Korean One Ton Attack

Hyundai & Kia appear to be readying a one ton bakkie range


Hyundai and Kia have perennially threatened to build a one ton bakkie range to take on the likes of Hilux and Ranger, et al. Now it appears that it’s finally more than just a threat. Kia bakkie mules have been ambling about Korean suburbia embellished with just enough camouflage to allow anyone who takes a cursory look, to know what they are.

2024 Hyundai bakkie render

Kia, Hyundai plotting to take on Hilux, Ranger

Spy images of these heavily clad, but loosely dressed prototype pickup trucks suggest that the bodywork forward of the B pillars comes straight off the US, China, and home market Kia Mojave midrange SUV. A sensible bet, considering the Fortuner and Everest rival Mojave shares the body on frame chassis necessary to pick on Hilux or Ranger.

Should this be the final bodywork, it also suggests that the bakkie will look just like the sport ute. And thus, our exclusive Auto renders of the red bakkie in the images. So being, this prototype will be wearing its official war dress under the veils. That ties into messages Kia dealers are getting about a bakkie to fight the best already late next year, or early 2025.

Moving on to Hyundai. The master brand (Hyundai bought homeland rival Kia a quarter-century back, remember) generally develops one platform for use across the board. So, a Tucson is a Sportage, a Rio is an Accent, and so forth. With the exception of the car-derived US lifestyle bakkie called the Santa Cruz. That’s one of the few Hyundai-only models.

2024 Hyundai bakkie render

Hyundai’s bakkie plans are more secretive

In other words, Hyundai, and Kia vehicles of similar sizes in general share platforms. Their  basic architecture, components and mechanical hardware are all the same. But the cars are sold as two different models, from different brands through rival dealer bodies, by dressing them in unique sheetmetal.

Now, while Kia is already strutting its future bakkie stuff, badges, and all, in the leafy streets of Seoul suburbia, Hyundai remains mum on the subject. Hyundai has however long pretended to want a one-ton Hilux and Ranger rival in its stable. It even went as far as filing patent papers for such a thing just before lockdown. And registered the name Tarlac.

All of which leaves how a Hyundai Tarlac could look, to pure speculation. But we have gone ahead and rendered such a thing using some latest Hyundai concept and newest model design tweaks onto the base we imagined for what could be called the Kia Mojave bakkie.

2024 Kia bakkie render

Kia Mojave, Hyundai Tarlac loading in SA?

Now both of these bakkies would be huge in South Africa, where double cabs are the staple diet and Hilux King over pretenders Ranger, D-Max, Triton, Navara and the rest.

Technical spec of course remains secret and will so until reveal, or even launch. Both Korean brands have however closely monitored the booming pick-up market since the cows came home. And both are of course fully entrenched in that local market via their already hugely popular Hyundai H-100 and Kia K2700 forward control workhorses.

Fresh spy photos of the Kia double cab show a long wheelbase and a very long load bay with long rear overhang. Knowing the constraints on parking dimensions in obvious target markets, never mind 4×4 departure angles and handling on tow, we’d say that’s just extra disguise cladding to add to the allure. So, we would bet on something closer to our sketches.

Kia bakkie spy shot

Is Kia’s bakkie really as long as that prototype

That wheelbase would be set in stone though – it appears way longer than the Mojave SUV to match or better the new stretched Ranger’s 3270 mm.  A bit of a limit on the break-over angles, but good for a roomy cabin and a Euro Palette gobbling load bay. Both those aspects are necessities for modern ‘midrange trucks’ as the Yanks call them. So, expect a broad, and imposing stance.

Speculation hints at future petrol-electric hybrid and eventually electric versions of the Kia. They also say that Hyundai is preparing a different all-electric car-based bakkie. But the Santa Cruz is that already, and Hyundai has confirmed an EV version is imminent. Reading between the lines, is Hyundai not developing an all-electric version of these one-ton twins?

That makes far more sense. Why should Kia lose out in 2025 markets demanding BEVs? And can Hyundai really avoid satisfying developing markets that will long rely on petrol, diesel, and a growing number of hybrid bakkies in the coming years? Never mind, splitting combustion and electric development and production seems to be a new industry buzz, anyway.

So, delving under the skin, it is said that the Kia Mojave bakkie, and thus its Hyundai twin, will have the choice of the Group’s 148 kW 440 Nm 2.2-litre Genesis turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. It’s likely to be massaged to deliver closer to 170 kW and 600 Nm to fight Hilux. And a perhaps subtly detuned newer 205 kW 590 Nm 3-litre straight six turbodiesel flagship.

Kia bakkie spy shot

“A Kia Bakkie would kick arse”

Considering the target markets, Kia and Hyundai’s eight-speed automatic transmission is a likely choice in RWD and 4×4. The SUV’s double wishbone front suspension should carry over, but will a live axle replace the multilink rear? Dealer chatter promises class-leading loadability. Which means at least a one-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne braked towing.

“A Kia pick-up truck would be a perfect fit for the brand,” Kia design boss Karim Habib told selected media last year. “I would welcome it with open arms. “In fact, I’d love to design a pick-up.” Outspoken Kia Australia boss Damien Meredith later confirmed that Habib had taken heat on his suggestions.

“I’d love to sell some utes,” Meredith nonetheless reiterated. “A Kia ute would be a rude shock for Hilux and Ranger. “And let me tell you, for someone whose had his arse kicked a few times for lots of things, I know it will kick arse!”

That much applies to South Africa, just much as it does to Aussie. Watch this space. – Michele Lupini

Image renderings: Michele Lupini

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