I drove a Kia EV9 for a week — here's my pros and cons

Kia EV9 parked at the beach with profile view.
(Image credit: Future)

I got to see a handful of cool EVs at the New York Auto Show 2024 a couple months back, like the weird looking Volkswagen ID.Buzz and the one vehicle I’d probably buy over all other EVs. However, there was also the Kia EV9, which took me by surprise with its futuristic body design, 3-row seating, and slick looking interior complete with captain’s chairs. Needless to say, my infatuation was only superficial at that point.

Now that I got the chance to properly test drive one for a week — specifically the Kia EV9 GT-Line AWD trim — I can better tell you what’s really impressive about this mid-size SUV. Seriously, it’s unlike any other SUV I’ve driven or seen before, made much better by all the tech it’s packing to make my driving safer and more relaxing.

Even though I've only begun to scratch the surface as I continue to explore this category, the Kia EV9 has quickly become one of my favorite EVs. Is it in the conversation to be one of the best electric cars? That's plausible. Here are my pros and cons.

Kia EV9: Pros

Concept design becomes reality

Front of Kia EV9 showing off hood and lights.

(Image credit: Future)

When I first drove the Kia EV9 through the busy streets near Times Square in New York City, I can’t tell you the amount of times people glanced my way. I’ll admit that having an eye-catching glossy paint job helps to draw attention, but this goes deeper because it’s strange when a concept design becomes reality.

Yet, that’s exactly what makes the Kia EV9 special on the road. With its angular cuts, flashy looking LED projector lights, and stylish rims, it screams concept everywhere you look — something that rarely translates to a production model. There’s definitely no better looking all-electric SUV on the market right now than the EV9. Just be prepared for a lot of wide-eyed stares and envious glances.

Auto lane change assist

Kia EV9 Lane Change Assist gif animation.

(Image credit: Future)

Driving new cars has taught me the immense change in technology over my 15-plus year old sedan. I was already wowed by how cars could drive on their own with adaptive cruise control, which I tried out heavily when I test drove the Hyundai Ioniq 6, but the Kia EV9 introduced me to the next coolest thing — automatic lane changing.

While using the EV9’s adaptive cruise control to assist me with the steering, acceleration, and braking on the highway, my jaw dropped when I first tried out the auto lane change assist. That’s because the EV9 essentially changed lanes on its own, without me guiding or steering the wheel.

It’s so simple that it sort of makes driving feel like I’m playing a video game on easy mode. All that’s needed is to use the corresponding turn signals, and the EV9 uses its various cameras and sensors to steer it into the adjacent lane.

Customizable LED headlight patterns

Gif animation of Kia EV9 LED pattern lights.

(Image credit: Future)

The headlights on their own match the EV9’s futuristic design, but it’s amplified more with the ability to customize the pattern and animation of the nearby accent lights. There are the speckled patterns very close to the headlights, but they’re indistinct to the eye during the day, only becoming noticeable at night.

Through the system settings, I can select the pattern and animation that best fits my style, which only makes the EV9 look just as good in the evening as it does during the day. Small details such as these go a long way to make the EV9 unique on the road.

Super sharp HUD

Closeup look at the head up display on Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

In catapulting it to the level of a luxury car, I really love how the EV9 features a heads up display that is embedded into the windshield. This is the kind of feature that’s usually reserved for luxury vehicles, like the Lexus TX550H+ PHEV which I also test drove for a week

The HUD essentially gives me a glanceable area to see useful driving details like my speed and navigational directions, along with the album covers of the songs I play. Even more impressive is that I find the display much sharper and more detailed looking than the one in the Lexus. And when it comes to driving safely, the EV9 allows me to keep my eyes on the road, rather than glancing back and forth to the dashboard.

A driver’s seat that stretches you out

Front and passenger seating area of the Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

As if a footrest wasn’t enough, the EV9 adds in one other feature I’ve yet to experience in any other vehicle to date — it stretches your lower back on long rides. While it’s no shiatsu massage, this ERGO motion feature gives my lower back relief by stretching me out. The seat around my lower back would begin to adjust in such a way that it literally feels like I’m getting a stretch workout while driving.

Interior ambient lighting

Accent lights turned on at night with the Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

Here's yet another thing that makes the EV9 stylish: the accent lights on the inside make it feel like I’m in a sci-fi flick because they’re so piercing and littered everywhere throughout the car. You could say it’s overkill, but I love it — mainly because I can select a dual color tone rather than just rely on a single one.

Kia EV9: cons

Digital rearview mirror can be tough to use

Closeup of the digital rearview mirror on the Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

I’ve previously explained the advantages of a digital rearview mirror with the Lexus TX550H+, but I realize more that it can be a bit getting acquainted with it. Sure, I do like how it’s handy at night because I’m not blinded by the person behind me who left their high beams on, but my eyes take much longer to readjust.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and my eyesight isn’t as good? However, I think the issue mainly stems from how my focus goes from looking out in the distance in front of me to the digital mirror. The focus in my eyes is usually tuned to whatever is in the far distance, but since the digital rearview mirror technically has a focal point that’s much closer, my eyes simply have trouble trying to bridge that gap. It really takes my eyes a few seconds to focus on it.

It’s really pricey

Closeup of steering wheel on Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

While the $74,000 starting cost of the GT-Line AWD is way over my budget, even the $55,000 price of the base model can still be a stretch for some people. There are more expensive EVs out there, but consumers need more incentive to be motivated to buy an EV. 

Obviously, there are valid reasons why the Kia EV9 costs so much. However, its range is much less than the comparable Tesla Model X that gets an estimated 335 mile range — versus the EV9’s shorter 270 miles.

Kia EV9: bottom line

Kia EV9.

(Image credit: Future)

I haven't had this much fun driving an EV since the time I test drove the Ford F150 Lightning for a weekend. These EVs prove how they can match their gas-powered counterparts in the utility department, but the Kia EV9 takes it to a new level with its futuristic looks and advanced safety features.

There aren't as many 3-row SUVs out there, especially EV ones, which make the EV9 more special for those who need the extra room. There's also the amount of conveniences on board that makes the driving experience so satisfying. However, all of this comes at a steep cost. If it fits your budget, it's definitely worth considering.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.