Kia set to sting the ute segment?

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Photos Alex Schultz
26 Oct 2020

What if Kia made a ute? Well the Korean firm is working on a pick-up, and this we know from snippets of interviews with Kia bigwigs.

It's said to be your usual one-tonner, and will follow the traditional brief with a separate chassis and a solid rear axle to lend it the necessary tough specs to match the others on payload and tow rating.

But with Covid-19 disruptions, it’s likely this pick-up will be at least another two to three years away. It’s needed to bolster sales in markets like Australia, and it is the Aussies that seem to be guiding the product planning on this one. Don’t expect anything to avant-garde in terms of the drivetrain, likely with conventional combustion engines and rear-drive and switchable 4x4 layouts. Let’s hope it is infused with Stinger-like styling to bring some glamour to the segment.

But what if Kia was to add a further pick-up to its mix, one that combined elements of crossover SUV with the ute? Hyundai is set to deliver such a thing with its Santa Cruz, and one would assume Kia would follow suit with its own version at some point. The Hyundai ute will be a unibody offering, seen above being unceremoniously transported around a production facility by a fork hoist. Prototypes have since been snapped hot weather testing in the US, so the launch of the vehicle can’t be too far away for North America.

The monocoque ute is a niche within a niche, only really a thing in the US and South America at present, though the likes of Dacia are in on it too with the planned Oroch, which we are in line to receive here mid-2021. Honda’s LHD-only Ridgeline has found favour with customers. It doesn’t sell in great numbers, certainly not like the F Series or Silverado, but buyers who realise they don’t require 1000 tonnes of tow ability like the smaller size and happily enjoy the benefits of SUV-like ride refinement, and (slightly) better fuel economy and safety.

Hyundai is keen on offering an alternative it seems with its Santa Cruz, albeit smaller, and we’d bet Kia would follow with a version of its own. Recently it’s been suggested the Santa Cruz will sit on the same platform as the Tucson, rather than the larger Santa Fe/Sorento underpinnings, so it’ll be a lifestyler ute aimed at urbanites for certain. We reckon a Kia version with some Stinger-like styling would go down well.

An artist’s impression

You could argue that any Kia ute would share it's looks with the rest of the SUV range, but here at NZ Autocar we thought why not give it some styling cues from the Stinger. Proportionally, this render uses hardpoints that are based on the spy shots of the upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz but we’ve infused it with Stinger-esque detailing. The Stinger’s side vent has been relocated to the top of the front guard as the dash-to-axle ratio is much shorter on the ute. The brightwork flows over the glasshouse, with the chrome cutting through the C-pillar. The front end has been carried over from the Stinger.

A lost segment

With the demise of the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, the 'coupe utility' category is no more. Could a Kia Stinger ute concept work? Design wise, this sketch above has a shortened wheelbase compared with the Stinger, but otherwise carries the same detail down its flanks. While this two-door ute has even less potential to see the light of day, we think it would look pretty cool.

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