2024 Kia EV9 Earth Review

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2024 Kia EV9 Earth Review



Overview

 

ELECTRIC SUVs are something of a mixed bag at the moment. Most have the performance, but few have the range to be a truly useful member of a bustling family.

 

Given the asking price – and the compromises that must be made in setting aside time to charge an EV – the decision to ‘go electric’ is one many family buyers have placed on the back burner, or even in the too-hard basket.

 

We reckon it’s time those buyers drove a Kia EV9.

 

Sure, the EV9 isn’t cheap. But it is exceptional in terms of the value it offers.

 

Not only is the vehicle thoroughly capable, comfortable, and well equipped, it is also remarkably efficient, delivering an average driving range equal to a comparable turbo-petrol SUV.

 

But before we get too far into our impressions, let’s first look at what the Kia EV9 is all about.

 

The seven-seat EV9 line-up is comprised of three variants locally, with Air, Earth (tested) and GT-Line grades offered. Pricing starts from $97,000 plus on-road costs and rises through $106,500 and $121,000 respectively.

 

Entry-grade Air models use a single electric motor driving the rear wheels and outputting 160kW/350Nm, while the dual motor and all-wheel drive Earth and GT deliver a stonking 282kW/700Nm.

 

All are heavy, tipping the scale at 2312kg, 2552kg and 2636kg respectively. The battery makes up a substantial chunk of that mass, at 463kg in the RWD model and 566kg in the AWD duo.

 

Air variants feature a 76.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack with 443km (WLTP) driving range, while the Earth ups the ante with a 99.8kWh battery and 512km (WLTP) distance figure. The flagship GT-Line features the same battery as the Earth, but a shorter driving range of 505km (WLTP).

 

Breaking the numbers down to a more tangible marker, Kia says an average of 19.5kWh/100km is achievable in the Air, 22.3kWh/100km for the Earth, and 22.8kWh for the GT-Line.

 

From our previous coverage, we know the EV9 is handsomely equipped to help justify its lofty asking price – just do not go expecting Nappa leather trim or real suede inside, as the brand has gone the ‘eco’ route for the interior materials, with ‘vegan’ leather and ‘imitation’ suede finishes.

 

The Air RWD standard equipment list comprises 19-inch alloy wheels with aero covers, pop-out door handles, full LED lighting outside and in, a pair of 12.3-inch screens – one for media (including wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav and more), and the other for driver info – a smaller 5.0-inch panel for climate settings while there are electrically adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, vinyl trim, recycled interior materials used, a wireless phone charger, USB-C ports for all three rows, an electric tailgate, a fingerprint scanner to start the car, plus smartphone app connectivity (with vehicle controllability) and connected over the air updates.

 

The Earth grade – due to arrive in the coming months – scores the larger battery and longer driving range, but also stands apart with gloss black exterior finishes, interior ambient mood lighting and illuminated ‘KIA’ badge on the steering wheel, different interior trim – and, crucially, a few extra safety items which should arguably be standard in a large, heavy, and expensive SUV – a surround-view camera, rear collision avoidance auto braking, and the blind spot view monitor camera system that shows up on the dashboard.

 

The more performance-oriented GT-Line model, introduces 21-inch alloy wheels with aero covers, tinted rear glass, a pair of sunroofs, fake suede headlining, two-tone seat trim with GT-Line embossing, a head-up display, massaging front seats, heated and cooled second-row window seats, a digital camera mirror inside, and digital side mirrors are standard – you can’t opt out of them if you prefer real mirrors. It also gets side and front low-speed collision avoidance braking.

 

The EV9 is offered exclusively with three rows of seats, including ISOFIX points in the outboard second- and third-row seats, for a total of four. There are also five top-tether points.

 

The big family SUV has an array of safety technology as standard, and while there is no safety rating for it yet, the brand anticipates a five-star Euro NCAP score based on 2023 criteria.

 

As a result of that, it is fitted with several standard technology items, such as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and junction detection, blind-spot monitoring with assistance, rear cross-traffic alert with braking, lane departure alert, lane keeping assistance, a reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

 

There are also a couple of technologies that may frustrate owners, including a driver monitoring camera and traffic sign recognition system, both of which default to ‘on’ when you restart the vehicle.

 

The EV9 has nine airbags fitted, including dual front, front centre, front side, second-row side, and full-length curtain airbag coverage.

 

The EV9’s cargo capacity is 333 litres with the third-row seats up, and that expands to 828 litres with the back row down. There is a tyre repair kit for all models under the boot floor, and Kia also offers a ‘frunk’ storage space with 90 litres of cargo space in the RWD, and 52 litres in the AWD models.

 

All Kia EV9 models come with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty for the vehicle, with seven-year/150,000km cover for the battery pack (guaranteed to 65 per cent battery health).

 

Servicing intervals are every 12 months/15,000km and there are prepaid servicing plans to choose from – three years/45,000km for $706, five years/75,000km for $1351, and seven years/105,000km for $1997.

 

Driving Impressions

 

The EV9 will reset the way you think about the Kia brand.

 

Take the badges off, and this could be any prestige e-SUV – which the pricing kind of suggests.

 

But what we’re getting at here, is that the EV9 is a game changer. A model that will notch the brand ahead of its competition – not merely level it.

 

A big claim? You bet. But just wait until you drive it.

 

The Kia EV9 Earth (as tested) slots in the middle of the EV9 range, offering AWD grip, astounding performance, head-turning looks, all the latest tech, and an impressive real-world driving range. The model is an ambitious step for the once cheap-and-cheerful Kia and shows just how serious the South Korean brand is taking its move into the electric realm.

 

Far from cheap-and-cheerful, the EV9 is here to take on the likes of the BMW iX, Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV, Telsa Model X, and others. And let us tell you, it doesn’t fall too short of what those contenders offer, especially for when you balance the asking price and aftersales support Kia provides.

 

The EV9 offers generous interior accommodation, its long wheelbase and flat floor allowing plenty of space to spread out – and to get in and out, especially from the increasingly important third row. The seating itself is supportive in all positions, excluding perhaps the maligned second-row centre.

 

We also appreciated the inclusion of seat heaters and ventilation up front, and the pillow-style headrests – handy while you’re waiting to charge up.

 

Kia’s all-steel body and impressively tuned MacPherson strut front / multi-link rear suspension might lack the modernity of some of the aluminium-based rivals listed above, at least on paper. Drive the car, however, and it is quickly apparent that the EV9 is well suited to Aussie conditions.

 

Yes, it is a big and heavy vehicle, and certain road conditions can jar, stirring the stability control to life (think a sharp, bumpy downhill turn in the rain). But in almost every other scenario we found the vehicle both comfortable and composed.

 

It is a predictable vehicle to pilot with accurate steering that feels easier to place that its size might suggest. The EV9 controls its considerable weight well and doesn’t ‘bang and crash’ over bumps in the way we’ve experienced in some e-SUVs of its size – and even in many far smaller.

 

The EV9 pitches far less than a weighty seven-seater has any right too, which helps maintain uniformity of drive to all four wheels when accelerating hard – or when getting on the anchors. It also helps to reduce ‘porpoising’ over poorly maintained roads, in turn reducing the sensations that lead to motion sickness.

 

Acceleration is expectedly brisk and comes with very little fuss – or noise. A little motor whine and a hint of tyre scrabble and you’re rocketing to the speed limit with the pace of a high-end sportscar.

 

But it’s perhaps in driving the daily commute that the EV9 impresses most. Straight-line acceleration is one thing, but the flexibility offered by the dual-motor Kia is quite another. It is content to dawdle around at suburban speeds, remaining calm instead of jumping at each prod of the throttle. It is equally happy in adjusting to the cut and thrust of city traffic, hinting subtly that there’s always (plenty) more left in reserve for overtaking.

 

Impressively, the EV9 offers a natural (ICE vehicle like) feel to the brake pedal to offer not only excellent braking control but also soft stops at the ‘lights. The regenerative function can be trimmed on the go by the steering wheel paddles to scavenge addition power on the go and is something we found very useful in helping to achieve our road test average.

 

On test, we averaged a remarkable energy consumption number of just 17.5kWh/100km. Better than the claim, and delivering a potential single-charge driving range of 570km. Our week with the EV9 included suburban and freeway commuting and a periurban drive loop in 80- and 100km/h zones, showing just how efficient the ‘big bus’ genuinely is.

 

Qualms? Well, just a handful of trivial ones – and none that are a deal-breaker for us.

 

We have already spoken about the EV9’s weighty construction and its six-figure price tag, but we also noted that not all of the interior materials are as fancy as they seem up front, and that it can be difficult to see rearward from the vehicle without the use of the camera.

 

In keeping with many Hyundai and Kia products of late, we also noted that the driver assistance technologies are extremely sensitive, particularly those related to speed (dictated by a traffic sign recognition system) and driver attentiveness.

 

We also experienced issues with Apple CarPlay ‘dropping out’, even when connected by via cable. Given the newness of the device and cable – and the fact it works perfectly in other vehicles tested – we assume the issue is with Kia’s infotainment system, and not the phone/cable pairing.

 

The inclusion of haptic shortcut buttons for the infotainment array is very handy, while the shortcut button on the right-hand steering wheel spoke (represented by a star symbol) proved a handy way to access the screen used to disable the more annoying driver assistance technologies.

 

Hit the button, tap the screen a handful of times, and the system relaxes considerably. Just remember, you will need to do this every time you start the car.

 

At the beginning of this review, we asked if Kia had in fact perfected the e-SUV? Based on our road test, the answer might just be ‘yes’, at least in the here and now. Sure, there are a couple of wrinkles Kia needs to iron out, but they’re quibbles, and not concerns.

 

On balance, the Kia EV9 is an absolute ripper family vehicle and a very capable electric car. Combined the two and, well, you get the idea!

 

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