Vijay Pattni28 October 2013

First drive: Kia K9

Unfortunate name, supremely comfortable car. You want it? You can’t have it…

What's that?

It's the Kia K9.

The what?

Yes. In a country, ahem, dogged by that infamous cuisine, it doesn't really translate well for us Brits. But then us Brits don't really matter.

Why not?

You want the Kia K9? You can't handle the Kia K9! It's been built for the Korean domestic market and is headed for the United States of America as the first ever premium, rear-wheel-drive Kia saloon. But not the UK.

Darn.

Darn indeed, for the K9 is a nice thing to punt around in. Especially if you happen to punt around in downtown Seoul. Our test route took in some of the South Korean capital's rather picturesque landmarks and monuments; a journey of stop-start traffic, 40mph speed restrictions, and zig-zagging Hyundai Grandeur pilots.

So it's comfortable then?

Very much so. Kia tells us the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class were benchmarked as competitors, though this K9 is actually bigger than both. It's hugely comfortable to waft around in, with a smooth, quiet 3.3-litre V6 producing 296bhp, and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Americans will also get a 3.8-litre V6 and V8 engine, too.

Comfortable, but lazy. The engine isn't the most poky, enthusiastic unit on offer, the ‘box reluctant to change. The steering was also too vague and had a strange, gluey effect, while the body rocked about on its suspension too. But of course, the people who buy this car won't be clipping apexes, but rather bumbling through endless, scary traffic. And in this regard, the K9 is a comfortable ol' barge. Big one too: it weighs in at a whopping 1870kg, giving it a heft and authority those imposing looks promise.

What's it like inside?

Nice, actually. The ambience inside and general quality, refinement and NVH levels are excellent, though some of the switchgear is a little derivative. Some of the plastics aren't up to German saloon levels, but overall there's little to complain about here. Plus, for sheer boot space, you'd be hard pushed to find anything bar a Transit van that'll fit more junk in its trunk.

Should I buy one?

If you're British, no. Because you can't. If you're American? Still no, probably. It's a tough ask to take on the 5-Series and E-Class, and as a first shot at the premium saloon segment, this is a fair effort. But as with the Cee'd and Pro_cee'd, we'd wait until the next-gen K9; judging by Kia's stratospheric rate of progress, that car will be superb. This one just misses the mark.

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