2024 Kia EV9 First Look: Three-Row Electric SUV Inside And Out

Kia's latest all-electric vehicle has arrived in the U.S., with the 2024 EV9 making its North American debut at the New York Auto Show. The latest in the automaker's EV series — and the second model to use the E-GMP platform — it's the biggest fully electric car from Kia so far. It also targets one of the most popular segments among American drivers: the three-row family SUV.

Kia — and its sibling Hyundai — already have strongly-rated options in that category, in the shape of the Telluride and Palisade. The EV9, though, promises to raise the game with a more flexible and spacious cabin, not to mention up to 300 miles or so of zero-emissions driving.

Kia hosted SlashGear at an event ahead of the 2024 EV9's big reveal, we got a chance to spend some time with the electric SUV and find out just how family-friendly it's shaping up to be. While it will likely be the first of its ilk to hit U.S. roads, it'll also take more than just exclusivity to make it a success.

Outside, distinctive design hides the heft

Kia's designers have been on a roll in recent years, and the EV9 doesn't break that run. Despite its three rows, the EV9 looks unexpectedly compact from the outside. It's clearly a large SUV — slightly longer than a Telluride, in fact — but the angular styling and relatively short hood help visually slim it.

The Concept EV9's fancy Digital Pattern Lighting Grille with its "star map LED" animation can be had as an option, with a choice of driver-selectable patterns. Even without that, though, the EV9's angular headlamps and taillamp clusters pick up on the angularity of the latest Kia logo.

Pop-out door handles are increasingly common on EVs, prized for their contribution to aerodynamics, and sure enough the EV9 sports them, while the 19- to 21-inch wheels don't look out of place given the overall scale. The EV9 GT-Line gets exclusive 21-inch wheels of its own, and Kia will offer the SUV in gloss and matte finishes, including a couple of handsome blues and a fairly bold red. Given how much of the industry seems to have given up on anything but grays and silvers, that's a welcome departure.

Two drivetrains and two batteries

What many people have been waiting to find out is just how much power and range we could expect from a sizable SUV. After all, though American drivers still typically over-estimate just how much driving they'll ever need to do on a single charge of their EV's battery, it remains one of the most obvious metrics by which new electric models are judged.

Kia will have two drivetrains, and two batteries. The entry-level EV9 will have a single rear motor good for 160 kW (215 horsepower), and be offered with a standard, 76.1 kWh battery, or an extended, 99.8 kWh battery. The latter, Kia says, is expected to reach around 300 miles on the EPA's range tests.

The second drivetrain will have dual motors, for all-wheel drive. That'll deliver 283 kW (379 horsepower) and 516 lb-ft of torque, and do 0-60 mph in an estimated 5.0 seconds; the EV9 AWD will only be offered with the larger battery. Kia is yet to suggest what range we can expect from that, though it'll obviously be less than for the single-motor version. It'll tow up to 5,000 pounds and have 7.8 inches of ground clearance, which puts the EV9 right in the mix with rival gas-powered SUVs.

For charging, there'll be up to 230 kW DC fast charging support on the standard battery (the extended battery will top out slightly lower), meaning a 10-80% charge could take under 25 minutes at a suitably-potent station. For Level 2 at home, there's an 11 kW onboard charger.

Seating for six or seven inside

Inside, despite first appearances, there's room for adults across all three rows — at least, some adults, anyway. Setting the second-row captain's chairs (which make the EV9 a six-seater, though seven-seat configurations will be available) to ensure a comfortable 5-inches or so of legroom for my 5'8 height, there was still sufficient space for my knees in the third-row seat behind. Still, I suspect the rearmost seats will be the least popular generally, given how the front two rows power adjust including reclining, and boast pop-out leg rests along with heating and cooling.

Kia's attention to detail persists and remains charmingly practical. Buttons on the seat sides, for example, adjust position even if you're in the row behind, along with USB-C ports integrated into the seats so that they're accessible across rows. The EV9's flat floor has led to some cunning storage, too, like a pull-out cubby — that doubles as a rubber-topped tray — for second-row passengers. Storage generally seems ample, and though the front trunk, or frunk, isn't on a par with what an F-150 Lightning hides under its hood, it's still a larger box than many EVs offer.

At the rear, there's the usual decision between cargo space and three rows. With all three up, you get 20.2 cu-ft of space: not bad, and a removable floor helps separate essentials like the travel charger from your bags. Drop the second and third rows, and it expands to 81.9 cu-ft. A 120V outlet in the trunk supports TVs and other campsite niceties.

Kia's dashboard feels familiar, though is a little more streamlined than in some of the automaker's other recent models. Recycled plastics and fabrics are used for parts of the dashboard, seats, and carpets; the seats themselves are trimmed in non-leather polyurethane.

No shortage of tech

Twin displays top the dashboard, with the controls for the tri-zone air conditioning sandwiched between them. They, like most of the buttons on the EV9's console, are touch-sensitive. The shortcuts for the various infotainment sections — like Media, Map, and Search — glow through, though Kia wisely also adds a physical volume dial and actual toggle switches for temperature and fan speed.

The driver gets a full-featured steering wheel, including the controls for switching Drive Mode and activating 4WD Lock in dual-motor versions of the EV9. It's also where you'll find the controls for Advanced Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) and Lane Following Assist 2 (LFA-2). Optionally, they tap a LIDAR sensor among others to do adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping and lane-change assistance.

Other assistance options will include a 360-degree camera, Remote Smart Parking Assist 2 — which allows the EV9 to be maneuvered in and out of parking spaces from outside of the vehicle — is available, while the standard-fit Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist can now recognize vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

The EV9 will be Kia's first model to support vehicle system OTA (over-the-air) updates, paving the way for the sort of remote feature tweaks and additions that we've seen other automakers make good use of. It'll also offer an ultra wide-band (UWB) digital key feature as standard, working with Apple and Samsung smartphones, and supporting temporary digital key sharing.

Counting on more than just rarity for a win

As what will probably be the first, three-row, all-electric SUV to reach the U.S. market, it's fair to say that the 2024 EV9 will be popular. A lot of that will depend on pricing, of course, but so far Kia is playing that detail close to its chest. Final numbers — including for range — will be confirmed closer to the SUV's arrival on the market in Q4 2023, but a starting tag of around $55,000 seems likely.

Still, rarity alone isn't what leaves the EV9 feeling special. Like the EV6 before it, Kia's combination of usable technology, style, and space adds up to something legitimately appealing in the electric category. We'll have to wait to see how the EV9 drives to discover if it holds up there to its smaller sibling, but it's fair to say that the instantaneous torque of an EV drivetrain seems ideal for the urban driving that most family SUVs are used for.