I have never driven a car that harnessed quite as much attention at the kids' pickup than the seven-seat Kia EV9 SUV. And I’ve picked my kids up in a (borrowed) Maserati.
Grown men crowded around the Kia asking questions and peering through the tinted windows. It’s quite clear there's an interest in, and an appetite for, large fully electric SUVs.
The Kia EV9 is exactly that, and you could probably call it the first of its ilk in this country (we'll talk about the LDV Mifa 9 another time). A large SUV that’s fully electric and the fact that it’s not European leaves you with the hope that you can actually afford it.
The first talking point from the inquisitive dads at pickup was the large, rounded front, without any dams, grilles or intakes; it's uniquely electric. Some thought it looked like it had something missing. But I reminded them that during the evolution of the automobile, when we moved away from horses and carts, the first “cars” had a horses head stuck to the front of them so people knew what they were and which way they were heading. It seems ridiculous now, but surely holding onto a vestigial car part is about as useless as a Tyrannosaurus Rex's arms.
Overall, people decided that they liked the look, somehow likening it to a Land Rover from the future - and it is futuristic.
One of the first things you notice is that it doesn’t have any mirrors. Instead, it has cameras which stick out about as far as mirrors would any way. And they display what you would normally see in the mirror, about 15cm closer to the driver, monitors inside the car doors.
The only thing better than the sound of a powerful engine is a completely silent one; it really is a lovely way to travel.
Some might say that's superfluous engineering. Maybe, but it’s cool. Mostly. And to be honest, better than a mirror (Sam's opinion on this does not necessarily reflect the Driven staff - Ed). It crops in and out depending on if you’re reversing or simply driving down the road, and I found them very helpful at 4:30am on the way to Coast FM's morning show because I didn’t have to wipe the condensation off the glass before I attempted to back down our narrow driveway. So it’s a tick for the digital camera mirrors.
One of the dads who drives a noisy AMG was quick to suggest he would miss the sound, but I assured him the only thing better than the sound of a powerful engine is a completely silent one; it really is a lovely way to travel.
Being electric changes things more than you would think. There are no transmission tunnels or bulges taking up space in the cabin.
I think the only way to truly understand how well electric cars work is to live with one for six months. Then you will realise the perceptions could be unjust - they were for me and my use.
Weirdly, I didn’t drive the EV9 on silent mode. The car came pre-set with the electronic sound simulation. At first I thought I'd left the park brake on, but after working out what it was, I actually left it on: I like it. It sounds like a jet engine: less like a jet engine taking off, more like your captain has been told the airport was busy and to stay in a holding pattern. Just the sound of gentle acceleration, the turbines returning you to altitude.
The EV9 doesn’t feel that fast, but the instant torque of an electric motor works very well in a large SUV. It becomes light on its feet.
So, yes, it’s an artificial noise. But when you listen to music you don’t exactly have the brass band on the back seat, do you? It still sounds good. Or like a Coke Zero: it’s not real Coke, but it's still fairly decent. Just not as sugary sweet.
Being electric changes things more than you would think. There are no transmission tunnels or bulges taking up space in the cabin. My wife pointed out the storage between the driver and the passengers’ feet; the perfect place to put her handbag.
And the middle row of seats where we put our three kids sucked up the three booster seats with aplomb.
There was room for their school bags and three giant sticks, which my son collected from the park and importantly had to come home with us. It’s an impressive opening, and they are the words of my wife who is used to a Kia Carnival with sliding doors and enough space for a coronation.
The next question from the dads, who were now leaning in with interest: is it quick? To which the answer is: kind of. I’m currently driving Kia’s EV6 GT-Line. That is quick!
I feel like I’m in a very good place to offer an opinion on the Kia EV9, because we currently have a Kia Carnival and Kia EV6.
The EV9 doesn’t feel that fast, but the instant torque of an electric motor works very well in a large SUV. It becomes light on its feet, seemingly shakes off its middle-age spread and just moves like the spritely teenager it still thinks it is.
It has all the tech, both good and... less good. It caught my wife out. In the Kia Carnival people-mover, the kids' feet can reach the back of our front seats. So, when they are determined to be especially annoying, they kick the back, which my wife has a genuine hatred for.
On the way home from football, Sarah felt a kick in her back, and reacted accordingly. It happened again and her tone sharpened. And before it happened again, I looked back and gave Sienna a pleading look: "Come on mate, we will all suffer the consequences together, please don’t do it again.”
It has all the tech, both good and... less good. It caught my wife out.
But then I noticed there was no way her feet could reach the back of the seat. So being very careful not to make Sarah turn green, I gingerly suggested that I didn't think it was our child. We discovered it wasn’t a kick, but she had somehow activated the massaging seats. Instantly, she turned all Bruce Banner (Brianna Banner?) She settled in for a little cat-like kneading of her lower-back. We still don’t know how to turn those on or off and are starting to think it’s simply intuition and the EV9's knowledge for the need of shiatzu. Whatever, we'll take it.
I feel like I’m in a very good place to offer an opinion on the Kia EV9, because we currently have a Kia Carnival and Kia EV6: a giant diesel people mover and a snappy modern electric runaround in the Kia EV6. The EV9 blends those cars perfectly. It provides us the perfect evolution.
The boot will be smaller in the EV9 compared to the Carnival, but our twin girls are nearly three, so we don’t need the double pram. We have a Wallbox charger at home, so charging is no problem. Plus there's 500km of EV9 EV range, huge for a big SUV.
It's aspirational for the lads at pick-up, so people will think I’m succeeding at life, but more important than any of that, there is a place to put my wife’s handbag.
KIA EV9 GT-LINE
ENGINE: 99kWh battery with dual electric motors
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD
CONSUMPTION: 22.8kWh/100km, range 505km (WLTP)