Car reviews - Kia - EV9
A truly spacious seven-seat SUV, clever third-row access, bigger-than-average boot with three rows up, the only mainstream EV with three rows, lots of standard equipment across the range, quality drive experience
Room for improvement
Frustrating safety nannies, digital mirrors only on top-spec’ model, quirky looks may not age well, no spare wheel
Biggest, most expensive Kia ever
9 Nov 2023
THIS is a big moment for Kia Australia - figuratively and literally. The EV9 is the largest Kia model ever sold in our market, and the most expensive vehicle ever to wear the Korean brand’s badge here.
The question of whether it lives up to the price - starting from $97,000+ORC and topping out at $121,000+ORC - is the most poignant consideration. It certainly has the equipment to help justify the cost, and the tech’, battery capacity and size to make it seem like a decent return on investment.
Kia Australia says the EV9 has seen more than 12,000 expressions of interest, including a good proportion of those being from ‘new postcodes for the brand’, including wealthy north-shore Sydney suburbs where you’d more typically find Audi, BMW, Mercedes or Volvo SUVs parked.
The styling will certainly help it make a statement on those fashion-conscious streets, though the lower grade versions with their unfinished-looking plastics and oddly designed aerodynamic alloy wheel covers may not be to all tastes. The high-grade GT-Line certainly has the most presence, with glossy black exterior trims and 21-inch wheels.
The interior is nowhere near as audacious as the exterior, but still offers a sophisticated and luxurious feeling, one with the family-friendly features you’d expect in a very large SUV from a brand that knows a thing or two about practical vehicles.
The twin 12.3-inch screens (one for multimedia, the other for driver info’) are reasonably easy to learn, the storage on offer is exceptional (bottle and cup holders for all three rows), everyone should be sorted for charging (USB-C ports in all three rows), and if you have a big brood, there are four ISOFIX points and five top-tether points on offer.
There’s 333 litres of luggage capacity with the third-row seats up, and that expands to 828 litres if you plan to run this as a five-seater with a bonus row. There is a pair of quick-release triggers for speedy second-row folding, too, plus the boot has a vehicle-to-load (V2L) 230v power point in the boot. There is no spare wheel, which could be an issue.
Note, though, that the V2L adapter for the main Type 2 combination plug is only offered on the GT-Line, so if you have a blackout and need to run your fridge and washing machine, you’d best be hoping you got the top-spec.
As for powertrains, the base model Air has a single rear-mounted electric motor producing 160kW/350Nm, enabling it to do 0-100km/h in about 8.2 seconds. The Earth and GT-Line models add a front-mounted motor to the mix for all-wheel-drive propulsion, and a heap more grunt – 282kW and 700Nm – and sprightly acceleration figures of 6.0sec for the Earth and 5.3sec for the GT-Line thanks to a software tweak.
The battery pack size differs for the Air (76.1kWh lithium-ion NMC) compared with the dual-motor versions, which both pack a 99.8kWh setup.
Efficiency numbers are good for this very large SUV (it’s more than five metres long, almost two metres wide, and weighs more than 2.3 tonnes), yet the official WLTP rated energy consumption is 19.5kWh/100km for the Air RWD, 22.3kWh/100km for the Earth, and 22.8kWh/100km for the GT-Line. Range claims are decent, with the Air having a stated WLTP range of 443km, while the Earth model boasts the best range with 512km, and the GT-Line a commendable 505km.
Kia Australia has a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for the car, but the battery warranty is limited to 150,000km, and even then the brand only guarantees it to retain 65 per cent of its life after that many kays. There is roadside assistance included in the warranty terms, and servicing is a prepay-only setup - three years/45,000km ($706), five years/75,000km ($1351), or seven years/105,000km ($1997).
Kia Australia clearly knows this, as the team briefed us on these specific systems before we drove the car.
The first system in question is DAWS (Driver Attention Warning System), a driver monitoring camera system that tracks your eyes to ensure you’re paying attention to the road ahead. It is very sensitive, and will start beeping at you even if you just try to change the radio station or look over your shoulder to check on a rear-seat occupant.
The other is the badly named ISLA (Intelligent Speed Limit Assist), which is not intelligent at all. This one reads the speed signs that the camera sees and relays them to you by beeping. And if you drive over the limit, it will continually beep. It is now 3 decibels quieter than before, but it’s still very annoying. Just think about having the car beep to tell you the speed limit has changed on your typical school drop-off run or work commute… it would drive you nuts. It would me, anyway.
All of the cars on the launch event had the star ‘favourite’ button on the steering wheel configured to jump to the screen menu where these systems could be switched off – yet it was still a series of screen presses to get them off from there, meaning about 20 seconds of your time wasted each time you drive.
These two ‘safety technologies’ are disruptive and really get in the way of an enjoyable drive. And it’s saying something that the lane-keeping system doesn’t rate as much of a mention here, but it’s on the edge of being unlikeable, too.
Seriously, it puts a damper on what is otherwise a tremendously well executed large SUV drive experience.
The steering strikes a balance between urban-friendly, with a light action and quick response for parking moves or roundabouts, and the suspension tune errs on the slightly firm side, more noticeably in the GT-Line with its larger wheels and lower-profile tyres, but over the roads I tested the car on, it never felt too hard, nor clumsy, as a vehicle of this size could over sharper edges.
And the powertrains? Brilliant. Even the base model Air, with its rear-mounted motor and modest-for-its-size power outputs, feels perky and punchy, and might even be the pick for those who fancy themselves on the enthusiast spectrum, as it has a delightfully natural driving character.
There is a multi-mode regenerative braking system to allow you to have as much energy feeding back into the battery pack as you’d like, and the brake pedal feel is positive.
This is a great drive – one that lives up to the price being asked – dulled by annoying technology.
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