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Car Review

Kia EV9 review

£64,940 - £78,690
710
Published: 01 Mar 2024
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Though the EV9 looks futuristic and is stacked with technology, it’s not an unconventional car to operate. It starts by pressing a button on the drive selector stalk which sprouts from the steering column. Twist the end forwards for Drive or backwards for reverse.

It has a steering wheel (albeit a slightly squared-off one) rather than a yoke. On the reverse, two paddleshifters which adjust the regen braking, from an infinite coast to one-pedal driving. There’s an ‘auto’ function which aims to judge the amount of regen you need by measuring the distance to the car in front. But it’s not as clever as Mercedes’ version, and we preferred to modulate the brakes ourselves.

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It isn’t overloaded with gimmicks either. There are driving modes (Normal, Eco, Sport and an individual mix ’n’ match My Drive), but apart from lethargic throttle response in Eco and some variance in the screen colour palette they don’t change the drive noticeably. The steering goes from elastic in Normal mode to downright twangy in Sport, and never loses a sense of synthetic, almost steer-by-wire disconnection. But it’s not a deal-breaker. You’re unlikely to be venturing further off-road than a school playing field too, so the Mud, Sand and Snow ‘Terrain Modes’ are largely a marketing ploy.

Is it too fast?

Interesting way of phrasing that question when we are dealing with a 2.6 tonne SUV, but the EV9 does rather straddle two positions here. The 378bhp/516lb ft twin motor 4WD version is more than quick enough. The single motor is almost exactly half as powerful, and 197bhp pushing this much weight makes for a struggle.

Does it feel big and clumsy?

It’s certainly a sizeable ol’ bus, and feels it: the bonnet line is tall and it’s a struggle to spot quite where it ends on the far side. The EV9 feels its five metres in length and two-metre width. Perhaps not in the USA, but if you’re a European buyer, particularly one dwelling in a diminutive British market town, get used to using up some of your charge reserves searching in vain for a useable parking space, or going out of your way to avoid a pinch-point in a narrow street. The EV9 is spacious and capacious, but it’s also downright huge.

But there are lots of driver assists to help with that?

And they do it better than you, do they? Sorry, rhetorical question. We have countless aids here, all squabbling over how best to help with their incessant bings and bongs. There’s a driver attention monitor which bleats at you if it thinks you’re taking your eyes off the road for too long, likely while jabbing at the touchscreen to turn the ridiculously over-eager lane-keep assist off.

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Meanwhile there’s an alarm that chimes in if you go 1mph over the speed limit. Honourable, but annoying in daily driving, particularly if the system misidentifies a 30mph zone as still under a 20mph limit, and merrily bing-bongs away as you legitimately raise your speed.

Kia will argue that all of the above can be deactivated in one of the million touchscreen sub-menus, and that much of this tech is a necessity mandated by lawmakers, rather than an in-house decision to nanny every driver. But the manufacturers that’ll come out on top will be the ones who calibrate the most foolproof systems, and make the process of deactivating them less obtuse. Because folks, this isn’t a self-driving car, and neither is a Tesla, or any current or future model coming to a road near you in the medium-term future.

What’s it like for a human to drive, besides a bit of a squeeze in a village?

Quiet and sure-footed, but not especially memorable. There’s frankly too much performance: the fact the twin-motor version can match a Honda Civic Type R from 0-62mph surely renders a near-700bhp GT version inbound soon totally redundant. But despite its kerbweight the EV9 never feels wanting for potency, and controls its mass well as it accelerates and decelerates.

Just occasionally, the assured ride will struggle to catch the car’s bulk as it absorbs an impact, and you’ll get a slight bounce as the EV9 settles back down into the cruise. All those post-winter potholes we’re suffering from? Even on 21s the EV9 actually smothers them OK – better than TG’s long-term test Range Rover. But the rest of the dynamic experience isn’t as well controlled and relaxing. There’s a bit of lumpen heave and wallow. But it’s quiet and well insulated.

How far will it go on a charge in the real world?

The standard rule of thumb applies here: knock a third off the claim. So for 315 miles, reckon on a little over 200 in wintry, mucky UK. The first EV9 we drove (an AWD GT-line S) was on a very temperate Mediterranean island and that promised 292 miles over a relaxed day of urban driving.

Long summer motorway hauls should achieve 230-260 miles – just don’t go hanging bikes off the back or boxes on top, or that will tumble significantly. Kia’s are usually pretty good with their estimates so there’s little reason to suspect it’ll have the sort of battery-gazumping freefall of the Toyota bZ4X-typo thingy when it gets a little chilly.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

282kW GT-Line S 99.8kWh AWD 5dr (6St) Auto
  • 0-625.3s
  • CO20
  • BHP378.2
  • MPG
  • Price£78,690

the cheapest

149kW Air 99.8kWh 5dr Auto
  • 0-629.4s
  • CO20
  • BHP199.8
  • MPG
  • Price£64,940

the greenest

282kW GT-Line S 99.8kWh AWD 5dr (6St) Auto
  • 0-625.3s
  • CO20
  • BHP378.2
  • MPG
  • Price£78,690

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