The Kia EV9 Is the Big EV I Didn’t Think I’d Fall in Love With

The Kia EV9 Is the Big EV I Didn’t Think I’d Fall in Love With

I’m a big car guy, but I’m not a big car guy, as in, if it’s any larger than, say, a Kia Cerato, then I’m usually not interested. That being said, I’m more than happy to celebrate a big car with a clear purpose, whether it’s to move seven people at once, intended to be slept in, or meant to be a comfort on long road trips. The Kia EV9 is all of this and more.

The Kia EV9 is the most expensive car that the Korean automaker has ever sold, and it represents the height of the company’s current electric portfolio. It’s a seven-seater that’s just smaller than a Kia Carnival, and when you’re on the road, it absolutely doesn’t feel as big as it is.

But make no mistake – this is a big car, and photos of it tend to not do its size justice. The sharpness of its panels makes the car look like it’s filling in as much space as possible, and when you’re on smaller inner city roads, or when you’re trying to park, you thank the heavens Kia’s camera tech is as good as it is.

I spent almost a week with the Kia EV9 – I slept in it, I worked from it, and overall, I enjoyed my time with the car. I also consider it to be the best-looking car Kia has ever made.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Big car

The Kia EV9 is the biggest car we’ve ever reviewed. I was originally worried about taking the car on because I was concerned about how cumbersome it would be, and if I would struggle to get it into my car space without scraping the sides. Thankfully, the car is extremely easy to master. The shared platform Kia uses for its ‘EVX’ models, in tandem with Hyundai’s ‘Ioniq’ models, makes driving this beast much easier than it seems. It’s packed with assistance tech, including what I would consider one of the best camera systems of any car on the market right now (there’s also a 3D model of the car that’s generated when you’re using the bird’s eye camera, giving you a sense of scale and presence when reliant on assistance tech).

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

To put it in numbers, the EV9’s dimensions are 1750 mm high x 1980 mm wide x 5010 mm long (the ‘GT-Line’ variant is slightly longer and taller). The next biggest car we’ve reviewed, the immensely popular Tesla Model Y, has dimensions of 1624 mm high x 1978 mm wide x 4750 mm long.

That extra space obviously gives room for the extra two seats in the back, but with those seats folded down, you get a gigantic boot (growing from 573L to 1,233L). With the two rear rows folded down, you get enough room to comfortably sleep in (2314L), which I did.

But with so much space to play with, the middle row is exceptionally comfortable, and there is a wealth of legroom when you slide the row back, even with the front two seats adjusted to comfort.

For two days, I worked in the backseat of the Kia EV9, and found it to be an exceptionally comfortable experience. I wrote my articles and made TikToks in the backseat, hopping onto calls and meetings at will, and found it to be a brilliant office on wheels.

As discussed in my article focused on this experience, I only noticed a power loss of 8 per cent on these work-from-car days, with the aircon running. When I slept from the car, with the aircon on and the car plugged in, the battery went up by about five per cent (keeping in mind that we reviewed the mid-range model with a gigantic 100kWh battery).

It was extremely comforting I could work and sleep in this thing without needing to worry about the aircon eating up the battery. As for my laptop, which needed to be charged halfway through each day, I plugged the laptop into the Australian wall socket in the boot of the car and ran the cable over the sides of the seats. It was fine, but note that to activate the socket, the car needs to be in ‘Ready’ mode (in this mode, the car can be immobilised in the settings, in case you’re concerned about someone getting in and driving off).

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The entire point of trying these things was to see how the car would perform at extremes. I was unable to test its towing capacity (reportedly 900kg to 2,500kg braked, and 750kg unbraked), but I could test how it would fair as a holiday car. I’d say it’s a winner. At one point, I had five passengers on board, including a great-grandfather and a four-year-old in a booster seat, and all parties said they found the car comfortable.

Just one more note, the frunk space is only 52 litres for the mid-range and GT-Line model, while 90 litres for the RWD model. Not that the frunk should be an overly important consideration when buying an EV, but just to get out there if you’re concerned about space efficiency.

Big specs

For such a big car, it doesn’t feel cumbersome behind the wheel. Although you have to put in extra care when navigating tight spaces, the Kia EV9 is extremely responsive, with an acceleration as fast as 5.3 seconds from 0-100km/h (that’s the top model, the mid-range model can do it in 6 seconds, and the entry-level model in 8.2). The mid-range model and the top-tier ‘GT-Line’ are both AWD, which aids road feeling and responsiveness, while the entry-level model is RWD.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The suspension feels a little jittery now and again, especially in the rear two rows, though I hear the top model has better tyres, and ergo better road feel on 21-inch rims (up from 19-inch). The GT-Line is also equipped with digital side mirrors and parking assistance tech.

In terms of the battery, I was extremely satisfied with the mid-range trim’s WLTP range of 512km. The top-end model can travel 505km, while the entry model can only travel about 443km.

Recharging speeds on a DC charger can go as high as 210kW, just shy of Tesla charging speeds of up to 220kW. I didn’t test DC charging during my time with this car, and instead relied on home charging with the emergency charger and one stint with a 7kW charger. Because the battery is so darn big, I didn’t return to 100 per cent at any point during my review, and on-the-road efficiency for my road trip was as high as 20kWh/100km – about 3kWh higher than what I’d expect from, say, the much smaller MG4 or the Polestar 2.

The car is equipped with three-zone climate controls: driver, front passenger, and back two rows, with controls specific for each. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

When I reviewed the Kia EV6, Kia’s first-ever ground-up EV and the predecessor to the EV9, I criticised it for its operating system and subsequently skipped over it when I reviewed the Kia Niro. It felt cheap, lacked polish, and wasn’t impressive enough to sway me from Android Auto. The EV9’s operating system is much, much better. It looks nicer, it feels more responsive, and it’s less annoying (though the speed warning sounds it makes through operational school zones are extremely annoying). All of this said it’s still not good enough to sway me from Android Auto, particularly because of Maps and music streaming integration. The Maps app in the EV9 is still not very intuitive, and music streaming isn’t well-catered for.

A gorgeous Earthy underglow paints the edges of the cabin. Image: Zachariah Kelly/GIzmodo australia

This would irk me less if the car didn’t incentivise its onboard OS so much by, simply, making your phone-based car OS unwieldy. The only port that will allow for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay is located under the centre console, meaning you need to run a cable up the middle of the car to wherever your phone is.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Because of the placement of the wireless charger on the armrest (it worked fine but will obviously not work so well if you’re thrashing the car around), you’re incentivised to put your phone in the central armrest. It just looks a tad ugly with a cable running to it. I hope Kia, and other carmakers for this matter, change this placement to consider where a driver might actually put their phone, given that if it’s plugged in, I’m not going to need to worry about wireless charging it, am I?

On the bright side, the assortment of buttons in the Kia EV9 hits the sweet spot. There aren’t too many, and there aren’t too few. No complaints from me on this front, which is rare.

Pictured: the wireless charger, assistance buttons, the cupholder tray (closed). Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Big money

The Kia EV9 ‘Air’ starts at $97,000 in Australia, and the top-end ‘GT-Line’ starts at $121,000. That’s a lot of money, and considering it’s Kia’s most expensive car ever, the carmaker is throwing a real hail mary against the likes of Polestar (which is releasing a similarly sized and priced SUV later this year), BMW, and Mercedes Benz.

But for what it’s worth, without driving many closely competing models to this car, the Kia EV9 is brilliant. If you’re the type of person who needs a big car, be it for moving a family or for moving tonnes of stuff, then this car is a great option if you’ve been thinking of going electric and don’t mind that considerable price tag.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

In terms of driver comfort, the Kia EV9 ranks among the best cars I’ve ever driven, and I deeply enjoyed my time with it. More than anything, the Kia EV9 has me excited for the company’s next EV, the Kia EV5, which will be much smaller, and perhaps better aimed at someone like me.

The Kia EV9 Air starts at $97,000. The EV9 Earth starts at $106,500, and the EV9 GT-Line starts at $121,000.

Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

Want more Aussie car news? Here’s every EV we’ve reviewed in the last two years, all the EVs we can expect down under soon, and our guide to finding EV chargers across the country. Check out our dedicated Cars tab for more.

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