The Kia EV9 Electric SUV Is Actually The Next Big Thing For Kia Design

The Kia EV9 Electric SUV Is Actually The Next Big Thing For Kia Design

As it expands its electric offerings, Kia has made a purposeful decision: It will enhance design and the role of designers.

“This is really an organization that really understands the importance of design,” said Karim Habib, the carmaker’s global head of design, as we sat across a balcony in Seoul, looking out at the brand’s latest battery-powered vehicle, the EV9. Were staying “Where design thinking and design are becoming a real strategy, defining not only what things look like, but what products you make.”

Newfound prominence appears in this offering. SUVs certainly dominate the global automotive landscape, but when the EV9 goes on sale later this year, Kia could be one of the first to market a fully electric SUV with a truly usable third row. Will be And the brand has made the most of the opportunity, rolling out a design that isn’t quite as outrageous as the concept shown in 2021 (it lacks rear-hinged back doors and cameras-for-side-mirrors). Quite surprisingly derived from its show-car version. In fact, its sharply flared and box-flared fenders, sleek grille-less Cyborg front end, and ski jump rear pillar treatment give it more of a family resemblance to Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 than Kia’s own EV6.

We are not complaining. The EV9 is a stunner, the kind of bold bossy presence usually reserved for vehicles that cost two or three times as much, including icons like the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen or the Range Rover. It’s positively sculpted, like the brand’s popular Telluride three-row SUV, already a handsome truck, went for cool-sculpting, and then worked with Tom Cruise’s trainer. It’s audacious without being threatening like a GMC Hummer SUV or (gasp) heinous Cybertruck, a compelling result of Kia’s iterative process that aims not to shock but to improve.

“I work with engineers and product people every day, and they are always trying to make better products. Taking pride in the products that they make,” Habib said. “And I think that legacy really It’s good because it inspires us to try bolder things.”

This pluck continues inside, where quality materials like leather, knotted and perforated metal, largely recycled fabrics, and even an odd jade-like faux stone trim dominate. The latter is a new backdrop for the company’s haptic touch-sensitive buttons, a real upgrade from the current “piano black” otherwise known as “glossy black plastic.” Thoughtful touches, cubbies, and compartments abound, and we can only hope that regulation will allow us to get second-row captain’s swivel chairs that allow easy access to load in the kids (and their spacious seats) are, and swing perfectly to make. Booth-like rear compartment.

Interior space is rather spacious, especially compared to ICE-powered vehicles with a similar exterior size, a result of Kia’s strategy of making exclusive bases for their EVs, rather than placing them in gas-powered vehicles such as upcoming electrified versions of the range. to convert. Rover and G-Wagon.

“We as a group and as a company, we decided to move to dedicated platforms for EVs because it gives you a chance to play with space in a completely different way. So even though its dimensions are a medium size SUV, interior space is like that of a large, full-size truck,” said Artur Martins, Kia’s global chief brand officer. “You can use the flat floor. You can have a smaller engine compartment because there’s no engine. You can play with the front and rear overhangs and the proportions so it’s shorter. And that longer wheelbase gives us that Whereas if we decide to grab Telluride, take the engines away, and electrify Telluride, we’ll be much more limited in what we can do with the space.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but experts expect the EV9 to start in the mid- to high-$50,000 range. This is not exactly a luxury area. But the brand’s early and strongly designed entries in the electric vehicle sector have also given it an opportunity to take advantage of the current EV paradigm, where many new marques are stylistic experiments and a combination of value, performance and features. As a result of the increasing availability of powerful battery power.

“I think there’s a very psychological principle behind it,” Martins said. “That is, before Tesla, it was hammering into the heads of consumers that you have to produce cars for more than a decade or two to be able to have a good quality product. Tesla has broken that into the minds of consumers nowadays. You can have two years to make a car and you are already a premium brand.”

All of this, combined with a growing brand agnosticism, has fueled Kia’s growth — especially as mainstream customers step into their first electric vehicle.

“Kia (now) comes top of mind and adds to the thought set, where in the past, we wouldn’t be on that list,” Martins said. “So that is where the opportunity lies for us. And, products like the EV6 and EV9 are really helping us reshape the brand for the future.

Habib echoes this sentiment from a design perspective.

“The shift to EVs has allowed us to think of ourselves differently. Because there is no inferiority complex of not having a big 12 cylinder, and it equates to luxury. It doesn’t anymore,” he said. “It allows us to look at things in a very different way, a more confident way, a more capable way of trying to stay on the leading edge of EV.”

If this is Kia just getting started in this area – and it has plans for many more electric vehicles in the near future – we’re thrilled to see what it tries next.

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