Kia Three-Row SUV: Gasoline or Electric?
Having someone in the family who was in the market for a three-row Kia in the late fall of 2023 was an eye-opener. He enthusiastically asked what I thought of the all-electric Kia EV9 soon after I drove it, as he had deposits on both the EV9 and the similarly-sized but gas-only Kia Telluride. He liked the look of the Korean brand’s all-electric six- or seven-seat SUV, but was leaning heavily towards the Telluride at the time.
There were a few different reasons, but a starting MSRP roughly $19,000 higher than the Telluride was a key one. He realized that once features were aligned and government rebates factored into the equation, out-the-door costs for both Kia large SUVs would be much closer. He was looking to lease, as most prospective EV9 buyers in the U.S. would be wise to consider, since that’s the only way the EV9 – or any Kia EV currently – may potentially be eligible for the federal $7,500 rebate.
My family member didn’t have the opportunity to test drive an EV9, which is unfortunate. Because, after sampling a couple different top-line versions – near Kia’s headquarters in Seoul as well as here in North America – it’s clear that the all-new 2024 EV9 is a roomy, responsive, and seriously refined SUV. It’s also one that makes fully-electric driving accessible a new group of buyers who still need three human-sized rows of seats.
Three-Row EV SUVs Coming in 2024
Considering that similarly-sized three-row EV SUVs like the Tesla Model X, Rivian R1S and VinFast VF9 all start right around the $80k mark, the EV9 is actually a bargain in the EV world, with its starting MSRP of $54,900 before options and fees.
There are very few other three-row, six-or-seven passenger pure battery-electric SUVs on the market in North America right now, though more are set to arrive in 2024. The upcoming Hyundai Ioniq 7 will share its platform of the EV9 and likely have similar dimensions, while the Volkswagen ID. Buzz retro-van is slated to arrive in late 2024, and will also offer three rows of seats, though it is clearly more of a niche offering. The ID.Buzz will likely be priced closer to the EV9’s highest GT-Line trim level, which has a starting MSRP of $73,900 before the $1,495 destination charge.
Higher trims of the EV9 are not inexpensive, but there are few options you will find on the market that combine its features and space for less. Room was plentiful in the first and second rows of my fully-loaded tester; the EV9 has a longer wheelbase than the Telluride, giving more interior passenger space overall, if slightly less cargo room.
Kia EV9 Features and Technology
All four outboard seats were cooled and heated in my tester, with electric second-row adjustment buttons high up on the rear seatbacks and accessible to folks in the third row, if they’re feeling a little snug.
The EV9’s first two rows also offer lean-back Ottoman-style lower leg rests for outboard passengers, with minivan-style armrests, walk-through ability to the third row and a slide-out tray with storage underneath. Sadly, the ability to swivel the second row seats to face the third row, which we experienced in our test drive in South Korea, won’t make it to North America.
The ability to use your phone as a key is new for Kia, but the feature unfortunately incurs a Kia Connect subscription cost after one year of purchase. But owners can also send a digital code to friends or family with smartphones, allowing them to unlock and start the EV9, which is a nice feature – along with other goodies that will become available via over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
What other goodies? Owners can order up new and unique digital light patterns up front which appear to emanate from the front bumper, while mid-level trims can get their torque boosted from an already healthy 443 lb-ft to that of the top-line GT-Line – a truly majestic 516 lb-ft that pulls this large SUV around like a mighty sports machine. Kia estimates the upgraded torque option shaves 0.7 seconds off of the EV9 AWD’s 5.7 second 0-60 mph time, cutting it to the same 5.0 seconds that’s always available to drivers of the EV9 GT-Line.
Kia EV9 Trim Levels and Pricing
Battery-wise, the base EV9 Light trim offers the smallest pack at 76.1 kWh, with an EPA estimated range of 230 miles. A 215-hp single motor and lighter overall weight helps it achieve a respectable, but notably slower, 7.7 second 0-60 time.
Unusually, the next trim level up, Long Range, is less powerful, with 201 hp, and also much slower, at 8.8 seconds to 60. That’s due to the Light Long Range’s notably larger and heavier 99.8-kWh battery pack. But this rear-drive, single-motor version with the large battery and smallest 19-inch wheel package achieves the EV9’s highest EPA-estimated range of 304 miles. The more powerful all-wheel drive versions of the EV9 are rated at 280 miles with 20-inch wheels, and 270 miles with 21-inch wheels.
The EV9 is also fast when quick-charging it at a Level 3 public charger, with peak DC charging speeds of between 210 kilowatts (kW) for the larger battery, and 235 kW for the smaller battery in the base model. The EV9’s estimated 20–24-minute Level 3 quick-charge times are class-leading, though some buyers may be tempted to wait until Kia switches to the NACS charging standard on its vehicles in 2025, which provides access to Tesla’s Supercharger network without the need for an adapter.
There is also a very useful battery pre-conditioning feature, which can be manually selected when you’re on the way to a Level 3 charger, but don’t have the station selected in the navigation system. It uses a bit of extra electricity, but can also notably shorten the charging time once you plug in.
This feature is not to be confused with interior pre-conditioning, which any EV, including the EV9, can do when plugged inside your garage or out, from your phone’s EV app. Set your departure time on the infotainment screen or via the app, and your EV9 will be at the desired temperature for when you depart, heating or cooling the cabin while plugged in, which also has the benefit of improving your range.
All EV9’s can also tow, with ratings of 1,000 to 1,653 lb (in Wind, Land and GT-Line models), while a towing package can bump up those numbers to 3,500 to 5,000 pounds on Land and GT-Line versions.
There’s no doubt Kia had to pare down a few features from the base EV9 Light’s features to slide to its impressively reasonable $54,900 starting MSRP. Drivers in colder climates will note the EV9’s lowest-level Light trims come without a heat pump, which negatively impacts range in chillier temperatures.
But there are much longer lists of standard items on base and mid-level trims that make their appeal easy to see, even without the full-on luxury provided by the top spec’s massaging seats, ambient mood lighting, heads-up display, self-leveling rear suspension and 14-speaker Meridian 708-watt sound system.
Best Value Three Row SUV
In the end, the Kia EV9’s value in any trim is clear to see. And it likely shines extra bright at launch, because it precedes other all-electric three-row family haulers such as the related Hyundai Ioniq 7 and the retro-tastic VW ID.Buzz, both of which will presumably be in the same pricing ballpark.
For the full value picture, potential buyers will want to check the EV9’s $7,500 rebate eligibility for purchase on the GreenCars Incentive tool, as rebate eligibility can change through the year. It’s possible the EV9’s impending production launch at Kia’s Georgia plant, slated to begin this spring, may affect its rebate status, but leasing it seems more likely to be the way most buyers can access these funds for the foreseeable future.
And for the record, that family member? While he opted for the gas Telluride instead. For him, the EV9 still appeared to extract too much of a premium over its ICE alternative – at least before factoring in fuel and maintenance savings over time. One thing’s for sure, though: once equipped similarly, and test driven, The EV9 looks, rides, and drivers like a slam-dunk bargain amongst larger EV SUVs.