A four-cylinder turbo-diesel is now firming as the engine of choice in Kia’s first ute, with the brand saying its Tasman will target “big volume” in the ute segment, and hinting it would match the most popular powertrains in the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.
The Hyundai Group has plenty of powerful diesel engines in its stable – including a lusty 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel that produces 204kW and 588Nm – but it seems Kia will stick with the four-cylinder diesel route.
Asked what would be powering the brand’s new ute – which could be called the Tasman, though the name is yet to be settled on – the brand told us it had studied the market, and new what engines were the most popular.
“We’ve said all along that if we’re going to develop this vehicle, then it has to be a solid competitor for HiLux and Ranger,” Kia Australia’s GM of Product Planning, Roland Rivero, told CarsGuide.
“Look at the big-ticket (engines) that are doing the most sales. We always cut it up and dissect accordingly and look at where the big volume is.”
There’s no need to guess where the volume is. The Toyota HiLux remains the country’s best-selling ute, and it is available exclusively with a 2.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel, though it will introduce mild-hybrid 48-volt technology soon.
The country second-best selling ute is the Ford Ranger, which offers a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in the XL, and a 2.0-litre bi-turbo-diesel in the XLS, XLT, the Sport and the Wildtrak, though an upgrade to a six-cylinder diesel is available.
Ford’s bi-turbo diesel produces 150kW and 500Nm, with those outputs matching what you find in most HiLux variants.
It gives Kia a clear window to aim for with its new ute, with the model expected (at least by us) to exceed those numbers, given the long lead times and the clarity of the target.
Add to that the fact that Kia is on the record as saying it is aiming to be Australia’s benchmark, and you can pretty much bank on it producing more grunt.
“We’re definitely aiming for (the benchmark),” Rivero has told us.
“We’re not mucking around when it comes to the ute. We wan to make sure that the first attempt at a ute from our brand is one that’s going to do well in our market.”
The new ute – currently named Project TK, though the name Tasman has been trademarked in Australia – is set to launch around the middle of 2025, where it won’t just do battle with the current Ford Ranger, but also likely with an all-new Toyota HiLux, which is due around the same time.