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The EV5 is Kia's 'Toyota RAV4' moment - the 2024 Kia EV5 electric car will be the best-selling SUV in five years | Opinion

The Kia EV5 is a fully electric mid-sized SUV that could become an Australia best-seller if the price is right.

In about two months a new car will go on sale in Australia and it will change everything.

Well not everything, it’s not an asteroid, so you’ll still have to wake up in the morning and put clothes on and do your job, but because the new model is exactly what’s needed right now, it’ll cause buyers to shift their thinking.

It’s the Kia EV5 and let me tell you why.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it. This type of cycle occurs every decade or so when a new type of car rolls in just as buyer tastes, culture, trends and technology change. Right car at the right time. 

The last major shift we saw is still happening and we’re actually still in the middle of it - the SUV era. That’s not going to change, not for a while anyway. But the way it started is interesting because nobody in 1988 would have thought that the invention of the Suzuki Vitara would destroy the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and wipe out the Australian automotive manufacturing industry.

Who would have thought 30 years ago that fun, little off-roaders like the Suzuki Vitara and Toyota RAV4 would flick a switch that would send us all into SUVs in 2024.

The EV5 will hit the Australian market in about two months time.

Last year 679,462 SUVs were sold compared to 211,361 sedans and hatchbacks, meaning 76 per cent of sales were SUVs. In 2003, 150,578 SUVs were sold compared to 588,511 sedans and hatches, so SUVs made up 17 per cent of sales.

So, the market flipped on its lid because the Vitara led to the Toyota RAV4 and the Subaru Outback in 1994, and then the Honda CR-V the following year… and the rest you know. 

In Australia this all coincided with some US influence through TV, but also a renewed recreational interest in Aussies exploring and travelling in their new more capable and fun little SUVs. Only we didn’t call them SUVs - that was too American.  We called them four-wheel drives, because many of them really were, but lots weren’t and there was really no other term. 

Kia has also undertaken a massive job in adapting the EV5 for Australian roads.

But one thing was for sure - the Toyota RAV4 was king and outsold the rest of the SUVs in its class, constantly. The RAV4 accelerated the public’s move into SUVs and made every carmaker want a slice of that action - even Ferrari and Bentley. It has became one of the top-selling cars in the country, landing in fourth spot for overall sales in 2023.

But where does the Kia EV5 come into this? Well, the EV5 is the new RAV4, but with a twist. This time it’s not about Australians’ tastes pivoting from sedans and hatches to SUVs, we’re still in the middle of that and the trend will probably run for another 20 years when the body style will evolve into the next trend.

No, this time the change will be a switch from petrol engines to electric motors and it’ll be the EV5 that will flick that switch.

The EV5 is super practical with excellent room, storage and device charging.

Yes, but that’s already happened right? Tesla, electric MGs, BYD? Yeah-nah, see, they are the equivalent of the Suzuki Vitara that first introduced the idea, but it was the RAV4 (and now the Kia EV5) that suddenly made people adopt the change in enormous numbers.

My prediction is that the EV5 will be in the number five place in the top 10 best-selling cars within five years and the other carmakers will scramble to bring their electric mid-sized SUVs out so they don’t miss out.

What could happen here is that in five years the EV5 becomes the best-selling mid-sized SUV, even beating petrol rivals such as the Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tucson and yes, maybe even the RAV4.  

That’s how good I think the EV5 is going to be and I haven’t even driven it. But I have crawled all over the EV5 pre-production model. I’ve also driven its big brother, the EV9, which is a scaled-up version of the EV5, and in 15 years of testing cars it could be the best I’ve reviewed in terms of family SUVs

The EV5 looks like it will be just as good. It’s the right size at 4.6m long, it’s super practical with excellent room, storage and device charging. It also has striking good looks with its futuristic face and rugged blocky body, and an interior that feels high end, modern and different.

Kia has also undertaken a massive job in adapting the EV5 for Australian roads, working with teams in China and Korea, driving thousands of kilometres in Australia to test and tune the suspension for our roads.

A standard range and long-range battery will offer up to about 500km of driving range and you’ll be able to have the EV5 in front-wheel drive with one motor or all-wheel drive with two motors.

And it’s a Kia - it’ll come with a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty like the rest of Kia's models, with a massive Australian dealer network to support servicing and repairs. 

Finally, the EV5 is made in China, which means Kia Australia will have an almost unobstructed supply of the car, as other global markets will source their EV5s from Korea. Basically, Kia Australia will be able to have as many cars as they can sell.

The RAV4 accelerated the public’s move into SUVs and made every carmaker want a slice of that action.

So, all the ingredients are there, it’s just the price that needs to be right, otherwise the prediction won’t come true. It’s Kia’s game to lose really.

Kia’s General Manager of Product Planning, Roland Rivero, admits, too, that after all the work that’s gone into making this car, pricing it too high could bring it all undone.

“So start with supply - logistics? Tick that box. Quality? Tick that box. If those pieces are right and the final piece of the puzzle is price, it all falls apart if that element isn’t right,” Rivero told CarsGuide at the EV5 pre-production preview recently.

Well have to wait and see what the EV5 price is when it’s announced closer to the SUV’s June launch date.

We put it to Rivero that the EV5 would need to start at about $57,000 to be appealing to level-headed Kia buyers and maybe extend up to $70K for the top-of-the-range car.

“We’re serious about EV5 and it’s important that we’re competitive in that medium space for the pragmatic buyers and rest assured what you’re speculating is a fair speculation.”

Well have to wait and see what the EV5 price is when it’s announced closer to the SUV’s June launch date - it all hinges on that because, until recently, electric cars have been pricey, premium products and it wasn’t until the arrival of high-quality, affordable Chinese EVs such as the MG4 and BYD Atto 3, that the market began to change.

Can the EV5 outsell the Chinese rivals? Absolutely, but it’ll have to be much better than them for a price that's not much more.

Richard Berry
Senior Journalist
Richard had wanted to be an astrophysicist since he was a small child. He was so determined that he made it through two years of a physics degree, despite zero mathematical ability. Unable to build a laser in an exam and failing to solve the theoretical challenge of keeping a satellite in orbit, his professor noted the success Richard was enjoying in the drama and writing courses he had been doing on the side. Even though Richard couldn’t see how a degree in story-telling and pretending would ever get him a job, he completed one anyway. Richard has since been a best-selling author and a journalist for 20 years, writing about science, music, finance, cars, TV, art, film, cars, theatre, architecture, food, and cars. He also really likes cars, and has owned an HQ ute, Citroen 2CV, XW Falcon, CV8 Monaro and currently, a 1951 Ford Tudor. A husband and dad, Richard’s hobbies also include astronomy.
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