Sunday, February 25, 2024
First Reviews 2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review: Is it enough?

2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review: Is it enough?

The 2024 Kia EV9 offers what families want from a three-row SUV, but is it enough to make them go electric?

2024 Kia EV9 Pros

  • Vast amount of interior space
  • Ton of technology and luxury
  • Fun to drive and agile

2024 Kia EV9 Cons

  • A little rough with the 21-inch wheels.
  • The versions most will want are expensive.
  • So-so efficiency

The 2024 Kia EV9 is the first midsize three-row fully electric SUV to arrive on the market in its price range and segment. When presenting the new EV9 at the launch this week in Arizona, Kia started by boasting that the new EV9 is a great sport utility vehicle in good part because it is electric. That means its electrified drivetrain opens up space inside while also adding weight in key areas, thus lowering the centre of gravity and improving drivability and agility.

They were certainly right on those two points, but after a few hours behind the wheel of Kia’s latest electric vehicle, and after having driven it on long highway stretches and surprisingly slippery desert roads, I found myself wondering if being electric is enough.

How spacious is the 2024 Kia EV9 and how does it compare to the Kia Telluride?

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Charles Jolicoeur

Ultimately, the EV9’s most direct competitor, at least short-term, will originate from across the showroom in the form of the Kia Telluride. Both models share the exact same first-row legroom and are nearly identical in second- and third-row leg and shoulder room. Cargo space is slightly to the advantage of the gas-powered Telluride behind the front seats, but when you consider the front trunk made possible by the electric powertrain, which can accommodate 52 litres in all-wheel drive versions and 90 extra litres in RWD models, the EV9 is the most versatile of the two. It also delivers significantly more third-row headroom, and a bit more legroom as well. Fitting two grown full-size adults in the third row with the first and second row adjusted to fit a couple of fairly tall journalists demonstrated that.

There is no question that the EV9 checks all the boxes when it comes to versatility. It is spacious in every row, and the driver feels at ease in the wide open and well-designed front row. The second and third rows are welcoming with headroom being a particularly noticeable advantage of the EV9.

All the technology you could ever want

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

The technology found inside the new EV9 is quite impressive, at least in the top trims. The EV9 gets the latest in driver assistance technologies from Kia, such as Remote Smart Parking Assist, which provides remote parking entry and exit as well as assistance in a variety of situations such as oblique parking and parallel parking.

The improved Highway Driving Assist 2 feature provides fairly advanced semi-autonomous driving capability by assisting with features such as highway lane changes and distance control. However, the technology does not allow for full hands-free driving. Kia says they improved the hands-on detection sensor to make it less sensitive to various hand positions. The new EV9 also gets the latest generation of the Kia Digital Key 2 system which enables owners to share access remotely to their vehicle with friends and family, along with providing advanced remote functionality. Many of these features one up the Telluride, by the way.

Multiple battery and electric powertrain options

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

Moving towards the fully electric powertrain, the EV9 is the second Kia EV built on the automaker’s Electric Global Modular Platform, or e-GMP which means it offers a wealth of battery options and drivetrains. However, only a few will likely be of interest for consumers in Canada.

The base model which starts at $59,995 and features the smaller 76.1- kWh battery and a single electric motor powering the rear wheels, is just there to ensure that the EV9 qualifies for EV rebates. It delivers just 370 kilometres of range and only 215 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. Towing capacity is limited to 1,000 pounds.

From there, you can opt for a rear-wheel drive model with the larger 99.8-kWh battery pack along with a heat pump and heated steering wheel. Kia certainly did their homework to ensure that the EV9 adapts to our cold winters. The heat pump improves efficiency, the heated steering wheel, of course, improves comfort, but we also learned that the slide-out door handles come out with enough force to break off any ice that might have accumulated. Starting at $62,995, this version delivers the most range of any EV9 with 489 kilometres. But it’s rear-wheel drive, and for most midsize SUV buyers, this will be a problem.

Most buyers will likely opt for an all-wheel drive model of which there are three. Opting for all-wheel drive models improves towing capacity to 5,000 pounds and significantly boosts horsepower with 379 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.

Starting at $64,995 and going all the way up to $78,995 for the top-of-the-line Land trim with GT-Line package, the AWD-equipped 2024 Kia EV9 can get a little pricey, especially for the top trims. It does make up for it with a ton of features, namely, heated second-row seats, ventilated front and second-row seats, the full suite of technologies we talked about previously, head-up display, and relaxation seats for the front and second row. Kia has always stood out for its value proposition, and the EV9 is no exception. It balances an eye-opening top-trim price with just about every comfort feature you could want. Oh, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now wireless…

Of course, the highlight of the EV9 and its Kia EV6 smaller brother is the 800V architecture which enables lightning-quick charging. Capable of charging at up to 215 kW, you can get from 10% to 80% range in 24 minutes if connected to a 350-kW charger. The on-board charger can accept 11 kW, giving you full range in under 7 hours at home. In other words, the EV9 charges faster than most electric cars, despite its size and three-row versatility.

On the road in the 2024 Kia EV9

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

Once we headed out on the road, the one question I was looking to answer, and back to my original point, is the EV9’s ample and space and advanced technology do enough to bring Telluride and other three-row SUV model buyers to the world of EVs?

The first thing you notice at on the road is that the EV9 is more dynamic and fun than any other gas-powered three-row SUV on the market, including the Telluride or, for instance, a Mazda CX-90. The location of the batteries creates ideal weight distribution and lowers the centre of gravity, and in the process, it makes Kia’s three-row electric SUV surprisingly stable and agile around corners. There’s almost no body movement and the stability provided really adds to the overall driving experience.

In terms of performance, the numbers on paper don’t necessarily translate to noticeably quick accelerations. With 379 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque in all-wheel drive models, I expected a little bit more oomph when pressing down on the accelerator. Still, the EV9 feels quicker than your traditional gas-powered sport utility vehicle, and it does provide strong passing power, even at higher speeds on the highway.

In terms of comfort, once again, there were pros and cons. The exceptional aerodynamics of the EV9, and its drag coefficient of just 0.28, which is equivalent to the sleeker Kia EV6, not only helps improve efficiency but also creates a very quiet and soothing cabin. The noise levels inside amount to whispers, and you can’t hear what is happening outside. The EV9 achieves levels of refinement inside akin to much more expensive premium luxury SUVs.

On the other hand, the 21-inch Hankook tires that wrapped our top-trim tester’s wheels are not the softest, and even on super smooth Arizona roads, you could feel the little bumps. I wonder how the comfort will fare on our much less forgiving roads.

Final Word

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

Having two young children and a three-row midsize SUV of my own, I was particularly interested in what the 2024 Kia EV9 had to offer. It certainly delivers in every area that is important to me when looking at a family vehicle. It really is spacious inside, and it’s quiet enough to compensate the rough tires, making long hours on the road enjoyable so long as those roads are in great condition. And although it doesn’t have that little extra spark of performance we have come to expect in an electric vehicle, it is certainly a joy to drive on a winding road and you never feel like you don’t have enough power under your right foot.

As for the range, I was a little bit concerned about our posted efficiency. We averaged between 24 and 29 kWh per 100 km on our drive, which means that in the best-case scenario, the range would be around 412 kilometres. At 29 kWh per 100 km, the equivalent range is 341 kilometres…

Further testing will be needed, but I believe this is a key point that will dictate how popular the EV9 is and how successful it can be at converting traditional midsize SUV buyers. At over 400 km of range, and especially given the rapid charging times offered by the Kia three-row electric SUV, very little compromise will be required when switching from gas to electric, and all of the other qualities of the EV9 will more than justify the move. If the efficiency proves to be closer to the higher consumption rates we observed, the added benefits of the fully electric powertrain in terms of handling and performance might not be enough to compensate.

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Charles Jolicoeur

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

2024 Kia EV9 | Photo: Kia

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Charles Jolicoeur
Charles Jolicoeur was studying to be a CPA when he decided to drop everything and launch a car website in 2012. Don't ask. The journey has been an interesting one, but today he has co-founded and manages 8 websites including EcoloAuto.com and MotorIllustrated.com as General Manager of NetMedia360. He also sits on the board of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. Send me an email

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