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[Test Drive] Kia presents first 3-row EV9

Latest electrification vision targets domestic, global sales of 50,000 this year

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : June 19, 2023 - 11:57

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Kia’a electrified three-row SUV EV9 (Hyundai Motor Group) Kia’a electrified three-row SUV EV9 (Hyundai Motor Group)

Hyundai Motor Group’s smaller affiliate Kia is launching a three-row family electric car, the EV9 -- the first of its kind here -- revamping the brand’s push toward sustainable transportation.

The EV9 is the second model to adopt Hyundai’s electric car platform E-GMP, following the mid-sized electrified sport utility vehicle EV6, which debuted in 2021. Kia boasted that the latest EV will become a flagship model with the most advanced electrification technology.

Creating a new EV segment for three-row family SUVs, the EV9 has secured over 10,000 preorders, of which more than 40 percent of customers were in their 40s -- the main target customer demographic. Individuals in this demographic value family time and expressing their lifestyles, according to Yoon Yong-gi, manager of the second domestic marketing team at Kia.

Unlike the tendency of increased brand loyalty for larger cars, approximately 55 percent of preorders came from those who have never driven Kia vehicles, Yoon added, stressing that the company aims to sell over 50,000 units in domestic and global markets by the end of this year.

A test drive was conducted last week from Gyeonggi Province to South Chungcheong Province, a course of some 176 kilometers. The Korea Herald's reporter got the chance to drive the EV9’s high-trim model Earth with a four-wheel drive system.

Although it weighs over 1 metric ton, the car offered smooth but powerful ride, with a 99.8-kilowatt battery pack -- the largest one for a Korea-made vehicle. The official drive range is a maximum of 501 kilometers on a single charge.

Of the four driving modes -- eco, normal, sport and my drive -- normal offered a relaxing car ride. On sport mode, the driver’s seat’s backrest immediately adjusted to help reduce body roll when cornering at over 100 kilometers per hour. Stepping on the accelerator gave a faster response on a high-speed ride as well.

It also has four terrain modes: auto, snow, mud and sand. The modes adjust the car's chassis system and motor output depending on the road condition. Driving the car on sandy hills hardly felt heavy under sand mode.

The interior of Kia’s EV9 (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald) The interior of Kia’s EV9 (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald)

When the reporter drove the car for more than 30 minutes, the seat automatically started giving the driver a back massage in the form of an interval back rub. The massage was helpful in warding off fatigue during the long ride. The EV9 also offers massages for second row passengers that are more powerful than the ones for the first row, the carmaker said.

Its Level 2 autonomous driving mode, which enhanced Kia’s existing lane follow assist function that helps the car stay centered, was impressive as well. The car steered slightly away from another car driving next to it. On curves, it automatically and gently turned the steering wheel.

Despite its large size and tall height, the car was not noisy, even at high speed. The carmaker said it adopted sound-absorbing tires and sound-deadening materials in the power electronic car parts.

The two EV9 models -- Air and Earth -- adopt a robust and boxy exterior with a modern design. The Air model is installed with a slim projection LED headlamp, while the higher trim car Earth shows off a more futuristic vibe with a digital dotted-pattern grill and small cube projection LED headlights. Both car models have LED rear combination lamp, a contrast from Hyundai’s recent car lineup’s signature seamless horizon lamp.

The second-row view of Kia’s EV9 (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald) The second-row view of Kia’s EV9 (Byun Hye-jin/The Korea Herald)

As for the interior, the spacious three-row car allows for a customizable layout with swiveling second-row chairs that can face the third-row, a useful feature in case of a road trip with family and friends. Folding the third-row seats makes an even larger space for the already roomy car trunk.

Hyundai has touted that its latest EV is unrivaled, stressing that it has created a whole new segment for three-row EVs. It also dispelled concerns over the EV9 taking potential customers from Kia’s flagship gas-powered SUV Carnival with three-row seating. Sales have not been significantly affected, according to the carmaker.

Two models of EV9, which come in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive systems, are priced at 73.4 million-81.6 million won ($57,400-$63,900) after government EV subsidies.