LIKE MANY MEN of a certain age, I possess a carefully cultivated self-image. Tucked away in the skull-sized – though, in terms of the neurotic pathways available – Tardis-like kingdom of my mind, this image bears little resemblance to the person I actually am. There, I possess a mane of thick, coal-black hair, a jawline that could double as a draughtman’s ruler and a rig that swells and undulates in just the right places.

Unfortunately, to the outside world, I’m something altogether less impressive: a suburban dad. What does that look like? Well, in my case, it’s thinning grey hair, a lived-in body and alarming dark circles that have started appearing under my eyes each morning, giving me cause to wonder what I could possibly have done the night before. It also means, at least to car manufacturers and society at large, that I should drive an SUV. 

And therein lies the problem: I’ve never seen myself as an SUV-driving suburban dad. It’s never squared with the idealised version of who I am in my head. Call it cognitive dissonance, but I’ve never been enthusiastic about joining the road-hogging ranks of dads at school pick-up, couldn’t care less about a car’s utility, never mind its safety features, or that its cavernous boot space allows you to comfortably house an expensive Scandinavian stroller alongside your weekly groceries. The SUV, to me, was a symbol of daggy mid-life malaise and fuel-guzzling excess. 

Which is why, as I behold the Ocean Matte blue body of the Kia EV9 that’s waiting for me outside my hotel on an overcast Melbourne morning, I’m struggling to contain a metaphorical eyebrow raise. Firstly, I’m encouraged by what I perceive as a similar dualism in the vehicle’s own aesthetic identity. On one hand, its gleaming bonnet, stylish grille and luminous paint job could see it turn heads on fashionable corners of the inner city. On the other, its boxy, rugged exterior would see it equally at home eating up narrow, rock-lined lanes in the Yorkshire Dales. 

Stepping into the vehicle, I perform my standard pre-driving routine – I adjust my seat and then glance in the EV9’s digital centre mirror, ostensibly to see if I have a clear view out the back window, but also to scrutinise my hairline. In this case, the mirror confirms what I already know to be true: my hair is no longer black and the circles under my eyes continue to be soul-deadening. Before wholesale neurotic introspective implosion can take root, however, I’m distracted by the astonishing array of features at my fingertips, allowing me to customise the cockpit to my liking. 

Let’s start with the premium relaxation seats, which feature a massage function I can already see would be perfect for school-pick-up bliss-outs (love those) or during charging sessions. Alternatively, you could chuck some Eminem (‘Lose Yourself’, perhaps) on the 14-speaker Meridian Sound System to summon the requisite dad-chasing-former-athletic-glory focus you need before your weekly Pickleball hit-out. 

This sublime level of comfort and control does make you a little reluctant to actually drive the car. First, you’ve got to confirm that it’s on – the electric motor’s stealth makes it difficult to tell, yet, sure enough, when I press on the accelerator, the car proceeds to roll silently out of the hotel car park. I’m heading to Brighton, via Albert Park, and though I don’t know it yet, to something of an existential awakening. 

The EV9’s digital side cameras help negate blind spots.

Out on the road, I’m greeted by the EV9’s augmented reality (as opposed to the distorted reality I’m wrestling with internally) head-up display, which projects key information in slightly Terminator-like fashion on your windscreen, such as speed, navigation guidance and lane-safety information. I momentarily shudder at the thought that Judgment Day is drawing ever closer, but I can’t deny the feature is handy. 

As we hit Albert Park, I’m conscious of how responsive the pedal is and am continually surprised by the grunt the EV9 can muster without even the hint of a growl. More than once I find I need to rein it in, as a helpful beep indicates we’ve hit the speed limit. 

As you’ve probably worked out by now, I never saw a mirror I didn’t like, and am immediately beguiled by the EV9’s digital side mirrors. Just one thing: they’re not really mirrors but cameras. Now, cameras, unlike mirrors, never lie, and with their all-seeing eyes can be devastating to fragile male egos, shattering illusions of youth and vitality, no matter how desperately you cling to them in your mind’s eye. In the interests of road safety, however, an objective lens is a good thing and the EV9’s cameras help reduce blind spots (alas, not psychological ones). 

As I take a right turn off the Nepean Highway to head towards Brighton, I pass a petrol station, which offers a visual cue for me to consider the car’s charging specs. The EV9’s multi-charging system operates with both 400V and 800V chargers, without the need for an additional adapter, allowing you to charge at more locations. 

What about mileage? With 76.1 kWh and 99.8 kWh batteries available, you can get up to 500-plus kilometres on a full charge, the kind of Nedd Brockmann-like stamina that eases anxiety about being caught in the middle of nowhere without a plug in sight. 

As I pull up to my destination in Brighton, I realise that for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling at peace with the world – and my place in it. Somehow, a short drive through Melbourne has proven remarkably transformative, assuaging, for a moment at least, identity-driven angst and midlife navel-gazing in ways that half marathons, hair dyes, fitness trackers and idle ideas about taking up amateur boxing or MMA have hitherto failed to achieve. 

It may be a seven-seat SUV, but not only is the EV9 one that leaves a quieter, less destructive dent on this earth, it’s also one entirely devoid of dagginess. Instead, it manages to conjoin things I’d previously thought incompatible: utility and panache, flair and competence, environmental imperatives and élan, and the big ones, freedom and responsibility. As I take one last look in that digital centre mirror, I feel hopeful I can do the same. 

For more information on the Kia EV9, go to

Kia’s seven-seat all-electric SUV.


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