Kia’s upcoming ute, due in 2025, could be getting a distinctively Australian name or, rather, a distinctively Dutch one.
A trademark filing lodged with IP Australia shows Kia has trademarked the name Tasman for a vehicle.
It’s Kia’s only local trademark filing for a vehicle name in the past 12 months.
The Tasman Sea is, of course, the body of water separating Australia and New Zealand and was named after Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, for whom the state of Tasmania was also named.
There’s an Australian connection with the new ute, being referred to internally as TK, as Kia’s engineers have been using our ute-loving market as a test bed.
“Kia is currently developing a future pickup truck model that will be highly capable and fit for purpose. Additional details will be confirmed in due course,” a Kia spokesperson said late last month when questioned about the ute.
It has the potential to boost Kia to new heights on the Australian sales charts – potentially overtaking Mazda in the race for second place, behind market leader Toyota.
The company also plans to launch a dedicated electric ute, though it hasn’t confirmed whether that will come here.
Kia has referred to the TK/Tasman as a “strategic model for emerging markets”, and commenced development in 2020..
Prototypes have been spied testing in Korea disguised in sheetmetal from the venerable body-on-frame Mohave SUV.
Whether that suggests the TK/Tasman will offer the same engine as the Mohave is unclear.
In Korea, the Mohave is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine developing 189kW and 560Nm – the latter from 1500 to 3000rpm. For reference, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel in the Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok develops 184kW and 600Nm.
The Mohave offers four-wheel drive with electronic low-range and a range of terrain modes much like Kia’s other SUVs. An eight-speed auto is standard.
Kia has homologated its latest 3.0-litre diesel to Euro 6 standards, aligning it with emissions regulations likely coming to Australia soon, and currently in force in other markets around the world. Few utes are currently EU6 certified in Australia.
We could see Kia offer multiple engines to hit different price points and regional demands, with the brand’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel another potential starter.
A commercial version of this engine currently does service in the Hyundai Staria van, making 130kW/430Nm and teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In the Staria it gets standard all-wheel drive, but it’s unclear whether Kia will stick with this drivetrain or develop a more rugged 4WD system akin to the Mohave’s.
According to dealers briefed on the vehicle, Kia has been benchmarking the TK against the segment-leading Ranger and HiLux to “achieve towing capacity and payload targets”.
That indicates Kia is working to ensure the TK meets the expected capabilities of a dual-cab ute in Australia, meaning a braked towing capacity of 3500kg and a payload around the 1000kg mark depending on variant.
It also rules out the ute being a Kia version of the softer, car-based Hyundai Santa Cruz offered in North America.
According to leaked dealer information, engineers from Kia head office have been flown to Australia “on multiple occasions” to experience competitors and local conditions, so you can expect the ute to be well-tailored to our roads.
The ute segment in Australia could look different by 2025 – Ford has confirmed a Ranger plug-in hybrid is launching in Europe in 2024, and it could be coming here, while the next Toyota HiLux is due around the same time likely based on the same TNGA-F architecture underpinning the LandCruiser, potentially with hybrid and all-electric options.
Beyond that, a new Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara are on the horizon based on common underpinnings. Mitsubishi is also working on an electric ute to sit alongside the Triton, though it’s unclear whether this is coming to Australia.
China will also be in the mix, with GWM set to launch the Shanhai Cannon with diesel and hybrid options before the end of 2023, while the even larger King Kong Cannon is under consideration for the Australian market.
Should Kia’s ute wear the Tasman name, it won’t be the first time a vehicle has done so.
The 1970-72 Austin Tasman and Kimberley were six-cylinder versions of the front-wheel drive 1800 “Landcrab”, modified by Leyland Australia to better suit the local market and battle the Ford Falcon, Holden Kingswood and Chrysler Valiant.
The Tasman was the more affordable of the two, but neither were popular and were replaced by the Leyland P76.