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Rivian R2 vs. Kia EV9: battle of affordable electric SUVs

Kia EV9 GT-Line Three Quarters
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

The long-awaited Rivian R2 has finally been announced, and it’s an excellent option for those who want an electric SUV that doesn’t completely break the bank. Sure, the R2 isn’t cheap — but it’s a whole lot cheaper than most other EVs out there, especially when it comes to SUVs. But Rivian isn’t the only company trying to tackle the problem of the budget electric SUV. The Kia EV9 is finally available, and it too offers a modern design and a range of helpful features.

Given the fact that the Rivian R2 and Kia EV9 are two electric SUVs in a similar price range, you might be wondering which is better for your needs. That’s why we put the Rivian R2 and the Kia EV9 head-to-head.

Design

Both the Rivian R2 and the Kia EV9 are actual SUVs — not crossovers pretending to be SUVs, like plenty of other EVs out there. The two vehicles offer big, boxy designs and plenty of interior space, making them excellent options for families or those who need that extra storage.

Rivian R2
Rivian

But that’s not to say they look the same. The Rivian R2 continues Rivian’s much-loved design aesthetic, with the oval headlights at the front and the long light bar at the back. The R2 is actually pretty minimalistic apart from that though — it’s sleek and stylish, and those who don’t like too much going on in the design of their cars will appreciate the overall approach.

The EV9’s design is a little busier, but it’s still a great-looking vehicle. The EV9 has Kia’s “digital tiger nose” design at the front, with headlights that angle down the two sides in a “Z” shape, and taillights that that branch down the back of the car. The EV9 is arguably a little more traditional in design than the R2, however it still looks relatively modern and stylish.

The cars are slightly different in size too. The Rivian R2 is 185.6 inches long, 66.9 inches tall, and 75 inches wide — while the EV9 steps that up to 197.2 inches long, 77.9 inches tall, and 77.9 inches wide. That extra space will make a difference in the interior — so if you really want room, the EV9 might be a better option.

Interior and tech

Speaking of the interior, Kia and Rivian take a slightly different approach here as well. While Rivian’s R1S is a three-row SUV, the R2 settles for only two rows, and there’s no option for a third row. That’s unlike the Kia EV9, which does have three rows of seating, configured to either six or seven seats, depending on the model you get.

Interior of the Rivian R2
Rivian

While the extra seats could put the EV9 above the R2 for your needs, there are other considerations to make when it comes to the interior. Notably, the first-row and second-row seats in the Rivian R2 can fold down, and Rivian notes there’s enough space to fit an air mattress for camping. The R2 in general has a slightly more rugged feel to its interior — at least based on images. The EV9 is a little more traditional in interior design, offering some physical controls for things like climate, alongside the dual display at the front for infotainment and instrument monitoring.

The Rivian R2 is a little more tech-focused than the EV9, though. The R2 comes with Rivian’s self-developed infotainment system, which is actually pretty well-designed and easy to navigate. Unfortunately, the R2 doesn’t support things like CarPlay and Android Auto — however Rivian says it will support hands-free and eyes-free driving on the highway, thanks to the slew of cameras and radars dotted around the exterior. The Kia EV9’s infotainment system is Kia’s own, and it’s not quite as well designed, but the car does support CarPlay and Android Auto through a wireless connection, which is nice. The EV9 offers Kia’s Level 3 autonomous driving, which allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel in some scenarios, but drivers will still need to keep an eye on what’s happening. Both cars offer other driver-assist technologies, like parking assistants, lane-centering, and blind spot monitoring.

Performance

There’s a lot we don’t know about the performance of the Rivian R2. We do know that it’ll come in single-, dual-, and tri-motor variants — and that the fastest model will be able to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in under 3 seconds. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of performance the other models offer.

Kia EV9 GT-Line Rear Three Quarters
Christian de Looper / Digital Trends

The EV9, on the other hand, is currently available — so we know everything there is to know about its performance, at least when it comes to the 2024 model. It’s possible that the 2026 model will be different — but we’re not expecting it to be. The slowest EV9 isn’t the base model — it’s the base powertrain, but with the larger battery, which makes the vehicle heavier. It’s called the EV9 Light Long Range RWD, and it offers 201 horsepower and the ability to accelerate to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, which isn’t all that quick. The fastest EV9 is the EV9 GT-Line AWD, which can get to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds using 379 hp. All that’s to say that the fastest Rivian R2 will be much faster than the fastest EV9 — and it’s entirely possible that even the slowest R2 will outperform the fastest EV9. Will have to wait and see.

Range and charging

We also don’t know everything about the range of the Rivian R2, but Rivian has said that there will be models with over 300 miles of range. We’re expecting this to be one of the slower models with a single motor and larger battery pack. Rivian has also said that there will be two battery options. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know exactly what kind of a range other R2 models will offer. Rivian says the R2 will charge from 10% to 80% in around 30 minutes, and we’re expecting it to have a similar charging speed to the R1S, at around 220 kilowatts.

Two Electrify America Charging Stations.
Electrify America

We do know all about the Kia EV9 range and charging speed. The lowest-range EV9 is the EV9 Light RWD, and it sits in at 230 miles of range. The highest-range model has the same low-performance powertrain, but with the Long Range battery — and it steps up the range to 304 miles. The other models are in between those two. Thankfully, the EV9 does charge pretty quickly — it supports DC fast charging at up to an impressive 350kW, allowing drivers to charging from 10% to 80% in only around 24 minutes, which isn’t bad at all.

Price and availability

If you’re in the market for a new car right now, you really only have one option — the Kia EV9. The Rivian R2 has been announced, but it’s not available yet. Rivian says it’ll start shipping in the first half of 2026, and in the meantime, while you can’t pre-order the R2, you can “reserve” one by paying a refundable $100 deposit to keep your place in line. Rivian says the R2 will start at $45,000, but that could change between now and the first half of 2026.

The Kia EV9 is now available for purchase. It starts at a higher price than the R2 is expected to cost, though. The cheapest EV9 costs $54,900, which is almost $10,000 more than the supposed starting price of the R2. Currently, the EV9 does not qualify for the federal EV tax credit, however, that will hopefully change soon as Kia brings manufacturing of the vehicle to North America. Rivian says the R2 will qualify when it’s released.

Conclusions

Both the Rivian R2 and EV9 are compelling options for those who want a high-end electric SUV. For now, the EV9 is the only option though — and even when the R2 does roll out, those who want a third row of seats or support for CarPlay will likely want to go for the EV9. However, those who like the Rivian design sensibility, want an SUV-size vehicle, and don’t mind waiting, will want to go for the Rivian R2.

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Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
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