Hands-on with the Kia EV5 that’s missing from U.S. roads - SUV VEHICLE

Hands-on with the Kia EV5 that’s missing from U.S. roads

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The Kia EV5 is one of the most exciting EV launches in the globally hot C-segment. Featuring the usual SUV shape, unlike the softer but bigger Kia EV6, it’s an all-electric alternative to the Kia Sportage. In March 2024, I explored the Kia EV5 in detail at the 2024 Bangkok International Motor Show, and here’s what I experienced in terms of comfort, space, features, and design:

Design

Upon first glance, I found the Kia EV5 to be a small brother of the Kia EV9. There are plenty of similarities in the EV5’s shape, but I can tell from my experience it’s not literally a downsized EV9. Kia, unlike most mass-market automakers today, visually differentiates its lineup.

In addition to the wide, imposing stance, I like the bold front fascia of the EV5. At this angle, I find it more appealing than the flagship EV9. The daytime running lights on the sides form a powerful C-shape, while the main (high and low beam) lights resemble a constellation. Barring Kia’s long-in-the-tooth “Tiger Face” marketing jargon, there’s little to dislike about the front, none whatsoever visually.

Kia EV5 side profile live image
Compared to the EV6, the EV5 features a larger greenhouse with thicker rear pillars and a sizeable rear windscreen. It comes with 18- and 19-inch (pictured) wheels, but I’m not a fan of this style.

On the sides, I think the flattish but gradually sloping roofline, the muscular shoulders, the flush-fitted door handles, and the overall boxy shape give the EV5 a smart and confident look. I’m not a fan of those aero wheels, though, as their design is reminiscent of a blender’s rotating blade. I think chunky wheels similar to the Fisker Ocean’s AirGlider would’ve suited the SUV’s character better.

The Kia EV5 features an electrically opening/closing charge port door, which I think is pretty cool for a vehicle of this class. I’ve seen some luxury-class EVs twice its price settle for a regular, push-operated charge port door.

At the back, the wide, C-shaped tail lights and the clean and smooth look of the tailgate appealed to me. Thailand sources the EV5 from the Yueda-Kia joint venture company’s factory in Yancheng (Jiangsu Province), China. I checked the SUV’s body for panel gap irregularities, but there were no glaring defects or alignment issues, though this was certainly a pre-production prototype. Series production of the EV5 RHD version started only recently, as The Korea Economic Daily reported on April 10, 2024.

Interior

At 5’7, I had no problem with ingress or egress in the front. This particular EV5 was equipped with Kia’s Relaxation seat on the driver’s side and a regular power seat on the passenger side. I sat in the driver’s seat, which can fully recline, includes a thigh cushion extender, and features a massage function. It felt quite supportive even though the side bolsters aren’t adjustable.

Kia EV5 interior dashboard live image
The Kia EV5’s modern interior isn’t excessively minimalist to the point where it compromises practicality.

A massage function is unexpected in a vehicle of this class, and after a tiring day of exploring many new models, it proved useful. The massage function wasn’t just a namesake, and from my experience, I can tell that it makes a substantial difference in comfort. The seat wasn’t just vibrating; I felt even the back rollers properly engaged in action to help my sore back! 

I found the under-thigh support and lumbar support in the front of the cabin to be excellent. In my preferred driving position, I had about six inches of headroom. Thus, six-foot-tall drivers would also be comfortable in the EV5.

Kia EV5 front seat live image
The Kia EV5 features a massage function in the driver’s seat.

I liked the fact that most core functions had physical controls like knobs, switches, and buttons. These controls reflected quality. The quality of plastic and other materials was good, too. As with most other models, I noticed some use of economy-grade plastic in the lower part of the dashboard and door panels, but it was overall a high-quality interior.

The 12.3-inch infotainment system’s software also left me impressed. It featured catchy graphics and was intuitive. It had a virtual keyboard for certain functions, and it showed no lag while scrolling and selecting. The display’s refresh rate wasn’t top-notch, but it still looked pretty smooth. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the 5-inch touchscreen for the climate control system carried the same slick software. The capacitive touch buttons on the dashboard were pretty responsive, but I stand by my opinion that they could be distracting and inconvenient to operate when driving.

Ingress and egress were simple and straightforward in the rear, too. Behind the driver’s seat, I had good under-thigh support and lumbar support. The angle of the backrest was comfortable for me, and I saw that a recline function was available to make it even better. I had about six inches of headroom in the fully reclined position and approximately five inches of headroom in the default angle. There was a USB Type-C port right in front of me, in the backrest of the driver’s seat, and I think it’d allow me to charge my phone conveniently.

On the other side of the bench, the USB Type-C port was on the inner side of the passenger seat’s backrest. Moreover, unlike the person sitting behind the driver’s seat, the person sitting in the other outboard position can take zoom calls or snack on the go. That’s because Kia includes a foldable table (with an integrated tablet slot) on the back of the front passenger seat. The sturdy top can withstand the weight of a laptop. There was also a slide-out storage box in the center console to store things like snacks or portable gaming devices.

Kia EV5 rear seat live image
The Kia EV5’s rear seat backrests can also recline. The front seat backs have tray tables.

The floor in the back was completely flat. Thus, I noticed that the center position of the rear seat was wide and more comfortable than in most gas-powered compact SUVs.

Specifications

The Kia EV5 is based on a front-biased version of the Electronic Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which will also be used on the forthcoming EV3 and EV4 models. Depending on the market, it is available with either an LFP battery pack or an NMC battery pack. There are two LFP versions: 64.2 kWh and 88.1 kWh. Similarly, the NMC is also available in two different capacities: 58 kWh and 81 kWh.

LFP

The EV5 equipped with the 64.2 kWh LFP battery pack has only one motor, which produces 160 kW (214 hp) and 310 Nm (229 lb.-ft.) of torque. It delivers an NEDC range of 490 km (304 miles). The EV5 equipped with the 88.1 kWh LFP battery pack is available with the same motor as well as a combination of front and rear motor that results in 230 kW (308 hp) and 480 Nm (354 lb.-ft.) of torque and gives the EV AWD capability. It delivers an NEDC range of 665 km (413 miles) in the single-motor FWD configuration and 620 km (385 miles) in the dual-motor AWD configuration.

NMC

The EV5 fitted with the 58 kWh NMC battery pack is under development but Kia has confirmed it will employ a 160 kW (214 hp) motor that sends drive to the front wheels. The EV5 fitted with the 81 kWh NMC battery pack, also under development, will be available in a FWD configuration with that same motor as well as an AWD configuration that adds a 70 kW (94 hp) rear motor for 225 kW (302 hp) of total power. Kia hasn’t shared the range targets for these three configurations of the EV5 with an NMC battery pack.

Kia EV5 cargo area live image
The Kia EV5 features a cavernous cargo area, but it settles for a tire repair kit instead of a spare tire.

Release Date

The Kia EV5 is on sale in China, where its prices start at just CNY 149,800 (USD 20,701). With right-hand drive production now underway at the Chinese plant, it should start reaching customers in Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand in the coming months. Kia has confirmed it will launch the EV5 in Europe and North America as well, but according to a report Autoblog published on October 12, 2023, the model’s North American retail presence, unfortunately, won’t include the United States.

Also See: 2025 Kia Carnival Hybrid for the U.S.: First Look Review

TopElectricSUV says

The Kia EV5 is a brilliantly designed EV with a pool of premium features that make it the new benchmark in the compact SUV segment. It offers adequate performance and range, and it’s quite attractively priced. It’s a shame this model won’t be making it to the U.S., which holds the potential for such electric SUVs.

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