Expert Reviews

2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review and Video

The electric vehicle (EV) landscape is changing quickly.

What was once a segment where options were limited to small cars is now at a major turning point, and there’s an electric model in nearly every popular body style. The 2024 Kia EV9 is the first mainstream fully electric three-row SUV to hit the Canadian market, and it’s poised to be a game-changer for both the automaker and the automotive industry at large.

It says a lot that Kia benchmarked certain attributes such as space and noise levels from six-figure vehicles from luxury brands like Audi, Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz with the EV9, so it’s making a big swing with this new SUV. Kia says the EV9 is designed to do everything a traditional SUV can do, and it just happens to be fully electric.

Boxy, High-Tech Style

The Kia EV9 has a boxy and modern style that stands out. It’s about the same size as the gas-only Telluride, except its wheelbase is longer, the roofline is a bit lower, and it’s a bit longer overall. Design-wise, the EV9 has all the features that make its electric powertrain obvious: flush door handles, unique aerodynamic wheels, a strong front end with no grille, and futuristic 3-D lighting. It will also be available with matte paint from the factory.

Inside, the design is minimal, though not to the detriment of user-friendliness. The controls are mostly intuitive, and the infotainment screen’s menus make sense. Main shortcuts are located on a backlit wood panel that features touch sensors, but they must be pressed like buttons and not tapped like a touchscreen. Thankfully, a part of the touchscreen is permanently dedicated to the climate controls.

The Kia EV9 can seat six or seven passengers, depending on configuration; the former features second-row captain’s chairs, and the latter a bench seat. Initially, the two entry models are the only ones that will be available with the bench seat, but all EV9s come with four anchor points for child seats. Higher trim levels come with first and second-row seats that can recline into a napping position and offer massage settings.

Impressive Powertrain

Canadians will get the choice of two powertrains for the EV9. The entry-level model is a rear-wheel drive single-motor unit called the EV9 Wind (yes, it’s a weird naming convention) with a 100-kWh battery that gives it about 480 km of range. It outputs 200 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and is capable of towing 907 kg (2,000 lb). It’s unlikely to be very popular in all-wheel drive-crazed Canada, but if it falls under the price cap for incentives – which isn’t likely but not impossible, either – it would help its cause. Pricing wasn’t announced at the time of this writing.

The other three trims feature a dual-motor all-wheel drive (AWD) system with up to 435 km of range, and 379 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. Towing capacity increases to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb), while GT-Line models will get 516 lb-ft of torque available for short bursts of acceleration similar to the so-called boost mode featured in the all-electric Genesis GV60.

All EV9s come with a battery heating system for greater efficiency in the cold, and AWD models come with a heat pump so using the climate control in the winter won’t dramatically affect range. Towing with an EV eats into range and diminishes efficiency, but the EV9 has a towing mode that provides more accurate range estimates based on a trailer’s weight.

A more in-depth review at a later date will feature more information about range accuracy, cold-weather performance, and charging.

Charging and Power Sharing

The Kia EV9 is capable of ultra-fast charging that can boost the battery from 10 to 80 per cent charge in about 25 minutes, which is great for road trips and where these chargers are available (which isn’t everywhere). A huge benefit of the EV9 is that if you have access to a 240-volt outlet at home, you don’t need to install specialized charging equipment; it features an 11-kW onboard charger capable of Level 2 speeds, perfect for overnight charging.

The EV9 can be used as a mobile generator (vehicle-to-load) to power camping accessories or charge your devices via household outlets inside, but it’s also capable of providing power to your home if properly equipped. This could be helpful during a power outage (vehicle-to-home) or even to lower operating costs.

If you have the right hardware at home, you could charge the EV9 overnight during off-peak hours and use it to power your home during peak hours to help lower your electricity costs. If the load is light and your home is equipped, it’s also capable of sending power back to the grid (vehicle-to-grid). By default, the EV9 will only allow reverse-cycle power sharing like this until it’s left with a 20 per cent state of charge, but it can be programmed to stop discharging at various levels. Kia says this power discharging won’t diminish the lifespan of the battery because the speeds are relatively low.

Driving Dynamics

The EV9 drives like a much smaller and lighter vehicle than it is. The turning circle is so tight that it feels almost as if it was four-wheel steering, making it easy to manoeuvre and park. The steering is heavy at speed and light while parking, though some drivers might prefer a lighter feel at all times. Tested here was the GT-Line, which provided confident acceleration but not the break-neck speeds some other EVs offer. This is largely due to the size and weight of this three-row.

Full one-pedal driving is available, and drivers can tailor how much regenerative braking they want by using the paddles behind the steering wheel. Even in its most aggressive setting, it feels smooth and natural.

The EV9 has different drive modes, but they don’t dramatically alter its behaviour other than changing throttle response. The EV9 also comes with hill descent control, which modulates the brakes while off-roading down a grade so you can focus on steering and avoiding obstacles. The EV9’s AWD system was quick to find grip while driving up a steep, sandy hill.

With a low centre of gravity, there’s not a lot of body movement around the corners, and the suspension does a great job soaking up rough roads. Barely any outside noise makes its way inside, though there is some noticeable wind noise at highway speeds.

Family-Friendly, Clever Packaging

The EV9 is capable of over-the-air updates and is connected to the internet, enabling drivers to use their phone or smartwatch as a key. It’s roomy in all rows and is packed full of clever storage solutions. A sliding centre console with cupholders and big storage cubbies stretches from the first row to the second. Every passenger has access to a fast-charging USB port, and the materials inside are mostly sustainable or bio-sourced.

The trunk holds 572 L of cargo and 2,319 L when both rows of seats are folded flat. The second row can be folded automatically using buttons in the trunk or on the side of the seats. It’s a smart setup because it will also move the second row backwards so it doesn’t get caught on the front seatbacks when it folds. These buttons can fold the seats and put them upright again fully automatically without needing to hold them down. The third row drops using a fabric pull strap.

Entering and exiting the third row is easy enough that a kid could do it independently; the second row tumbles and slides forward with the push of a button, so no muscle power is required.

Safety and Tech Features

All EV9s come with Kia’s advanced safety suite that includes lane following and keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and wireless phone charging are also standard.

Higher trims include blind-spot and surround-view cameras, a camera-based rearview mirror, a head-up display, ambient lighting, side parking sensors, reverse automatic emergency braking, and a remote automated parking assistant that can parallel park without the driver inside.

The built-in navigation system gives range predictions based on conditions and also helps plan charging stops. The range estimates show a best and worst case scenario and adapt to individual driving styles to provide better accuracy, which is helpful to curb range anxiety.

Final Thoughts

The 2024 Kia EV9 represents a new flagship model for the brand, giving the best of what it can offer right now in terms of innovation, technology, and design. Kia gave the EV9 everything in its arsenal and the result is a stylish, thoughtful, smartly packaged, and compelling SUV that finally gives bigger families looking for an EV something to get excited about.

The 2024 Kia EV9 should arrive later this year, with Canadian pricing to be announced closer to that date. Pre-orders are open now.