Controversial exterior, magnificent interior.
Kia has finally released images of the production EV9, a three-row electric crossover built on the brand's E-GMP flat-floor EV architecture and an electric equivalent to the Telluride in Kia's lineup. According to Kia, the EV9 is a pivotal step forward in its sustainable mobility future. If it sells at the price we expect (roughly $50k to $70k), the EV9 will rock the establishment. Simply put, there's nothing else like it out there.
The design is undoubtedly divisive, but that was the idea. Kia has a new design philosophy called "Opposites United," pushing the artists behind its vehicle to create "unprecedented visual appeal." Kia says the EV9 combines elements from the natural and material worlds. In non-designer speak, it borrows design cues from nature to create a serenity while retaining a certain ruggedness inspired by decades of generic SUV design.
Up front, it has a Digital Tiger Face, which is an evolution of the usual tiger-nose grille. You may have noticed the change, with the 2023 Kia Niro best demonstrating the move from the old to the new. The EV9 takes it a step beyond with its new Star Map LED daytime running lights, which create an animated lighting pattern that debuts the new Digital Tiger Face that will also feature on upcoming EV models.
While the design may seem complex, there are some basic polygonal elements. We're talking about the pronounced wheels arches, square- and triangle-inspired alloys, flush door handles, and a subtly tapered roofline. At the rear, you'll find the cleanest lines. It's basically just a clean slab with slim taillights.
Styling is subjective, however. We'll leave it for you to decide, but you can't deny that it stands out in a crowd. Also, it's far from the ugliest SUV ever made.
Inside, Kia made the most of the space provided by the flat floor. It's built on the Hyundai Group's Electric Global Modular Platform, a superb piece of engineering that allows designers to create interiors that would be impossible to fit in an ICE car. Because there's no mechanical connection between the front and rear, Kia's interior team could reimagine the average family SUV's interior.
Kia claims "lounge-style" comfort for all three rows, with generous space for all occupants. While it's easy to make these claims, we're inclined to believe Kia. If you've ever spent time in an EV6, you'll appreciate the benefits of a flat floor. The EV6 may just be 184 inches long, but rear passengers get 39 inches of legroom, even with a six-footer in the front seat. That's more room than you get in the 196-inch BMW 5 Series.
The EV9 will be offered in six and seven-seat formats, and Kia actually asked customers what they wanted on the inside. Yet again, in our experience, this kind of approach results in magnificent vehicles.
The first and second-row seats can be reclined simultaneously to rest while the vehicle charges. The second-row seats can also swivel 180 degrees to face third-row passengers. We've seen this kind of configuration before in high-end luxury and camper vans, but never before in a three-row crossover.
This is just one of many benefits of having swiveling seats. While most families with kids wouldn't want them facing each other on an extended road trip, our resident father nearly fainted when he saw the seat can also swivel to face the rear door. Anyone with a baby, toddler, or small child will adore this feature. The struggles of leaning into a car sideways, pushing up against the front seatback to get enough leverage to strap a baby into their seat are over. Bless you, Kia interior designers.
Third-row passengers get cupholders and charging points for mobile devices. That's literally all a teenager needs to keep quiet for eight hours.
Kia kept the cabin light and airy. It has a floating panoramic dashboard inspired by the concept and two 12.3-inch touch screens integrated with another five-inch display to keep physical buttons to a minimum. We can also see touch buttons integrated into the interior trim, which is not unique, but still a brilliant way to keep critical buttons on hand while keeping the interior minimalist, as is the trend these days. Thankfully, the HVAC controls are still physical buttons, and Kia hasn't stepped into the same foxhole as so many other manufacturers.
There's still no official news on pricing, power, and range, but this information will be disclosed when the car makes its global debut in late March.