Comparison Test: 2024 Kia EV9 vs 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV

Jeff Wilson
by Jeff Wilson

Words By: Jeff Wilson and Jerry Vo

This comparison pits sci-fi against sexy.

Before you grab your torches and pitchforks about the mis-matched nature of this comparison test, hear us out. Yes, the Kia EV9 is a fully-electric machine while the CX-90 is a plug-in hybrid. Yes, there’s a twenty-grand gap in price between these two, as-equipped. And yes, they feel very different behind the wheel. But for folks wanting a 3-row crossover that can cover commuting duties with electrons instead of dinosaur juice, these are currently the only two viable mainstream options. So, how do they stack up against one another? Let’s find out.

Quick Take

Late last year Mazda’s CX-90 started arriving in dealerships to largely positive response, although much of that praise was directed at the turbocharged inline-6 variant. Still, Road Test Editor, Kyle Patrick found the PHEV’s drivetrain reasonably well-sorted, if somewhat pricey, and amongst the other larger-scale, mainstream crossovers, it’s the only 3-row offering with plug-in capability.

A few months after the CX-90’s arrival, Kia’s EV9 started gracing showrooms and scooping up darn-near universal praise on a global scale. As the first mainstream, 3-row EV, the big Kia made a cannonball-sized splash into the pool for its comprehensively impressive drive experience and practical interior.

What’s New for 2024:

Both models are brand new, so everything is new for 2024.

Exterior Style:

Jeff: Between the two, there’s no disputing the EV9 makes the bigger visual impact. Its Ocean Blue paint is utterly radiant in the sunshine and accentuates the curves and angles of the sheet metal well. It’s a big, 2-box container on funky wheels, and while the matrix of LEDs for headlights that spread into the blue frontal fascia are a unique touch, the whole look is a little over-the-top sci-fi.

Meanwhile, like pretty much everything thing Mazda’s designers have touched in the past decade, the CX-90 manages to be classy, elegant and sporty, leading me to believe it’ll still look fresh long after Kia has moved on to chase the next automotive fashion direction. Nothing is overdone, and any of the small design flourishes, like the fender badges, splashes of chrome, or even the front grille, are done with restraint.

Jerry: I’m a fan of both designs, but each one brings something different to the table. As Jeff said, the EV9 is louder and prouder, with a multitude of design elements that come together to work well without getting gaudy. On the flipside, the CX-90 is more muted opulence, with its long hood (needed for the optional, longitudinally-mounted turbo inline-six) and faster rear hatch profile make a statement in a more traditional way. The Mazda isn’t exactly bland, but it’s also not going to immediately stand out in the grocery store parking lot.

The Mazda keeps traditional ICE bodylines, while the EV9 leans into the box theme.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy:

Jerry: The Mazda CX-90’s plug-in hybrid setup uses a 2.5 L inline-four cylinder engine that puts out a modest 189 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission. When paired with the 68-kilowatt (kW) electric motor and 17.8 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery, total system output jumps to 323 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Mazda says that a full charge is good for 26 miles (42 km) of driving, though I found that a mix of stop-and-go driving can eke out more than 30 miles (50 km) with the use of regenerative braking, even with the air conditioner running. Natural Resources Canada rates gas The gas fuel economy is rated at 25 MPG (9.4 L/100km) with 93 octane premium recommended), and 56 MPGe (4.2 Le/100km) when factoring in the electric portion.

With the EV9, in the real world, having at-home Level 2 charging (at up to 10.9 kW) is a must in order to keep energy costs down. Relying only on Level 3 DC fast charging negates much of the potential cost savings of an EV. The all-wheel drive, dual-motor Kia EV9 GT-Line utilizes a much larger 99.8 kWh battery that’s good for 379 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque, and 270 miles (435 km) of range. In urban driving with plenty of regenerative braking, I feel that 300 miles (500 km) may be attainable with an attentive right foot. As a bonus, with this level of oomph, Kia states that the 0 to 60 mph sprint happens in only 5.0 seconds.

Jeff: Look, if a buyer’s lifestyle doesn’t allow for an EV, it doesn’t matter how good the EV9 drives, it’s a non-starter for those folks. But with a genuinely usable range, fast-charging capabilities and the strong, smooth way the Kia accelerates and cruises it feels like a properly premium machine.

Generally, I’m a fan of PHEVs, recognizing they can bridge the best of both ICE and EV realms, but the CX-90 PHEV strikes as too much a compromise on both fronts. Its modest EV range wasn’t enough for my typical daily commute, and Mazda’s decision to nestle the electrified portion between the engine and transmission means that even in EV mode, it’s still not terribly smooth. Add to that a particularly gruff-sounding (and feeling) four-banger, and driving the Mazda begins to feel a class below the Kia.

The Mazda rides firmer thanks to the company's fun to drive ethos.

Handling and Drivability:

Jeff: Despite a combined earth-trembling mass of more than 11,000 lbs, this pair manages properly decent road manners. Chasing Jerry around some twisting country roads, I was surprised at how well the bus-shaped EV9 put its power down, controlled its body roll, and generally managed to stay with the Mazda. This, despite the Kia wearing EV-oriented SUV tires meant to wear less quickly than typical tires.

Still, while both machines carry their battery bulk low in their bellies, their respective size and mass is ever-present when pushed from corner to corner. Folks buying either of these SUVs are unlikely to have a planned use-case that includes autocross events or canyon road strafing, so they manage just fine for what they should do.

The CX-90’s brakes were more difficult to modulate, requiring a long push through nothingness before grabbing suddenly, making smooth operation more challenging than in the Kia.

Jerry: The size and bulk of these two machines are well-hidden when it comes to handling. While the Kia looks massive, the Mazda is actually the bigger car thanks to its few extra inches in length. Both require some care and attention when trying to maneuver in tight spaces, but the CX-90 PHEV Premium Plus and EV9 GT-Line offer 360-degree surround view cameras that help.

The EV9 has insane matrix LED headlights.

Ride Quality and Comfort:

Jerry: Due to Mazda’s typical focus on driving dynamics, the Mazda CX-90 rides a bit on the firmer side. At slower speeds, on pockmarked urban roads, occupants might wish for a little more compliance, but this mostly clears up when on the highway. The EV9 also has a some trouble with body control in city driving, but at higher speeds, it’s absolutely smooth and sublime at 80-plus miles per hour. This isn’t a unique problem, however; most automakers haven’t been able to fully dial-in suspension tuning that’s required with the extra mass that comes from electric battery packs.

Jeff: Beyond the EV9’s better ride, its seats envelop its occupants with a supportive hug, plus the driver’s seat offers up a massage feature, and the head rests feel like comfy mesh hammocks for your noggin. With the Mazda, the CX-90’s front seats could use some more thigh support for anybody who’s average height or taller.

The EV9’s third row occupants will also appreciate the greater head room and the way the window sweeps up instead of down like the CX-90, meaning outward visibility is improved.

The CX-90's infotainment thankfully has touch integration.

Interior Style and Quality:

Jeff: Mazda has done a great job of giving the CX-90 a variety of interior material choices and looks, and in some of the other ones we’ve driven, we’ve appreciated the great use of texture and colour that’s lacking in this one. Still, the leather feels premium and the look is tasteful throughout.

The Kia’s two-tone black-and-white treatment is a bold one, and its dashboard is largely dominated by the massive span of glass screens that’s oh-so-trendy amongst the luxury brands. Embracing more contemporary design, there are few physical buttons, and a barely-visible series of touch points embedded into the dashboard. Those haptic controls notwithstanding, it all works pretty well and feels decent. The faux-leather seat material is impressively posh for a synthetic.

Jerry: Despite the futuristic look, getting into the EV9 was surprisingly conventional for me. Many electric cars nowadays try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to control layouts (hello, Tesla). While the Kia does try to make it look that way, other than the column-mounted shifter, it’s actually not too much different than the rest of their lineup.

With its premium touches, the CX-90 is even more of a conventional design and layout than the EV9. It’s not any different versus the gas-only CX-90, and will offer buyers only what they’re used to. The front seats are more claustrophobic compared to the open-concept EV9, which could potentially be construed as more driver-centric.

The EV9 delivers a modern Kia experience.

Tech and Safety:

Jerry: Both the Mazda and Kia have the full assortment of advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS), which include forward collision automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, and rear-cross traffic alert systems. Between the two, Kia’s Highway Driving Assist 2 (HDA2) setup goes above and beyond with automatic lane changes, and it also uses GPS navigation data to better understand the road ahead. On the highway, the HDA2 system is noticeably smoother and more confident than the Mazda’s.

Jeff: If Mazda had a nickel for every time the automotive media complained about the infotainment controls that necessitate the use of the rotary knob, they’d probably have enough capital to implement touch controls throughout their cars. Ordering the top trim CX-90 gets a 12.3-inch screen with proper touch screen functionality for Car Play and Android Auto, at least. The EV9’s system works intuitively, by comparison, and is more or less the same as most any other modern Kia.

The EV9 is far more attention grabbing, if that's what you're after.

Value Dollars and Sense:

Jeff: While the all-electric Kia could save a buyer several thousand dollars in fuel costs over a typical 4-5-year ownership period versus a comparable gas-powered, three-row SUV, it costs considerably more to begin with. Our top-of-the-line EV9 GT-Line AWD fetches $78,090, after destination fees, optioned as our Canadian-spec tester was. In Canada, our EV9 rings in just over $81,000 with fees included, putting it in a much more competitive spot. Ditching the GT-Line spec and settling for a still well-equipped EV9 Land AWD nets an identical mechanical spec, but with fewer frivolities inside and out, but costing a whopping 14-grand less in Canada. At $64,995, this spec is a steal in the Canadian market, undercutting a similar US trim at just over $71,000.

By comparison, our Canadian top-spec CX-90 PHEV GT starts just over $66,000 in the Great White North, but only $56,450, Stateside. This makes it a more compelling case in the US, but notably tougher to justify in Canada.

Jerry: While the top-shelf Kia EV9 GT-Line has a five-figure price delta over the Mazda CX-90 GT in Canada, the Kia punches well above its weight and performs shockingly close to a luxury car as opposed to a mainstream one. Getting a midrange EV9 trim level makes it an even better bang for the buck.

The Mazda, on the other hand, is a decent value, and even though it practically wins by default in the midsize three-row PHEV space, it brings its own traditional premium feel in a package that’ll work for most families who aren’t quite ready for a full electric vehicle.

The CX-90 will always be able to run on gasoline even when its charge runs out.

Final Thoughts:

As more buyers move toward electrified models, whether hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or full EVs, the lines that previously delineated the gas models from their electrified counterparts are blurring. These two models are proof of it, giving buyers the opportunity add some truly excellent alternatives to the more commonplace ICE and HEV offerings currently available.

Deciding factors for buyers are likely to stem from the ability to charge at home, and in the case of the EV9, whether their perceived limitations on range will be too tough for them to overcome to consider an EV.

The CX-90 PHEV may represent a decent middle-ground for some, but its plug-in drivetrain offers neither the range, nor the refinement to make it a slam-dunk compared to some of the hybrid options like the Grand Highlander that offer similar efficiency. But for those whose lifestyle and budgets allow the EV9, its comfortable and practical interior and true luxury-level driving refinement makes a very convincing case to switch from a gas-powered three-row SUV to this fully electrified option.

2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

2024 Mazda CX-90 GT PHEV







Handling and Drivability



Passenger Comfort



Ride Quality



Exterior Style



Interior Style and Quality






Cargo Capacity and Towing









Emotional Appeal






2024 Kia EV9 GT-Line

2024 Mazda CX-90 GT PHEV


Dual Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors (PMSM)

2.5 L inline-four cylinder

Permanent magnet-type synchronous electric motor


379 hp / 516 lb-ft total system output

Total system output:

323 hp @ 6,000 rpm

369 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Gas only:

189 hp @ 6,000 rpm

192 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm


All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Direct Drive

8-speed automatic

Fuel Economy:

2.7 Le/100km city

3.3 Le/100km highway

2.9 Le/100km combined

80 mpge combined

4.2 Le/100km

Gas only:

9.9 L/100km city

8.7 L/100km highway

9.4 L/100km combined

Battery and Range:

99.8 kWh battery

435 km range

17.8 kWh battery

42 km range (electric-only)

Starting Price USA:



Starting Price Canada:



As Tested Price USA:



As Tested Price Canada:



Jeff Wilson
Jeff Wilson

If there’s anything better than a good road trip through the desert, Jeff probably hasn’t heard of it. He’s got a propensity for buying less-than-perfect sports cars like a well-worn Boxster, an M Roadster and an MR2, but has applied a lifetime of passion to more than a dozen years of automotive and motorcycle reviews. He’s even collected several awards in the process including recognition for Best Automotive Review and Best Published Photography from the Automobile Journalists of Canada in 2023.

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