It’s been a hot period for midsize pickup trucks, and it’s about to get hotter. Australian automotive outlet CarsGuide reports that Kia is working on a pickup truck that’s entirely unlike the Hyundai Santa Cruz. We’re talking a Ford Ranger competitor codenamed TK, allegedly targeting a one-tonne payload capacity and a towing capacity just north of 7,700 pounds. It’s a type of vehicle Kia has never made before, but if you look at the marque’s history, you’ll realize there’s some precedent here.
Say hello to the Bongo, not to be confused with the Mazda Bongo. It’s unmistakably a cab-over truck, the predominant form for Asian workhorses. From kei trucks to Hinos, the compact form factor of the cab-over is perfect for city streets and tight areas, so it’s no surprise that Kia makes one.
In fact, Kia’s been making the Bongo in various forms since 1980. This makes it the longest-running nameplate in Korean automotive history, a weird bit of trivia to share with your friends. It’s been assembled in seven countries including Algeria and Pakistan, sold in every continent except Antarctica, and earns its keep all over the globe.
However, the Bongo isn’t anything like the double-cab TK pickup truck reportedly under development. A vehicle of that description should meld SUV refinement with truck practicality, all while being built on a rugged frame. The good news is that parts of this concept aren’t entirely new. Kia already makes a body-on-frame vehicle, and the marque even sold it in North America.
Remember the Kia Borrego? A famous case of bad timing, the Borrego was a three-row body-on-frame SUV launched in America in 2008. Just three years sooner or three years later and this thing would’ve been a success, but because this thirsty family hauler debuted right as the global economy was stepping on rakes, it never took off. Sales in America stopped in 2010, with Canadian sales continued through 2011.
Except it didn’t all go to waste because Kia kept building the Borrego as-we-know it until 2019, just with Mohave badging for non-U.S. markets. Sure, it received a facelift in 2016, but it just consisted of extra bling. Same quarter panels, same doors, same dashboard, same as it ever was. You could buy a Mohave and a Stinger at the same time, an intriguing dissonance that would’ve really made you think that a wholesale replacement was around the corner.
That didn’t actually happen. Instead, the Mohave got a rather extensive facelift with a new front clip, tailgate, rear bumper, and side trims. If you look at the greenhouse and the shut lines between the taillights and quarter panels, you’ll realize that this is still the same SUV from 2008. Bonkers, right?
Thankfully, the interior also got an extensive update. Goodbye 2008, hello modernity! The new dashboard is Telluride-esque, but the console eschews the three-row unibody crossover’s grab handles for a more traditional layout. Everything appears quite nice and fit for the modern Kia lineup, from the caramel leather to the metallic speaker grilles. It’s upmarket enough to be analogous to the K9, the top-shelf luxury sedan that sold miserably in North America.
According to the report, the TK pickup truck (if you’re in copywriting, you’ll find this codename hilarious) is expected to be available with the Mohave’s turbodiesel V6, granting some credence to the Borrego theory. The base engine is expected to be a 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, currently offered in the Australian-market Sorento crossover. Will a brand new Kia pickup truck be loosely-based on a vehicle sold in America more than a decade ago? We’ll have to wait until 2025 to find out, when the TK truck is expected to debut.
(Photo credits: Kia)
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They had the Bongo/Pregio based K2700 here in Aus. basically front half of the van with a tray. Early 00s. Carsguide and other media here in our dual-cab obsessed market for years. It might be bad timing as the gov just reduced the instant asset write-off scheme (basically to boost economy during Covid they allowed small businesses to write off up to 60k in year one) from 60k to 20k from July 1. The scheme more or less contributed to the effect if anyone with an ABN basically buying a Ranger, Hilux or Dmax and inflating the price of these tarted up shitboxes from around 30k to 60k whilst the importers rubbed their hands in glee and the model mix going from proper single-cab and a alloy tray actual work pick ups to plastic-farkle wannabe suburban armageddon spec.
*(Media) banging the drum about a Hyundai/KIA dual cab being just around the corner for longer than we have been waiting for the Cybertruck
Are we forgetting that the OG gen1 Sorento was also body on frame?
I love the tiger nose faux grille placed on the Bongo for absolutely no reason.
I’m gonna make a ludicrous assumption though, that it’ll end up as a rebadged Ranger. It wouldn’t be the first time (Harrison) Ford took the place of a TK(421).
This is the KIA truck I want:
My suspicion is correct, the KM450 is diesel M715 with different grille. Probably better to drive than M715, but not much better
WTF? Does Kia supply the Korean military?
We’ve been tricked with an awesome cabover mini truck pic, then presented with a pitch for yet another SUT.
Great, just what the market needs, ANOTHER, midsize, crew cab pickup. Hey Kia, dare to be different. How about a true compact pickup design? No one is doing that here in the US (plenty in Europe, Central/South America, and Asia, though).
The Santa Cruz is nice, but it’s a midpact: not a midsize or a compact. The Maverick’s in the same class.
As far as I can tell, the proposed Kia KT amounts to nothing more than a total lack of creativity. It will suffer the same fate as the Honda Ridgeline, which is a fine truck, but forever destined to run a distant fifth (or worse) to Toyota, Ford, GM, Jeep (and soon, maybe, Ram and VW) in the US market. I suspect Kia will try to slip past the Honda with a lower price, but maybe not, based on the Santa Cruz’ pricing.
Sigh, where’s my modern Rampage or Rabbit pickup?
The thing is this doesn’t look like an America-first product. The initial report is coming from an Australian source and it’s a product category that has had the most success in other markets.
It might be offered in the US market, but like the Colorado and Ranger before it, the US market isn’t really top priority. So if it’s an also-ran there, Kia will just ship more to Australia.
Good point, this does appear targeted for Australia and not (for now, anyway) the US. Presumably, there is different, if not less, competition in the midsize truck class there. But if Kia ever does decide to bring it here, then I reserve the right to reinstate my rant.
Not just for Australia, this will be targeted for basically everywhere except the US at first.
The Ranger is Australian designed and engineered and they build most of them out of Thailand. The Amarok is based on a Ranger. The Mazda BT-50 used to be a Ranger, but it’s now an Isuzu D-Max….the D-Max used to be the base for the Colorado. The Navara was the old Frontier and is also a Renault, and was the Mercedes X Class there too. The Mitsubishi Triton/L200 is a Fiat and has been a RAM too.
They build and sell bucket loads of these things all over the world, that’s the market Kia/Hyundai are aiming for.
Yes, Rabbit pickup!
I understand Kia wanting to compete in this segment but I think it’s just too hot for them to be in the kitchen. The Americans have upped their game in this class with the updated Colorado/Canyon and the new Ranger, plus the redesigned Taco looks like it’s going to be the most enticing option in this class between the design, powertrains (that iForce Max engine looks sweet), and the X factors of having such interesting trim options and of course the manual transmission on offer.
It’s also important to note that their sister company is doing poorly in this space. The Santa Cruz is not selling. I get that it’s a weird car and a hard sell to many truck loyalists, and I personally think it’s neat…but look at the sales figures. They’re abysmal, and in my area there are dozens of them sitting on lots despite having money on their hoods. I respect Hyundai for getting weird with that vehicle but it’s already looking like another Baja to me…an oddity that won’t be respected until many years after it’s demise.
The Koreans are competitive in a lot of family/appliance car segments now because their vehicles have improved a ton and they’re actually pushing the envelope. I think they’re set in those spaces but I think they’re getting a little too ambitious in their quest for world domination. I don’t think a company with a well deserved reputation for reliability problems is going to get a second look in this segment, at least in the US.
It also doesn’t look like launching the Genesis brand is going all that well either. The cars are well reviewed (maybe even excessively so) but I don’t think they’re really making any significant dent in that market. I recommend them frequently and I have yet to meet a normie who even knows what they are…and the response I always get is “why would I pay that much if I don’t get a prestigious badge out of it?”
I think Hyundai/Kia would do best to focus on improving their persistent QC issues and strengthening their products in the markets they already have a foothold in. I don’t think trying to woo midsized truck buyers is a good use of their resources.
The impression I have gotten is that the Santa Cruz isn’t ever going to be a high-volume product and Hyundai treats it as such, and even SC owners assume it’s likely a one-and-done vehicle that won’t see a 2nd generation. I get a lot of Hyundai ads, but it’s by and large for every other Hyundai model. And it makes sense in that lens, as most of the shared mechanicals are better served going to other H/K models that they are chasing volume on.
Even so, sales have increased year-over-year. But I think the issue they’re facing more is that the trim mix isn’t great and that’s where they’re struggling. It makes the most sense in the lower trims, but the base NA2.5 powertrain was considered a slug by pretty much every outlet that has driven it in its sister products. If you do want more power, entry to the 2.5T is a $10k jump over base, and while Maverick’s prices have jumped it’s still far less for a 2.0T Ecoboost. In my area Hyundai put extra cash on the hood this month for SEL Premium, just under $40k and that’s not even the top of the range; you’re pretty much knocking on $40k for the big motor regardless, and even as expensive as midsize trucks are it’s not really a big jump from there.
Honda has also been pushing the Ridgeline a lot more lately, so there’s surely some squeeze from that end even though it’s the original “that’s not a real truck dangit.”
I’ve actually been seeing Genesis models a LOT where I live, though it’s certainly not doing amazing overall. Maybe they found their very specific market (the place where I live).
The Santa Cruz situation is sad really; it’s a pretty good product and I am somewhat surprised that it hasn’t sold better, if only as an alternative to compact/midsize crossovers. I don’t think Hyundai expected it to sell in volume, but they have an easy fix here if they want to start moving them.
The hybrid. They have a powertrain from the damn Tuscon, the same platform that this is built on. The Santa Cruz becomes a lot more compelling against the likes of the Maverick if it were getting 35 mpg and was actually available.
It does seem so obvious, but if Hyundai has a surplus of the hybrid powertrain, I’m sure they’re just going to make more Tucson hybrids and push back against the RAV4 and CR-V.
I know Hyundai lists sales growth % changes of the hybrid & PHEV variants in the press releases, but I am not sure if they breaks out the actual sales volume of those variants as say Toyota does in their sales charts – that would be interesting to see what ratio of sales are which powertrains.
This is purely anecdotal but I helped my buddy shop for a midsized SUV recently. He wanted a hybrid and was super into the Tucson/Sportage. At the end of the day we just couldn’t find one. Pretty much all of them were sold before they even hit lots…and if you want a CRV/RAV hybrid right now you’re looking at a 6 month plus wait. My father and mother in law each bought new cars in the last couple of years and consulted with me. Both wanted hybrids but wound up with ICE versions of their respective cars because they could only wait so long.
Hybrids are hot across the board right now and in the most competitive segment in the entire industry (midsized SUVs) they’re naturally going to be in high, high demand. I suppose maybes we’ve answered our own question as to why there’s no hybrid option in the Santa Cruz.
I personally think all these companies should start phasing out their base NA 4 poppers and shift all of their resources to hybrids for these cars. It’s what everyone wants and in the case of the Asian offerings in appliance segments like midsized SUVs they not only offer better fuel economy but they perform better as well. It seems like a no-brainer. Better performance, better efficiency. I’m sure a whole lot of consumers will be willing to pay a premium for that. I know I would.
I think H/K definitely has much lower supply compared to Honda and Toyota, which have been much more upfront about hybrids making up a greater share of the model mixes – Honda’s pegged the CR-V at about 50/50. The shift to hybrids over regular NA variants certainly seems to be under way and is definitely Toyota’s strategy. I remember when the current RAV4 debuted some reviews and drives theorized that maybe Toyota was sandbagging the standard RAV because the hybrid just felt so much better, and therefore boost hybrid sales. H/K seem to follow that even more on the Tucson etc. since it’s got small-displacement turbo torque.
At this point the difference is pretty negligible in the price premium too especially if it drives better, and even moreso if you’re shopping AWD as a lot of the hybrids do have AWD included – Toyota’s especially. And for better or worse if you don’t really need or want AWD, although a less involved setup like Toyota i-AWD with the electric motor probably makes a lot more sense for more people.
Oh I think it’s a great product and I own a Hyundai so I’m fond of the brand even with its warts. I agree with you and greatfallsgreen that there were some issues with final execution and fine details, as there too often is with Hyundai/Kia. The base engine is a dog and it’s not even that great on gas. You can sell slow trucks (see the Maverick) but they need to have some benefits. That engine is bad in no matter what they put it in and frankly it needed to be phased out a while ago…like many Hyundai/Kia/Genesis powertrains at this stage.
Their NA 4 and 6 cylinders are wheezy and inefficient…hell even the turbo 6s in the Stinger/G70/G80 are absolute gas guzzlers for what they are. Imagine paying $50-60,000 for a V6 that gets 17 MPG in the city. That matches what the IS500 gets and that car has a 5 liter NA V8 that revs to over 7,000. Sheesh.
Alright I got a bit off topic. The upgraded engine is a must in the Santa Cruz, which makes it way too expensive for what it is. You’re essentially at around $40,000 at minimum after equipping it and it’s just way too much money for that car. They also inexplicably chose to put a DCT in the Santa Cruz and a lot of buyers aren’t happy with it.
I personally like DCTs (I daily one) but they have no business going in trucks. They’re much higher maintenance, they’re jerky in traffic, they have no benefits off-road, etc. DCTs increase acceleration and offer more engagement than traditional automatics at the cost of being more complicated and less civil. They make sense in sporty cars, but in a midsized trucklet/lifestyle video? Nooooope. I feel like they focused a lot on making the SC sporty but it’s just not what it needs.
I just see a lot of missed opportunity here. They’ve made a vehicle that very much appeals to enthusiasts but misses the mark for normies. It’s too complicated, too expensive, and too inefficient. I agree that they need to fast track a hybrid one. Hell, use the hybrid powertrain they already have on offer in the Tucson/Sportage, pair it with a torque converter like they do in those cars. and price it below the 2.5.
Now all of a sudden it’s a much more enticing vehicle for regular people. Honestly it should have launched in this format but oh well. It’s more powerful AND more efficient than the NA 4 popper.
I always forget the Borrego and Hyundai Veracruz exist until I randomly see one in the wild.
“sold in every continent except Antarctica”
For a minute there I thought this meant the Bongo was sold in the US, unbeknownst to me. Then I looked at a map and realized there is more than one country on the North American continent. Imagine my surprise!
I love the Santa Cruz and I was mesmerized by it when I first saw one because somehow–maybe it came out before Autopian went live–this site didn’t even mention it, so when I saw one in the wild it blew me away. Like, Louise at the Boyz4Now concert. I am not even in the market and I find myself thinking about it all the time. If it had a tonneau cover, I might find myself trying to Hardigree for our CRV.
Um you can get a tonneau cover from the factory. A really nice one in fact.
I like the Santa Cruz a lot too, it debuted just shy of a year prior to this site’s launch. With most auto press, the Maverick pretty much got and kept all the thunder since it’s cheaper and has the hybrid powertrain. I go back and forth wondering if it would be worth Hyundai offering their 1.6T hybrid powertrain, since some reviews in other models don’t seem to hit the rated mileage and it wouldn’t be any cheaper really.
Upper Santa Cruz trims do have a sliding tonneau cover included, a hard cover that accordions/folds like window blinds.
Erp, thanks for the corrections. I meant the one that goes up to the roofline, heightening the covered area rather than just covering to bed rails…[googles] I see it’s called a “topper.” Sorry, I’m not a pick-up guy, I guess that further demonstrates the appeal of that little Hyundai!
Makes sense – I have wondered what that would look like on the SC..original Ridgelines with their own angled C-pillar were funny looking with a topper. Removing the tonneau cover on the trims that have it isn’t an easy job from what I’ve heard either, so that might be a reason that nobody seems to have made one for the Hyundai yet since most trims have the cover.
CANOPY! The word I wanted was “canopy.” Whew, glad that’s over.
As with most Kias, the Bongo and Kia’s commercial vehicles did get their start with Mazda. A handful of Kia Bestas (another name used) were also sold briefly through Mazda dealers in Canada, before Mazda’s own MPV and before Kia made its own proper entry.
As far as the TK goes, Lexus would probably bristle at that name being too similar to the upcoming TX in badging even if they’re different types of vehicles. Especially from a company with a great reputation for clear, descriptive badging like KN.
It’s just a codename, they’ll probably have a different badge eventually.