Kia EV9: flagship seven-seat electric SUV preparing for 2023 launch

Kia plans a line-up of 14 electric cars by 2027, with the flagship EV9 SUV being the first to feature its autonomous driving technology

Kia EV9 spy shots - front side

The upcoming Kia EV9 SUV is in development, and our spy photographers have caught it testing with less camouflage wrapping than ever before. Kia’s future electric seven-seat SUV was spotted at the Nurburgring race circuit in Germany, ahead of its 2023 launch. It’s planned to go on sale in numerous markets including the UK, Europe and North America.

A lighter camouflage wrap lets us see a few more of the EV9’s styling details. It’s clear that the production version will look very similar to the EV9 concept, with boxy, Land Rover Defender-esque proportions and a strikingly bluff front end. Some of the headlight and tail-light details are now more noticeable, with the former looking similar to the American Kia Telluride and the rear looking a little similar to the Kia EV6.

At just under five metres long, the EV9 is expected to compete with seven-seater rivals like the Tesla Model X, as well as larger, five-seat models such as the BMW iX. It should cost much less than these cars, though. The Kia will share its platform with the forthcoming Hyundai Ioniq 7 – expected to be a similarly slab-sided, but family-orientated, electric SUV. 

We can see from these latest images that the EV9 will get a high bonnet line and flat front – most likely with only a small opening in place of the grille you might find on one of the brand’s petrol or diesel models. The windscreen looks to be less steeply raked than the concept car’s, although the roofline stays tall right to the very back, presumably to protect the car’s practicality and leave sufficient headroom for third-row occupants. This prototype has proper wing mirrors instead of the cameras fitted to the concept, but these are likely to be an option.

We can expect the EV9 to get a tech-filled cabin, taken near-wholesale from the EV6.

When the EV9 was confirmed for production in March this year, Kia claimed the roadgoing model would be capable of 0-62mph in five seconds and offer a range of approximately 335 miles. It’ll also feature the same 800-volt charging architecture as the EV6, meaning a 10-80% top up in less than 20 minutes.

Kia’s seven-seater also will be the first to feature the brand’s autonomous driving technology, which it calls ‘AutoMode’. Details are thin on the exact capabilities of this system, but Kia has disclosed one feature, called ‘Highway Driving Pilot’, that can take care of all necessary inputs for motorway driving.

In addition, the EV9 will be capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) software updates, as well as feature-on-demand (FoD) services that’ll allow customers to unlock additional functions after they’ve bought the car – such as heated seats and adaptive high-beam headlights.

Kia is also planning to launch a high-performance GT version of all its electric cars, following on from the EV6 GT’s recent arrival. A highly potent EV9 GT could take on the BMW iX M60, or even Lotus’ electric SUV, the Eletre.

More details and the first images of the production version of the EV9 are expected to appear ahead of its debut in 2023. However, the EV9 isn’t the only electric model the South Korean carmaker has in the works. It’s set to launch 14 new electric cars by 2027, at a rate of two a year.Image removed.

We’ve already seen the new Niro EV, which is now on sale in the UK. There are also plans for two zero-emissions pickup trucks and an affordable entry-level EV. Kia has a goal of 1.4 million electric car sales a year by 2030.

Kia has previously announced its plans to become an electric-only brand in Europe by 2035 and to be selling only electric and fuel-cell vehicles globally by 2040. Kia’s first hydrogen fuel-cell model will be introduced within the next decade, and is likely to use some of sister brand Hyundai's next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell technology, previewed in 2021.

Hyundai is also going to expand its Ioniq-badged electric range soon, with the addition of a Tesla Model 3-rivalling saloon called the Ioniq 6 and its own large seven-seat electric SUV. Eventually, Hyundai will have a range of 11 EVs, while its luxury spinoff brand Genesis will offer a total of six.

Kia also has plans for pure-electric commercial vehicles, referred to in its 2022 strategy presentation as PBVs (Purpose-Built Vehicles). Eventually, these will be built on a dedicated ‘skateboard’ EV platform to allow each business to tailor the size and shape of the cars to suit their needs.

Kia Concept EV9

Our best insight to date regarding the EV9’s styling is the Kia Concept EV9 (above), which made its public debut at the 2021 Los Angeles Motor Show.

It featured 22-inch alloy wheels, cameras in place of regular door mirrors and a new version of the brand’s familiar grille design, called the Digital Tiger Face. The Concept EV9 has a three-metre-plus wheelbase, too, in order to maximise cabin space.

The cabin of the Concept EV9 features three rows of seats, a panoramic glass roof, a ‘floating’ centre console and 27-inch wide central infotainment display. Vegan leather, plus recycled fishing nets and plastic bottles, were used to create the concept’s interior. 

Another feature of the concept is three unique modes for the cabin seating. The first, Active mode, is for when you’re driving. But when the car is parked and switched to Pause mode, the first and third rows turn to face each other, while the second row folds down to become a table. In Enjoy mode, all three rows of seats are reversed and the tailgate opens.

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