2024 Kia EV9 First Drive Review: First of Its Kind

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Love It

Leave It

First EV non-luxury three-row

...Price gets close to luxury at top end

Funky design inside and out

No real space benefits over Telluride

Planted driving feel

Subscription headlights

There aren’t a whole lot of firsts left in the automotive industry.

So it’s kind of a big deal—literally—that Kia has brought us to Arizona to drive this, the 2024 EV9. What you’re looking at is the first mainstream three-row electric vehicle. Whether you see it as an electric Telluride, Kia’s continued march upmarket, or both, this new flagship promises a compelling battery-powered family hauler proposition.

What’s new?

While this might be the first EV without a premium badge to fit three rows of seating, it’s not a unique platform. Under the EV9’s blocky body sits the E-GMP platform we’ve seen under the EV6, not to mention Hyundai Ioniq 5 and 6 plus the Genesis GV60. The footprint is almost identical to the massive(ly popular) Telluride, trading roughly half an inch of width (77.9 inches / 1978 millimeters) for an additional half-inch in length (197.2 inches / 5,010 mm). Electrifcation makes for a much longer wheelbase however: 122 versus 114.2 inches (3,100 and 2,900 mm, respectively).

The styling is a home run as far as this writer is concerned. A more angular take on the Telluride’s proportions, the EV9 forges a new look for the brand that is strong, confident, and super-modern. From the rear three-quarter, if you place your thumb over the top section of the taillights, you see the nod to the other three-row SUV, too. Those funky wheel designs feature plastic inserts, which might wrinkle some noses considering the price of the EV9. Consider this, though: they improve aerodynamics to such a level that the EV9 has the same coefficient of drag as the EV6. Using metal would be heavy, and pricey should it get damaged.

One aspect of the design I need to call out is the headlight setup. It looks great, especially the hidden LED elements in the nose. There are two start-up animations too, at least stock. This is where it gets dicey: Kia will be offering additional animations… on a subscription model. When asked whether buyers could pay a one-time fee, a Kia rep told us they were unsure and would check back. Nonetheless, you’re looking at headlight DLC.

Quick and composed

2024 kia ev9 first drive review first of its kind

Whereas the Telluride powertrain setup offers buyers a single choice—front- or all-wheel drive—the EV9 selections are more diverse. The base model is rear-drive, and uses a 76.1-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Horsepower is a reasonable 215, which strangely drops to 201 when opting for the larger, 99.8-kWh battery. That is the camel of the EV9 lineup though, holding onto its charge for 489 km (304 miles). That base model? A reasonable 370 km (230 miles).

This GT-Line tester tops the lineup, pairing the big battery with dual motors for 379 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. While it also has to lug around a lot more poundage than the Telluride (around 5,700 pounds / 2,585 kilograms), the instant-access power does make for a quick—but not uncomfortably so—off-the-line dash. Out in the thin Arizona air, I’d wager it’s around five seconds to highway speed, which is plenty for a big family hauler.

The EV9 rides better than its gas sibling, too. There’s of course much less outside noise making its way in, by dint of the electric powertrain and the standard laminated side glass. The low center of gravity afforded by the battery pack means the EV9 stays resolutely planted through winding roads, in a way few three-row SUVs without a performance badge do. That’s not to say this is some sort EV6 GT with a growth spurt: the EV9 is still a cruiser through and through, just a more confident one than the sometimes lumbering standard of the three-row set.

One-pedal braking is still on the menu, and it gets aggressive in its highest “i-Pedal” setting. I dig it, but there are also four other levels to choose from if you don’t. Just be mindful that certain drive modes may lock a specific setting in place. While both US- and Canada-spec EV9s feature a Terrain Mode, only us Northerners get Mud and Sand options; Snow is the shared choice.

Like every other E-GMP car, the EV9 is capable of hoovering up the electrons when hooked up to a DC charger. Kia quotes the benchmark 10-to-80 percent run in 20 minutes for the stock battery and 24 with this larger one.

Quality cabin

2024 kia ev9 first drive review first of its kind

The EV9’s cabin is a comfy place to spend time. The front seats are supportive and—on this top trim—boast a full-recline feature that Kia says should make charging waits a snooze (ba-dum-tsh). They feature cutouts in the headrests that look cool, and allow for just a bit of (natural) ventilation. Plenty of the materials are eco-friendly and/or recycled, including the seat surfaces themselves. The headliner is one such material too, and it’s an odd one, feeling like a mix between traditional suede and… cotton candy? Please do not nibble on your EV9.

Kia has tweaked its latest cabin design language for EV9 duty: a cleaner, more natural look that align well with the adventure-ready vibe of the exterior. I appreciate the fabric insert in the dashboard, seemingly floating to provide the ambient lighting behind. There’s a lot of matte plastic, which can look plain but sure beats piano black. Don’t think that’s nowhere, though: Kia has applied liberal amounts of a shiny gray here too, which I guess is now piano gray. Still, there’s a good mix of traditional and haptic controls, and the center console provides plenty of storage opportunities, including a pull-out section for second-row folks.

Speaking of the rest of the cabin, the EV9 doesn’t offer any substantial increases in space over the Telluride, despite the additional eight inches of wheelbase. There’s more headroom in the back, but on paper, there’s little between the two. That being said, the seats are more comfortable than the last Telluride we tested, in both rows. This GT-Line trim offers power-folding seats too, though I warn you that they are slow in operation.

Similarly, cargo capacity is ever so slightly down on the Telluride; with 20.2 cubic feet (573 liters) with all seats up, it’s a deficit of less than 5 percent. That gap extends when riding in two-seater mode: 81.7 against 87.0 cubes (2,313 L and 2,464 L), but the EV9 also has a small frunk.

New tech center

2024 kia ev9 first drive review first of its kind

The EV9 debuts the ccNC infotainment system for Kia, the one that’s slowly spreading across the Hyundai Motor Group. It’s generally pretty good, as the 12.3-inch central screen is sharp and quick in responses. Finally, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless all the time, too. My one complaint is that there are too many sub-menus to dive through.

Even the base EV9 comes with Kia's smooth Highway Drive Assist 2, plus the typical gaggle of driver assists. Higher trims unlock a parking assist that can now handle oblique spots, plus a digital key, thumbprint scanner, and more.

Dollars and sense

2024 kia ev9 first drive review first of its kind

EV9 pricing is super aggressive in Canada, where federal and provincial rebates are tied to starting price. That’s why the $61,945 CAD (post-destination charges) Light RWD is such a surprise, coming in only a few grand more than a basic EV6. The range-champ Wind RWD with its larger battery pack is a smart $3,000 upgrade. Meanwhile, the most affordable AWD model is the $66,945 CAD EV9 Land AWD. This top-spec tester adds the Premium and GT-Line packages, which bump the price up to $80,945 CAD.

America’s EV9 lineup is broadly similar, starting with the $57,395 Light RWD. But a GT-Line like this? You’re looking at $75,395.

If there’s nothing quite like the EV9, what to compare it to? Well a Telluride currently tops out at $54,550 ($65,045 CAD). A Cadillac XT6 tacks another 10 grand onto that. How about a little sibling rivalry with the Genesis GV80? Plump for the turbo V6 and it’ll crest the EV9’s top sticker—by quite a lot if you check the top trim. Volvo has the plug-in hybrid XC90 and upcoming all-electric EX90; the former is a few grand less than the EV9, while the latter is about the same gap on the other side.

Final Thoughts: 2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line First Drive Review

2024 kia ev9 first drive review first of its kind

Like the Stinger, Telluride, and EV6 before it, the EV9 elevates Kia into a whole new scene for the brand. While the electrification doesn’t unlock tons of additional room inside, the EV9 is smooth, composed, and chock-full of family-friendly features. The pricing is quite a lot more than most other Kias sure, but it’s also aggressively affordable for what you get, especially in Canada. Now that Kia’s unleashed the EV9 onto the market, it’s time for everyone else to start playing catch-up.

Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

More by Kyle Patrick

Join the conversation