Kia EV9 GT-Line review: A new wave of electric SUVs

Kia EV9 GT-Line Three Quarters

“The Kia EV9 is a great purchase, regardless of which model you choose.”

Plus points

  • Stylish design

  • Luxurious, spacious interior

  • Good performance

  • Fair price

Cons

  • Low range on entry-level models

The world of electric SUVs is not known for its diversity. If you’re looking for a full-size SUV and want something electric, you’re more or less limited to a car like the Rivian R1S – a car that’s far from affordable. But if there was a company that could finally bring affordable options to the market, it would be Kia. The Kia EV9 has had a long and much-hyped launch, and the electric SUV is finally available for purchase.

The EV9 has a lot of buzz, and it’s easy to see why: it offers a modern design, it’s built on the same platform as the beloved EV6, and it can seat seven people in some configurations. Sure, it might not be the ultraAn affordable option that some were hoping for, but it still pushes the electric SUV to a much lower price point. With a starting price of $54,900, there is no competition yet.

But the lack of competition isn’t the only reason to buy something. We tested the Kia EV9 GT-Line to find out if the new electric SUV really lives up to the hype. Spoiler alert: the EV9 is easily ready for the competition that will inevitably appear.

Design and interior

Overall, the Kia EV9 looks a bit like a cross between the beloved Telluride and the Kia EV6. Sure, the EV9 is big and boxy, but I like the style. It has a sculpted body, with angular lines on the side and rear, and although it’s quite large, the EV9 still feels sporty.

Kia EV9 GT-Line front
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

Up front, the EV9 features Kia’s new ‘Digital Tiger Nose’, which is essentially an evolution of the Tiger Grille that adorned previous generation Kia cars. You get angular headlights with a kind of pixel design that looks very modern. This pixel design is only available on more expensive models, but you get the angular headlights no matter which model you choose. Honestly, you probably won’t miss much without the pixel lights, but it’s a nice added bonus if you get a more expensive model.

The rear also looks quite sporty. Angular taillights extend across the rear of the EV9 in a manner strongly reminiscent of modern Volvos. A small spoiler follows the roofline of the car, adding to its sportiness.

The interior of the EV9 looks very premium, at least in our top model GT-Line. The EV9 can generally be purchased in six- or seven-seat configurations: the former with center captain’s chairs, the latter with a bench seat. Only the Light and Wind models can be equipped for seven passengers. Our test model came with the two captain’s chairs, which are motorized and perhaps even more comfortable than the front seats. The EV9 also has USB-C ports for charging throughout the car’s cabin, including for second- and third-row passengers, and there’s a large storage bin for the second-row passengers, which is a nice touch . Finally, passengers get their own climate zone, which is always useful.

Kia EV9 GT-Line storage space
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

While I spent most of my time in the driver’s seat, I also spent some time in the passenger seats to get a feel for how roomy they were. Good news: There is, within reason, a lot of room in whatever seat you sit in. Sure, the third row gets tight with the second row all the way back, and like any three-row SUV, the third row will be more comfortable for kids than any. However, I was impressed with the comfort offered, even in the third row.

Storage space is also ample, depending on whether you keep the third row of seats up or not. With the third row up there is 20.2 cubic feet of space, but with the third row down you get 43.5 cubic feet of storage space. There’s also a frunk, which shrinks if you opt for all-wheel drive. The GT-Line is an AWD model and there was still plenty of room to store a few shopping bags.

Overall, the EV9’s interior is spacious and comfortable, offering really useful features throughout.

Technology, infotainment and driver assistance

Kia has made a serious effort to implement modern technology into its cars – with a few caveats. I quite like the infotainment experience in the Kia EV9, but part of that is due to the car supporting CarPlay. Fortunately, the EV9 supports CarPlay over a wireless connection, unlike the EV6. This meant I could just drop my phone on the charging pad and get going – without having to fiddle with any cables.

Kia EV9 GT-Line infotainment
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

One aspect of infotainment that I really appreciated was the fact that the EV9 has a dedicated climate display And physical climate control. This means that both driver and passengers can easily control climate settings such as fan speed and temperature, or then dive into the dedicated display for more advanced controls. Unfortunately, that special display is a bit hidden from the driver by the steering wheel – and difficult to access for the passenger. But it can be even worse – for example, by hiding the climate control deep in the settings.

There are also some great driver assistance features built into the car, even standard. Whichever model you buy, you get the basic features like blind spot monitoring and emergency braking. If you get the GT-Line, you get advanced cruise control with lane centering, and unlike other cars, you don’t have to keep your hands on the wheel. It worked quite well, and while it’s really only useful on the highway, it’s a step further toward better self-driving technology.

Kia EV9 GT-Line cup holders
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

I wish some of the best driver assistance features weren’t reserved for more expensive models. For example, you only get the camera-based blind spot monitor and the Surround View Monitor in the Land AWD or GT-Line trim. It’s worth double-checking that the features you want are available on the model you plan to buy.

Driving experience

Driving the Kia EV9 is a pleasure. It may be big, but it still benefits from the instant response that has become the hallmark of an electric vehicle. It is much heavier than the EV6, and as such it is not rather just as fast, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a faster SUV that doesn’t cost a lot more.

Kia EV9 GT-Line steering wheel
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

The EV9 comes in single- and dual-motor configurations, powering rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, respectively. In the base EV9 Light RWD you get a 215 hp motor, but with the dual-motor configurations you can get up to 379 hp. Eventually there will be a GT model that will also produce 576 hp.

The EV9’s overall ride was smooth yet responsive. The car takes bumps and holes in the road, and despite the rapid acceleration the ride is perhaps a little more luxurious than sporty. However, that suits the car: an SUV is a family car and is built for comfort. You don’t want to feel the road the same way you would a smaller, sportier car.

Kia EV9 GT-Line front
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

I always prefer to drive a car with one pedal, if and when possible. The EV9 comes with Kia’s iPedal system, which can bring the car to a stop when you take your foot off the pedal. Unfortunately, you can’t set iPedal as the default, so you’ll have to switch to it every time you turn the car on. In addition to iPedal, there are three levels of regenerative braking, and the car remembers your setting between trips.

Range and charging

The Kia EV9 offers a range from not so great to pretty good range, depending on the model you buy. Range ranges from 370 km on the Light RWD model, to 480 km on the Light Long Range RWD model, or 450 km on the Wind and Land AWD models. None of these figures are particularly impressive, although 280 miles is of course a lot better than 230. Our GT-Line model puts a little more power into the wheels, reducing the range to 275 miles.

Kia EV9 GT-Line rear three-quarters
Christian de Looper / Digital trends

Luckily, once you hit the right load, you’ll gain weight quite quickly. The Kia EV9 supports 350 kW charging, making it one of the fastest charging cars available. If you manage to find a charging station that supports 350 kW, you’ll go from 0% to 80% in just over 20 minutes, which is very impressive. Unfortunately, companies like Electrify America are still building these super-fast charging stations, and the EV9 doesn’t come with a NACS port yet.

How DT would configure this car

The Kia EV9 is a great buy regardless of which model you opt for, at least with the current scarcity of competition in this area. If you want to spend as little as possible for a three-row electric SUV, you’ll love the base Kia EV9 Light. However, if you can stretch your budget a bit, we recommend doing so for benefits such as greater reach.

The Wind AWD model is probably the best choice for most buyers. It improves performance with a second motor and has a larger battery that gives a range of 450 km. It also comes with a more luxurious interior thanks to second-row captain’s chairs, and adds features like heated front seats and more driver assistance features. Most buyers won’t need to upgrade to the GT-Line model we reviewed, but those who want the most technically demanding experience may want to consider it for things like the hands-free driving assistance and the Surround View Monitor.

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