The Kia EV9 is the first electric three-row crossover to market with a starting price below $80,000. That alone might make it a finalist for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2024, but there’s more. A lot more.
Seating up to seven passengers, the all-electric EV9 boasts a 304-mile range with the 99.8-kwh battery pack fitted on Light Long Range models for about $61,000. The base Light with a smaller 76.1-kwh pack and 230-mile range costs even less at $56,395.
That’s at least $20,000 less than three-row electric crossovers such as the Rivian R1S, Tesla Model X, and Mercedes EQS SUV, and it should be considerably less than the forthcoming Volvo EX90 and two Cadillac models. It could be even less expensive in 2024, when Kia shifts production from South Korea to West Point, Georgia. That should make it eligible for at least some of the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.
It’s the most family-friendly vehicle of the three electric cars nominated as finalists (Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Nissan Ariya) for our Best Car To Buy 2024, and it’s one of three three-row SUVs, including the Honda Pilot and Toyota Grand Highlander.
Best Car To Buy 2024: Hyundai Ioniq 6, Kia EV9, Nissan Ariya
While still expensive, the relative value of the Kia EV9 is only part of its appeal. It looks like an evolutionary step forward from the Kia Telluride, and its boxy shape belies its low coefficient of drag (for an SUV) of 0.28. A dual-motor all-wheel-drive system with the larger pack is available for about $5,000 more than the Light Long Range. The dual-motor range of 280 miles drops to 270 miles on the loaded GT-Line and its larger wheels, but that $75,395 GT-Line and its boost in torque from 443 lb-ft to 516 lb-ft shaves its 60 mph time to an impressively light 5.0 seconds. It also handles much smaller than it seems, with a low center of gravity keeping it more planted than other three-row SUVs in this class.
It optimizes space better than gas-powered three-rows as well. Even though it matches the Telluride in most proportions, it has a wheelbase that’s nearly eight inches longer, making for a roomier cabin in seven- or six-seat configurations. A floating two-tiered center console leaves the floor open, but the space below the armrest pulls out into a drawer for second-row passengers to access.
The second row of seats can be configured with a three-seat bench, or with captain’s chairs that can recline along with the front seats. Two teens can fit in the third row but tall or leggy adults will need to negotiate with mid-row passengers for suitable seating positions. Cargo room measures out to 20.2 cubic feet behind the last row of seats, but power-fold down the second row and flip the third row down for up to 81.9 cubic feet of storage.
Kia knows its target audience, and fills the EV9 with modern conveniences demanded by the family unit. Every row has at least two USB ports, driver-assist features such as automatic emergency braking front and adaptive cruise control come standard, and AWD models get a heat pump and heated steering wheel. Additionally, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster curved into a 12.3-inch touchscreen comes with wireless smartphone compatibility, and wireless smartphone charging comes on most models.
We found few faults in our annual Best Car To Buy testing, but mostly because we were looking for them. The dash materials lack the luxury-like finish expected at this price, in part because Kia pushed more recycled and sustainable elements into the cabin. The suspension can feel unsorted when driven hard, with a tendency to plow, but we doubt most drivers will ever seek such extremes. That relative EV value is still at least $10,000 more than the average price shoppers are paying for a three-row vehicle.
Our editorial judges will continue weighing its merits before we announced our Best Car To Buy 2024 winner on Jan. 3, 2024. Stay tuned as we announce the winners at Motor Authority and Green Car Reports as well.