Kia Tasman: Toyota HiLux rival named

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Kia has confirmed its worst kept secret – its new Toyota HiLux rival will be called the Tasman when it launches next year.

The Korean maker used some of Australia’s most loved sporting celebrities to announce the arrival of its new work ute in a high-budget ad, but kept the name a secret.

The star-studded ad features sporting greats including Steve Waugh, Ash Barty, Allan Langer and Buddy Franklin speculating about the name. Waugh suggests the ute be called the “Tugger”, while Franklin puts forward the “Buddy” and Langer the “Alfie”.

But the ad dropped a big clue when Langer threw a dart at a map of the Tasman Sea.

Utes filled the top three positions on the sales charts last year and Kia anticipates selling between 20,000 and 25,000 units a year, which would propel it past Mazda into second spot on the sales charts behind Toyota.

It could also force the main players to increase their warranty periods, as Kia offers a standard seven years coverage across its range. The HiLux and Ranger have five-year warranties.

Kia’s ute has already been spotted testing in Korea and the company is expected to begin a local testing and development program this year.

The brand says the Tasman will be “the most Australian Kia yet”.

Kia Australia’s head of product planning Roland Rivero said earlier this year a local team of product specialists and engineers would have a say on every aspect of the new ute.

The brand has already bought competitor vehicles and torn them down, looking at every detail to make sure their product is competitive.

Kia Australia chief executive Damien Meredith said: “The team at Kia Australia has been working closely with the Research and Development team at headquarters to develop Tasman, a vehicle we believe will meet the needs of our unique market, so it’s very rewarding that it has been granted an Australian-inspired name befitting its personality,” he said.

“We have strong ambitions for Tasman in our market, and the fact that its name has such distinct links to our region is evidence of Kia Australia’s instrumental role in its development and future success.”

The ute is expected to be powered by a four-cylinder turbodiesel, which matches the volume selling versions of the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

The brand has a 2.2-litre turbodiesel in its Sorento large SUV that makes 148kW and 440Nm, slightly less than the rival Ford and Toyota. A more powerful six-cylinder version could come later.

Meredith has previously said that an electric version of the ute should follow within a year or two of the diesel.

He said it would be able to tow at least 2.5 tonnes, be available in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive variants and have vehicle to load capability, which would allow tradies to charge their power tools from the ute.

The electric version will be vital if Kia is to meet tough new emissions laws, expected to come into effect next year, which will penalise carmakers for failing to meet mandatory targets.

Diesel utes are among the thirstiest vehicles on the road and there are no viable electric alternatives in the market today.

Diesel power doesn’t gel well with the Tasman nameplate, either, given that Tasmania has the cleanest air on the planet.

Kia’s sister company Hyundai is reportedly planning to launch two electric utes by 2026, one sized between the Ranger and full-sized F150 pick-up and another smaller ute that will be based on passenger car underpinnings, harking back to the days of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes.