Three-row SUVs are a dime a dozen these days and people buy the hell out of them. Where folks are less spoilt for choice is if they want three rows of seating and a fully electric drivetrain. Thankfully, for those buyers, we now have the 2024 Kia EV9.
Kia's EV9 is the third electric vehicle to hit its lineup after the Niro EV and the popular—and award-winning—EV6. Like those cars, the EV9 has a family-friendly hatchback/SUV form factor, but unlike those, the EV9 features boxy, upright styling that harkens back to SUVs of days past. It does this, though, while also looking extremely modern with its customizable light pattern in the front and super futuristic (and rad) wheel choices.
The EV9 is based on the E-GMP platform shared between Kia and its sister brands Hyundai and Genesis. That means it gets a skateboard chassis, rear- or all-wheel drive, and an 800-volt charging architecture. This platform works well in the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Genesis GV60, and Kia EV6, and it works well here.
Buyers have several powertrain options when configuring their EV9. In addition to single-motor rear-wheel drive or dual-motor all-wheel drive, there are two different battery packs if you opt for the former: 76.1 kWh or 99.8.
The entry-level EV9 Light uses the smaller pack and a rear-wheel drive layout for a claimed max range of just 230 miles, 215 horsepower, and 258 lb-ft of torque. On the other end of the spectrum is the range-topping dual-motor GT-Line delivering 270 miles of range, 379 hp, and 516 lb-ft. This is the model that Kia provided for driving impressions. Kia claims 4.5 seconds to 60 mph for the GT-Line, but that only comes with a paid software unlock (more on that later).
Befitting its position as a flagship family hauler, the EV9—even in its sportiest trim—doesn't feel especially rowdy. The GT-Line is quick enough from a stop to be fun, but with less than 400 hp and a 5,800-pound curb weight, it's not going to blow anyone's mind by EV standards. That lack of sporting intent carries over to the suspension, which, while quite comfortable, struggles to control the SUV's bulk in aggressive cornering. Don't get us wrong, though; this is fine because, in normal driving, the EV9 is well-civilized and perfectly pleasant.
Like other E-GMP models, the EV9 has four user-selectable levels of regenerative braking, ranging from off to "I-Pedal," aka Kia's name for one-pedal driving. I-Pedal works well, and I found myself using that for most of my time behind the wheel. However, there were occasions when the car would change the regen level on its own without big warnings, leading to some slightly hurried applications of the car's mechanical brakes.
Those mechanical brakes feel fine, with linear stopping power and smooth engagement. If I had my druthers, however, I'd opt for a bit more bite at the top of the pedal travel for more confidence in those situations where it's really needed.
The electric power steering in the EV9 is well calibrated in normal and eco modes, with enough weight to feel natural but enough boost to make around-town driving a breeze. When you switch over to sport mode, things are less pleasant. Kia's engineers seem to have fallen down that rabbit hole of "excessively heavy steering is sporty" when it's actually just annoying. However, a custom drive mode lets you pre-select between normal and sport steering and normal and sport acceleration, so it's possible to get things more or less just right.
It's not unlikely that buyers looking at the EV9 would also be looking at Kia's other excellent mid-size SUV, the Telluride. The two vehicles share extremely similar exterior dimensions, though the EV9 benefits from a super long 122-inch wheelbase, which means more interior room but a less agile vehicle overall. In other words, prepare for a lot of three-point turns. For comparison, the Telluride sits on a 114.2-inch wheelbase, thanks to its ICE powertrain.
Stylistically, the EV9 and Telluride are clearly cousins, though the EV9 pushes the high-tech, futuristic EV thing pretty hard. Styling is subjective, but the EV9 is distinctive looking, which should be a boon to Kia when it comes to standing out from the rest of the pack.
The interior is slightly less adventurous but very comfortable and highly functional. Our GT-Line tester features two-tone synthetic leather seating surfaces with power-extending leg rests for passengers in the first and second rows. I also love the Herman Miller Aeron-esque front seat headrests. Seat heating and cooling are also available for first and second-row passengers, which is always nice to see. USB-C ports are littered all over the cabin with at least one available to every passenger, which is another huge plus for families, as are second-row sunshades on the door windows.
Interior room is excellent, with plenty of headroom (39.6 inches front, 38.8 inches second row) and legroom (41.4 inches and 42.8 inches, respectively) for your six-foot-four author. Kia's reps are making a huge to-do about the room offered by the vehicle's third row, which it claims is large enough to seat two adults comfortably. With 39.5 inches of headroom and 29.9 inches of legroom, I was initially skeptical, but upon climbing back there, I found that I could latch the second-row seat and not feel crushed. Is it ideal for road trips? No, but for an impromptu adults-only trip to mini golf or something, it's just fine.
As befits its form factor, cargo room is decent in the EV9. With the third row of seats up, buyers get 20.2 cubic feet. That grows to 43.5 cubic feet with the third row folded, and if you drop the second row, that expands to 81.7 cubic feet with a not-quite-flat load floor. For comparison, the Telluride offers a superior 21 cubic feet, 46 cubic feet, and 87 cubic feet, respectively. However, the EV9 also gets 1.8 cubic feet of front trunk space in dual-motor AWD models, but that expands to 3.2 cubic feet if you stick with one motor.
Driver assistance tech on the EV9 is pretty standard Kia fare, meaning it's good and standard across the trim range. This includes automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, active lane keep assist, and Kia's Highway Driving Assistant, among others. Everything works as intended, though I found the necessity of going into the menus on the center screen to turn off lane keep assist to be pretty annoying when a long press on the button on the steering wheel would work just fine.
Convenience and infotainment tech are also typical of the brand, which is to say, good. The optional Meridian stereo system sounds decent, if not necessarily up to par with similarly branded systems in Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. The center screen spans from the driver's instrument display to the middle of the dash and is bright, snappy, and sensibly configured for the most part.
Kia's decision to place detailed climate controls between the screen's infotainment portion and the instrument display, however, is an odd design choice. Not only is it unreachable by passengers, but it's largely obscured by the steering wheel. The saving grace is that Kia left physical controls on the dash for temperature and fan speed, so passengers aren't totally out of luck. These physical controls are chunky and clearly labeled, as are the haptic buttons above them for infotainment menu navigation.
As part of Kia's push towards making "software-defined vehicles," it's offering several downloadable feature purchases for the EV9. These range from the somewhat odious acceleration boost necessary to meet the advertised 0-60 time to the more reasonable premium data package. Some features, like the boost and a collection of five light patterns for the front end of the EV9, are lifetime purchases. Others, like premium data, are subscription-based, and remote smart park assist can be purchased as either a subscription or a lifetime purchase.
Buyers considering the EV9 as their next vehicle are looking at a fairly narrow field of competitors if they are adamant about staying with an EV. The other big three-row electric SUV player currently is the Rivian R1S, which is much taller and more expensive, with a starting price of nearly $80,000. It does offer a greater maximum range (400 miles), though at an increased cost.
Speaking of cost, the entry-level Light RWD EV9 retails for $56,395, including a $1,495 destination fee. Our GT-Line test vehicle stickered for considerably more—$79,115, also including destination. For that money, the GT-Line isn't what I'd call a good value proposition, though it is a perfectly nice electric SUV, and I very much doubt buyers will be disappointed.
|2024 Kia EV9 Specs
|Light Long Range
|Base Price (as tested)
|single-motor rear-wheel drive | 76.1-kWh battery
|single-motor rear-wheel drive | 99.8-kWh battery
|dual-motor all-wheel drive | 99.8-kWh battery
|4.5 seconds (with acceleration boost package)
|20.2 cubic feet behind third row | 43.5 cubic feet behind second row | 81.7 cubic feet behind first row | 3.2 cubic feet frunk
|20.2 cubic feet behind third row | 43.5 cubic feet behind second row | 81.7 cubic feet behind first row | 1.8 cubic feet frunk
|Comfy, spacious, nice to drive, and distinctively designed, the EV9 is a winner.
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