other moments, it compares more favourably with them.

With smaller, 19in wheels fitted, and less mass, the single-motor is marginally better in this situation. It still feels a little clunky and wooden, but there is a difference in how both cars handle consistent road imperfections.


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Given that UK buyers are not used to any Kia on which you can spend upwards of £75,000, the EV9 requires a little familiarising work in this section.

Once you have looked into what it offers and what else in the EV market your money might buy, though, the car doesn’t come up short on financial credibility – because big EVs remain expensive cars and this one just softens the blow slightly.

The single-motor Air version, deliveries of which are expected this spring, offers the longest range at 349 miles, greater interior space and versatility than the BMW iX3, and for a lower price of £65,025. Even a much smaller, top-trim Mercedes EQB 350 (also seven seats), with a few options, would cost similar.

The Air is also more efficient. Kia claims an efficiency of 3.0mpkWh for the single-motor model, and on a near 40-mile test route, which included a mix of rural and town driving, we achieved an average of 2.8mpkWh. That’s impressive for a car that has such a large frontal area to force through the air. 

Further up the buying scale, if you spend the £77k needed for a top-of-the-line EV9 six-seater on an iX xDrive40 or Q8 E-tron 50 instead, you’ll get less lab-test range, less power and less usable space – and bigger-battery options from rivals cost a chunk more cash.

The official WTLP range of the twin-motor GT-Line S is 313 miles. In cooler conditions, the top-of-the-line EV9 achieved 259 miles on our 70mph touring efficiency test and gave us reason to expect it would cover a little over 300 miles in exclusively urban and gentler out-of-town motoring.

All versions of the EV9 can be fast-charged at up to 210kW. On our DC rapid-charging test, the GT-Line S logged an impressive 170kW weighted average, which is only just outside the top three results we have recorded to date (Porsche Taycan, Audi E-tron GT, Hyundai Ioniq 6). 


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It may be all about style, impact and brand-building for its maker, but the EV9 should actually have a surprisingly rational grounding influence on the market for big electric cars.

There are notes of other-worldliness to its visual presence. Many people won’t believe that it’s a Kia at all on first inspection, so bold is the statement it makes. We expect that many will very much like what they see, though – and many more what the car offers: abundant space and versatility; creditable performance, luxury, efficiency and range; a mature driving experience; and, next to other big EVs, equally creditable relative value. 

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

It’s a little revealing, in the end, for Kia to have chosen to undercut its new European premium-brand opponents with this car, though, rather than to seek to match more of them on luxury cabin appeal, driver appeal or top-level dynamic sophistication. It will learn soon enough that, for people shopping at more rarefied levels, relative value goes so far – but a more desirable and complete premium product goes further.

Still, perhaps that’s Genesis’s role. For Kia, the EV9 has the potential to do quite a lot.


Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips
Title: Staff Writer

Sam has been part of the Autocar team since 2021 and is often tasked with writing new car stories and more recently conducting first drive reviews.

Most of his time is spent leading sister-title Move Electric, which covers the entire spectrum of electric vehicles, from cars to boats – and even trucks. He is an expert in electric cars, new car news, microbility and classic cars. 

Sam graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2021 with a BA in Journalism. In his final year he produced an in-depth feature on the automotive industry’s transition to electric cars and interviewed a number of leading experts to assess our readiness for the impending ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.