In one of the most protracted development processes we can remember, Kia’s ute has been spied again in South Korea with minimal camouflage
The Kia Ute story continues with the latest spy shots of an even less camouflaged ute with clear Kia badging in the grille, hidden behind no more than a mesh screen.
Kia Australia remains tight-lipped about specifics on the ute, but it’s made no secret of wanting it here as soon as it can come.
These latest spy photos (courtesy of AutoSpy) show a ute progressing in development from the Mohave front-ended prototype spotted last year. Still, the headlights are distinctly Mohave in their design.
The spy photos give a clear glimpse at the roofline and the ute’s bluff styling with plenty of vertical surfaces, much like the Sorento large SUV. The Kia ute’s rear overhang also appears quite long in this shot, which may impact its load-carrying ability.
Kia has worked hard to keep the rear doors and tub covered on the latest test mule. Wheels understands that Kia’s ute is in development, though any further details including local arrival remains scarce and executives guarded.
With the automotive world transitioning swiftly ito electrification, it’s unlikely Kia’s future ute will feature newly-developed diesel powertrains, and there may be potential of an EV version, too.
For now, though, any word on powertrain or arrival timing is pure speculation.
We expect Kia’s final ute will be similar in proportion to Australia and Thailand’s favourite one-tonne dual cabs, those being the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu D-Max, rather than competition for the larger RAM 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado.
Check out our Theottle’s renders that feature in the previous story for an artist’s impression of what a Kia ute could look like
Our original story, below, continues unchanged.
The story to here
November 25, 2022: “I think your renderer has made it look sensational”, Kia Australia’s general manager of product planning, Roland Rivero, said of Theottle’s Mohave-based Kia ute render.
Unfortunately, the pictured render won’t be the ute’s final form: “it’s not uncommon in any kind of prototype testing – particularly when you’re only currently working on chassis, for instance – to borrow panels from another car just to disguise it,” he said.
Like punters and journalists, Kia’s Australian arm is keen for more info: “I think for [Kia], if there was a vehicle in development, an announcement would be appreciated sooner rather than later”, Rivero continued.
“Because you’ve got to develop a dealer network. Some dealer showrooms might only have the size to cater for passenger cars or SUVs, so adding this [ute] to the lineup would actually mean investment and infrastructure.
“So I think you’ve got to give a dealer network time to do that – you can’t expect dealers’ to turn around in two months – so ideally something of an announcement, if there was going to be one, is made sooner rather than later if [the vehicle] was already in chassis development mode,” Rivero said.
How successful could Kia’s ute be?
With a light commercial vehicle to rival the likes of Ranger, HiLux, Triton and D-Max, Kia Australia COO Damien Meredith is certain the brand’s sales would grow. It’s not hard to see why, given the ute segment accounts for 200,000 annual new car sales.
“If you get 10 per cent of the LCV market it’s over 20,000 Aussie sales”, Meredith said. That would be enough to see Kia climb the sales leaderboard and potentially take second place from Mazda.
Of course, this would all hinge on the ute being successful. While it seems guaranteed, it isn’t, we’ve seen new players fail before – most recently the Nissan Navara-based Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
On that theme, Kia’s Australian execs made it clear to Wheels that if what we’re seeing is going to spawn a new vehicle – or range of them – then it will be new from the ground up.
“If [Kia] was going to develop a product of this nature, they wouldn’t be basing it off a 2008 product that’s over 10 years’ old, it’s simply just which product in our range can we grab panels off to at least complete a mask for now.
“If there was such a product, expect it to be all new from the ground up”, Rivero added.
Our original story, below, continues unchanged.
The story to here
UPDATE November 9: 2024 Kia ute spy photos and rendered: Ford Ranger rival takes shape
Following the first clear spy photos of the upcoming Kia pickup, published last week, we’ve commissioned a pair of renderings that could be a hint of what’s to come. (Now shown above in our more recent update.)
As explained below, we’re expecting the Kia ute’s design to have little in common with the Mohave face it’s wearing in prototype form, but when it comes to imagining what that might mean, we’ve decided to steer relatively close to both the Mohave and the Telluride SUV sold overseas.
We considered models like the Sportage, Seltos and upcoming EV9 as potential inspiration for our renders (crafted by the brilliant Theottle), but ultimately, it’s likely the Kia ute will drive in a different direction to all of these existing models.
Still, we reckon our rendition of the upcoming ute has an impressive style, standing out as a tough-looking rival to the popular Ford Ranger.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below, and keep scrolling to read the rest of our story.
November 3: The upcoming Ranger-rivalling Kia ute has been spied, clearly intentionally – and it seems a sure thing that an Australian launch is in the works
- Mohave SUV face hints at Ranger size
- Solid axle points to ICE powertrains
- Electrified variant expected
The long, long-anticipated Kia ute has been spied in the open for the first time, wearing heavy camouflage – and a very obvious front-end mask built from the existing Mohave SUV sold overseas.
Right off the bat, a few details are clear: Firstly, the seemingly seamless bolting of the Mohave’s face to this ute appears to confirm what we’ve long expected: Kia’s ute will be Ranger-sized, making it an obvious contender in Australia’s popular ute market.
The Mohave’s face can logically be for prototyping purposes only, given the current Mohave design is a 2019 facelift of a model that launched in 2008. Indeed, the current Mohave is now so old that despite being designed for North America, it is now only sold in Korea.
Kia’s obviously ready for the world to know more about its upcoming ute, with the brand’s new badge clearly visible in the grille of this spied prototype. Not so much ‘spied’, then, as ‘conveniently exposed for the world’s media to see’. Fair play – that’s marketing at its best. Kudos.
Expect a big electric ute, and an ICE model for Australia
Based on comments made by Kia president Ho-sung Song at an investor event in March this year, we can expect the Korean brand to launch two utes in the coming years – larger than Hyundai’s niche, style-focused and car-based Santa Cruz pickup.
One will be a ‘full-size’ electric ute designed specifically for America and with the Ford F-150 Lightning in its sights; while the other will be a smaller ICE-based model developed for “emerging markets” in Asia, including Australia – not technically an “emerging” market, but an already well-established region for utes sold in Asia and ‘Oceania’.
Considering the open interest shown by Kia’s influential Australian arm for a proper dual-cab work ute – a ‘smaller’ offering designed to not only compete with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger in size, but also to advance the segment by offering some level of electrification (perhaps before Ford’s anticipated Ranger PHEV arrives) – it seems clear the second model will be perfectly suited to Australia.
What size Kia ute are we talking?
The ute spied here, with its Mohave face, suggests a Ranger-sized offering – while the solid axle design visible at the rear makes clear we can expect this to be a segment-competitive diesel or petrol offering, suited to Australian market preferences.
Of course, given we are currently living in the year 2022, an electrified version of this ute should also be on the cards.
Still, for those motivated more by conventional needs, Kia’s Australian arm has been clear in its goals.
Speaking with media in South Korea at the launch of the Seltos back in 2019 – because that’s at least how long the pressure’s been on – Kia Australia COO Damien Meredith could not hide his eagerness for a ute in the brand’s line-up.
“The good news is that there is conversation, so it’s still very much a long way away, but we’re confident in the near future the group will have a light commercial range in Australia.
“Yes, I think 2022-23 would be pretty close,” he said, in regard to a date for launching here.
If only we’d had a crystal ball at the time…
Meredith continued: “Work has begun. We’re talking about a pick-up, dual-cab, single cab. What we’ve requested [for Australia] is the full gambit of a ute: double-cab, dual-cab, diesel and petrol.”
That interview provided the most detailed comment we’ve heard yet for the Kia ute that could put a dent in sales leaders like the Ranger and Hilux – but Meredith also confirmed we can expect Kia’s ute to receive local tuning in Australia.
“That’s part of our robust strategy, we get every car that enters Australia to go through that process. It’s normally eight to 12 months out, so it won’t be happening in the next year or so.”
At this point, at the back end of 2022, it seems likely that Kia’s Australian team, including ride and handling consultant Graeme Gambold, are already driving the ute in Korea. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it on Australian roads in the months ahead.
What about… Hyundai?
The local launch of Kia’s ute might be followed quickly by Hyundai’s version of a dual-cab built on the same platform.
“I think that’s logical, isn’t it?” Meredith said, on the topic of the Hyundai group designing a ladder-frame platform for both of its big-time brands.
Indeed, this week’s sneaky Kia ‘spy’ photo notwithstanding, the Hyundai version could even debut first.
“Hopefully we’re first [to launch in Australia] but it doesn’t really matter. It’ll be close.”
Good luck getting Hyundai’s Australian arm to volunteer a useful statement on that, however. We’ve so far been given the classic ‘no comment’.
Meredith has never been shy of making predictions, either. In that 2019 interview, he suggested the company would be expecting to own around “8 to 10 per cent” of the light commercial vehicle segment, translating to around 20,000 ute sales.
The car-based Santa Cruz is currently Hyundai’s only ute, but don’t expect it to have much influence on the group’s upcoming ladder-frame ute
When will Kia’s ute go on sale in Australia?
There’s no hiding Kia Australia’s interest in a ute, especially when such a model could be considered a key contributor to climbing up the local sales ladder.
Officially there’s no word, but if the new ute is revealed early next year, a late 2023 or early 2024 launch could be on the cards for Australia.