It is the time of year when there are lots of articles and posts about the car everyone wants for Christmas. For some it might be a Ferrari or a Porsche, for others a more practical and adventurous luxury SUV, such as a Range Rover or a sporty Lamborghini Urus. I’m more easily pleased, because my wish is for a Suzuki Jimny with five doors and more practical space for the family than the three-door version.
Visiting SA from the UK for the holidays allowed that wish to come true, because you lucky people have a five-door Jimny. It’s outlawed in the UK because of emissions regulations, but for a couple of weeks we’re in the car we would dearly like to pack in our suitcase and take back.
I’ll get more into why this Jimny is such a favourite after we jet back to chilly England, but it highlights how it doesn’t always have to be a luxury brand to tick all the right boxes. That’s also true of Kia, not an automaker we talk about that much at Wanted.
However, Kia has been moving up in the world in recent years and today sees itself as a premium competitor in some segments, even to brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. We would never have said that a few years ago. It’s especially true when it comes to electric vehicles and, internationally Kia is even showing up its German counterparts with some models.
Its EV6 is already undergoing evaluation in SA. We drove it earlier this year overseas and it’s thoroughly deserving of its many awards, including the 2022 European Car of the Year title. It looks like a sporty, coupe-like SUV and in both regular and GT guises it has the electric performance to justify calling it sporty. Its biggest appeal though is in its unique design and superb interior. The combination of these factors together with premium materials and top-notch technology that is easy to live with give it the edge over current EV rivals by some margin.
With sister company Hyundai also evaluating the Ioniq 5 for SA, the EV6 seems like a sure thing for the local market, provided Kia gets the pricing right.
Along with electricity infrastructure concerns, pricing is one of the biggest issues, thanks to exchange rates and ridiculously high import duties placed on EVs. However, Kia SA is committed to bringing electric models and the EV6 has to be first on its list.
“Kia SA is excited to embrace the future and bring new technology by launching NEVs in the country,” said Toni Herbst of Kia SA. “However, this will only happen when we can ensure our pricing is reasonable, and relative to the value proposition offered.”
“We will continue with our investigations, studies and ‘real-life’ assessments on numerous NEV (new energy vehicles) homologation units currently in the country. By doing so, we can ensure that these models will be positioned and priced in a manner that allows for them to be successfully retailed,” she said. “We would like to position ourselves for a steady rollout that meets market demand as the NEV segment builds.”
Many fans of the brand will definitely be wishing that the EV6 arrives here in 2024, but where Kia is really showing its premium aspirations is in the new EV9. We’ve just driven it in the snowy Highlands of Scotland and if you have a BMW X7 or Mercedes-Benz GLS on your wish list then you might want to see if Kia can get this one in the door. That’s because it is one of the only fully electric seven-seater models, though you can also have it with six seats, the middle row featuring two captain’s chairs that can swivel round to create a recreational space for those in the back two rows. Not that the occupants will have much room if you do, the legroom is seriously compromised. The seven-seater is actually the better option.
The EV9 has one of the biggest battery packs available, with 99.8kWh on tap which gives it a 0-100km/h time of around 5.5 seconds, impressive considering it weighs a whopping 2.8 tonnes. Dynamically it is superb in the corners, though its grip seems like wizardry considering the feeling of roll of the body on its suspension. It cruises like anything you would expect from Germany, has multiple driving modes and with up to 560km of driving range on a charge, will tackle those long-distance family trips fairly well, provided you plan your charge stops of course.
What really sets it apart though is the way it looks, with Kia’s design team saying it’s all about “Bold for Nature”. That means bold, futuristic looks, almost American if you wish you could have a Cadillac Escalade, while the interior is a mixture of modern tech and environmentally friendly materials.
If Kia SA manages to land it here then it won’t be cheap. Rear wheel drive versions in the UK start at £64,995, so after exchange rates, taxes and all the other stuff, we expect it to be well over R2m, even more if you want the all-wheel drive GT-Line S spec, and goodness knows how much the rumoured GT performance model will cost if it arrives.
It will still undercut electric seven-seater models from German rivals and possibly the Volvo EX90 which is heading to SA too. The Volvo is probably the biggest threat to Kia’s plans to bring the EV9, and whoever gets in first will be watching the other very closely to see what happens.
However it all turns out, there’s one thing for sure, 2024 will see the EV market expand significantly, regardless of the very obvious issues. If you’re wishing for more electric choices next year, then it seems likely that your wish will come true.