As the first mainstream three-row large electric SUV, the Kia EV9 combines a unique selling proposition with stunning design, refinement and finesse
If the 2017 Stinger was the first car to truly break the mould for Kia – a rakish, rear-drive sporting sedan that proved the Korean brand knew how to create a characterful BMW 5 Series for the masses – then the EV9 is the flagship vehicle that builds on that promise and launches it into the stratosphere.
Where the Stinger’s inspiration was very much late-20th-century thinking, the EV9’s is deeply embedded in the future. It’s more than just a fresh take on a long-held vehicle benchmark like the Stinger – it’s the first of its type, the first mainstream three-row, large electric SUV.
So while the Rivian R1S and Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV seven-seat might be conceptual equals, they’re a lot more expensive than this Kia that’s expected (if unconfirmed) to be priced around the $100K mark when it launches in Australia in the coming months.
And yet the EV9 is all about transcending any prejudice towards its badge or its origins. It acts as a showcase for the next evolution of Kia’s design language – maintaining the essence of 2021’s EV9 Concept but transforming it into a beautifully nuanced production form.
Riding on an expanded version of Hyundai-Kia’s E-GMP electric platform, the EV9 cleverly disguises its sheer size via sharp edges, expert surfacing and a dramatically tapered glasshouse.
Yet the EV9 enhances its presence with stylistic flourishes such as blade-like lighting signatures that trace its body shape and Kia’s futuristic take on blistered rear wheel arches.
In any colour, the top-spec EV9 GT-Line looks stunning.
So how big is the EV9 exactly? At 5010mm, it’s 200mm longer than a Sorento, yet features a wheelbase expanded by 285mm, for a limousine-like 3100mm.
In GT-Line form with roof rails, riding on striking 21-inch alloy wheels, it’s also 80mm wider and 80mm taller than its ICE stablemate. So in terms of its physicality, the EV9 is clearly prominent, yet it’s somehow almost svelte. It also has a superior drag coefficient to the Sorento (0.28Cd versus 0.32).
The Australian lineup will offer two additional variants priced beneath the range-topping GT-Line AWD when the EV9 goes on sale here during the fourth quarter of 2023, though we’ll only get the seven-seater – not the six-seat version with centre-row captain’s chairs offered in other markets.
The entry-level EV9 (expected to be called ‘Air’ like the base EV6) gets a 76.1kWh battery and rear-wheel drive, while the long-range mid-spec variant (likely to be called ‘Earth’) scores a 99.8kWh battery and either rear- or all-wheel drive.
However, the drive set-up of this latter model is yet to be confirmed for our market.
Given its headline WLTP range of 541km, we’d expect the long-range rear-drive EV9 to be a certainty – easily surpassing both the AWD version (497km) tested here and the standard-battery EV9 (418km) for range.
Kia Australia says it has secured 1200 EV9s across the first 12 months – or roughly 100 units a month – but has already received 5000 expressions of interest, which points to the most expensive Kia ever also being a hot ticket.
But is this large three-row electric SUV worth fighting over?
Available in six- and seven-seat guises internationally, the EV9 will be offered solely in seven-seat form in Australia – meaning a 60/40-split second-row bench with manual fore-aft adjustment and backrest rake, plus quick-release tilt and slide.
Yet all we can confirm so far for the local lineup is that the range-topping EV9 GT-Line will become Kia’s flagship vehicle in this country, with an expected starting price in excess of $100,000.
Apart from the deletion of centre-row ‘captain’s chairs’, embedded ‘Digital Pattern Lighting’ in the front grille panel, and Highway Pilot that allows for ‘Level 3’ autonomous driving in certain markets, expect the Aussie EV9 flagship to feature every other equipment trick in the book.
In line with the comprehensive standard equipment fitted to other top-spec Australian Kia models, our EV9 GT-Line is expected to include:
In terms of overall performance, while the GT-Line AWD offers eye-widening off-the-line punch like many EVs, it’s the swift silence of its 100km/h-plus accelerative pace that best suits its station in life.
The EV9 GT-Line effortlessly devoured fast-moving freeways in South Korea, with a calming, planted demeanour cruising at 140km/h, blending supreme refinement with superb seat comfort and excellent forward vision.
But when you ask for everything it has, the EV9 GT-Line really hooks in.
Packing 283kW and at least 600Nm (or 700Nm with ‘Boost Mode’ activated which, after purchasing through the Kia Connect app, will then be applied permanently), Kia says the GT-Line is good for 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.0 seconds, or 5.3 seconds equipped with ‘Boost Mode’.
Even stomping it on wet roads, the EV9 suffered only a very slight amount of slip from its front 285/45R21 Michelin tyres, which otherwise proved outstandingly grippy in damp conditions.
Provided that you’re in normal or sport mode (there’s also a configurable My Drive mode, but it’s Eco that dulls outputs), the EV9 GT-Line is the range slingshot from a standing start … at least until the rumoured EV9 GT appears.
If the long-range rear-drive EV9 gets a green light for Australia, it’ll counterbalance its 541km range with a relatively sedate 0-100km/h time of 9.4 seconds. Like the all-paw GT-Line, it fits the larger (99.8kWh gross) of the two batteries offered.
The standard-battery (76.1kWh gross) version is, at 8.2 seconds, quicker, or roughly on par with many petrol-engined large SUVs. Presumably it weighs less than its range mates, though Kia is yet to say by how much.
In fact, the only weight stated by Kia at the EV9’s international launch was “3000kg” for the GT-Line AWD during a press conference Q&A. In all the press data, the EV9’s kerb weight was notably absent.
Given the EV9’s external size and interior luxury, along with its entire floor section being crammed with heavy battery tech, it’s no wonder the GT-Line is nudging three tonnes.
To put that in perspective, that’s around 140kg heavier than a Nissan Patrol Ti-L V8, yet around 200kg lighter than the EV9’s pricier US-market equivalent, the 3200kg Rivian R1S electric SUV.
Much of the time, you’d never know the EV9 was so hefty. With its battery platform sitting low and wide in its chassis, the EV9 feels adept at manoeuvring itself.
Through the tight, well-cambered corners on our South Korean drive route, the EV9 GT-Line felt pleasantly neutral, and can even deliver some rear-end adjustment, helping to tighten its cornering line.
Combined with the dynamic benefits of having ‘i-pedal’ apply some regenerative braking force while turning in, the EV9 does an impressive job of consistently remaining dynamically composed and focused, despite having to deal with so much weight. And it does all this with finesse.
It’s only in fast sweepers while increasing speed that you truly sense the outward momentum of the three-tonne EV9, though it retains its neutral balance.
The EV9 combines this rock-solid roadholding with firm, consistently weighted steering that points accurately, but with measured response rather than out-of-character over-keenness.
Australian EV9s will feature a suspension tune developed specifically for our market – as with most other Kia models – though the Korean-spec GT-Line we drove on fixed-rate dampers felt pleasantly luxurious and mostly composed on the good-quality roads surrounding Seoul.
From the driver’s seat, looking across a relatively minimalist dashboard design that Kia says took its inspiration from high-end contemporary furniture, the EV9 feels genuinely premium.
Recycled materials are used for the A-pillar trims, upper door sections, lower dash section, material inserts, and even the full-width loop-pile floor ‘rugs’, yet their quality is so consistently excellent that you would never guess.
Everything feels smoothly matte (rather than deliberately soft-touch), looks evenly finished, and reeks of egalitarian class. The EV9’s cabin is even tastefully coloured, particularly the headlining in our seven-seat test car – a light ‘cappuccino’ colour with a wool-blend appearance.
Two 12.3-inch screens sit either side of a 5.0-inch screen for the climate control (that’s partly obscured by the steering wheel for the driver), though the EV9 also offers physical controls for individual temperature, air direction and audio volume via a central ‘barrel’ control.
With four horizontal spokes and a slightly squared-off top and bottom, the great-to-hold steering wheel also includes drive-mode and terrain buttons on its lower section, and combines with intelligent placement of all switchgear – be that via touch controls or physical buttons.
For all its minimalist design and tech, the EV9’s stylish cabin possesses genuine textural warmth.
It’s a pity that the door bins won’t fit much more than a 600ml plastic bottle, front or rear, though the EV9 boasts a large centre-floor tray and a usefully deep console between the front seats that extends its useability into the second row.
The GT-Line is trimmed in a supple two-tone bio-material that looks superb, and both ‘relaxation’ front seats feature electric ‘ottoman’ under-calf extenders, which is a luxurious touch.
Pictured above: the traditional bench design confirmed for Australia
Indeed, for overall comfort and space, the EV9 is stupendous, particularly the fully adjustable, all-electric second-row captain’s chairs with massage functions and the ability to swivel.
But in order to offer full seven-seat flexibility, the Australian-market EV9 will omit these brilliant bucket seats for a three-person bench that’s wide and roomy but a bit lacking in under-thigh support as well as electric adjustment.
We’ll also potentially miss out on the centre-console extension that acts as a table and houses a deep bin in the six-seat version, replaced by a very deep cubby with a pocket at its leading edge intended to store a mobile phone.
As you’d expect given our praise of the EV9’s interior finish, the second and third rows maintain the terrific quality of the front section, and access to the impressively spacious third row (with electrically adjustable backrest rake) means that the big Kia can genuinely accommodate seven adults.
Regarding boot space, Kia only quoted two figures – a generous 571 litres with the third row in use, and a capacious 2320 litres with the second- and third-row seats lowered.
Seat stowing can be achieved electrically via individual switches in the boot, which sit below a 250-volt, 16-amp power outlet with sliding cover.
The just-revealed Kia EV9 is yet to be independently crash-tested by any international organisation, however Kia Australia expects the EV9 to receive a five-star ANCAP rating – aided by the physical wiring connection for its second-row seatbelt reminders. Australian buyers will not be able to purchase the six-seat version seen in these photos, because the outboard swivel seats forego seat belt reminders – which are necessary for five stars with ANCAP.
While active safety features such as Highway Pilot that allows for ‘Level 3’ autonomous driving will not be offered in Australia, our flagship EV9 is expected to include:
Kia provided only basic information regarding the EV9’s quoted energy consumption, with the long-range rear-drive EV9 leading with 541km of WLTP range, followed by the AWD version (497km) and the standard-battery version (418km).
However, the base 76.1kWh EV9 is faster to charge than its 99.8kWh big-battery alternatives, taking 20 minutes to go from 10-80 percent battery charge on a 350kW ultra-fast charger compared to 24 minutes.
In moderate city and 100km/h freeway driving, our test EV9 GT-Line AWD averaged 18.2kWh/100km, which points towards Kia’s 497km range claim being accurate.
But given that Koreans frequently ignore sign-posted freeway limits, cruising the EV9 at 125-140km/h after a hard-driven twisty-road section and several quick bursts of acceleration from toll plazas saw average energy consumption increase to around 28.5kWh/100km.
The EV9 GT-Line eventually settled to a consistent 22.7kWh/100km – even with long highway sections tackled at 125km/h-plus.
Kia Australia is yet to release any details regarding service intervals or cost but said to expect warranty coverage and servicing prices to be similar to the EV6.
That means a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty combined with potentially the same battery warranty as EV6 – a slightly below-average seven years/150,000km.
Recommended service intervals for EV6 are every 12 months or 15,000km, with its five-year/75,000km servicing total currently a very affordable $1371. The larger EV9 is likely to be within a few hundred dollars of that amount, at most.
As the first mainstream three-row electric SUV on the market, the Kia EV9 instantly makes its mark as a benchmark product, not only for its vehicle type but for the Kia brand itself.
The EV9 is not only the most premium Kia ever, it will be a completely unique offering when it goes on sale here in the fourth quarter of 2023 – priced way below the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV in optional seven-seat form, which is so far the EV9’s only conceptual rival in the Australian marketplace.
Yet the EV9 rarely, if ever, feels like a cut-price alternative to what the Germans may produce.
This is a futuristic, exceedingly chic large electric SUV whose elegance transcends the class divide. And yet it’s a Kia, which means it also provides industry-leading warranty coverage and affordable servicing.
Combine all that with one of the most successfully striking and forward-thinking vehicle designs on the market and you can understand why Kia Australia should have no problem shifting every EV9 it can get its hands on.
A large electric SUV as good as this deserves as much.
Correction, 28 June 2023:a previous version of this review stated that the six-seat version of the Kia EV9 uses infrared technology to monitor seatbelt status. This reference was based on supplied information that has since been determined to be inaccurate, so the reference has been removed.
At over $67,000 driveaway, the flagship Kia Sorento isn’t cheap, but with levels of luxe and design chic typically found in premium brands, this could be the best-value large family SUV you can buy
About Chasing cars
Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.
Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.
We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.
Kia EV9 revealed with up to 541km of range, Australian release date confirmed for electric seven-seat SUV
The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.
Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.
^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.