More powerful than a Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux while beating them on build quality and price? Kia’s joining the hotly-contested ute segment, and they’re sure to throw a cat amongst the pigeons…
Kia is on an absolute roll right now. The EV6 (especially in super-fast, super-sporty GT guise) is easily one of the most exciting electric cars on the market. An equally exciting electric car, the large and luxurious EV9, is also on the way from them – and will be the first full-size electric EV in Australia whilst also being a genuine Toyota LandCruiser and Mercedes-Benz G-Class competitor. There’s a buzz around Kia that’s undeniable.
But that buzz is about to become a roar, with Kia also set to introduce their first-ever dual-cab ute – and if recent developments are anything to go by, it’s a ute that’s being designed with Australians in mind.
We’ve known that Kia’s been working on a dual-cab ute for a while, with a Kia spokesperson confirming late last month that “Kia is currently developing a future pickup truck model that will be highly capable and fit for purpose,” with Kia dealers locally been told to expect a “genuine and serious rival” for the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux in 2025.
WATCH our 30-second review of the Kia EV6 below.
We also now know the name of the new ute: the Kia Tasman. Overnight, it’s emerged that Kia has just filed to protect the ‘Tasman’ name with a number of patent offices around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, Drive reports.
Tasman, of course, is a highly Antipodean name. Well, really, it’s Dutch: it comes from Abel Janszoon Tasman, the Dutch explorer who ‘discovered’ New Zealand and Tasmania, which was named after him. In any case, it’s a name that will resonate with Aussies and shows that Kia’s clearly got their eyes on the Aussie market.
The Tasman is reportedly a four-door body-on-frame truck that will be available with a diesel engine. It’s very likely the Tasman will be based on the existing Kia Mohave, a midsize body-on-frame SUV that’s a competitor to the Toyota Prado in other markets. Spy shots have already emerged of Kia ute prototypes being tested in South Korea using Mohave bodies, lending more credence to that theory.
A Mohave connection is exciting for many reasons – least of all because the Mohave is a very tough car that also looks pretty tough, too. But it’s its powertrain that’s probably of most interest to Aussies.
In its home market, the Mohave is powered by a 3.0L V6 turbo-diesel engine that makes 189kW/560Nm – which are some pretty healthy figures.
Funnily enough, the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok also have a 3.0L V6 turbo-diesel, which makes 184kW/600Nm (so less power but more torque). The Toyota HiLux’s 2.8L inline-four turbo diesel, in comparison, makes 150kW/500Nm (worse on both counts compared to the Mohave).
In short, if the Tasman ends up using the Mohave’s powertrain, it’ll be more powerful than any other dual-cab ute on the market, as well as rank in the top three for torque.
Kia is almost certainly going to beat its competitors on price, too – and Kia’s hefty 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty will also be one hell of a selling point. Also, according to Canstar, Kia beats the big dogs, Ford and Toyota, on reliability. They also more than hold their own when it comes to fit and finish.
As for how well it’ll suit local conditions, it’s also been confirmed that Kia has undertaken a significant amount of R&D and engineering work in Australia for this ute.
So: cheaper, more powerful, more reliable, potentially more refined and with a killer warranty and cheap servicing costs to boot? There’s no way Kia doesn’t have a winner on their hands.
There’s only one downside to the Kia Tasman making its way Down Under: it means that Aussies will almost certainly miss out on the Hyundai Santa Cruz, which is based on the more conventional unibodied Tucson SUV.
Still, the Tasman’s going to be a tougher beast and will resonate more with average Aussies as well as with tradies, more crucially. A lack of a ute has been the gaping hole in Kia’s Australian lineup for years. The Tasman looks like it’s going to more than fill that hole.
Kia is currently the third best-selling marque in Australia (behind Mazda and Toyota respectively), but the Tasman could see Kia eclipse Mazda to take that coveted second place. Could it overtake Toyota, or at least, the HiLux? That’s a taller order – but who knows.