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Kia ute snapped testing in Korea

Is this the long-awaited Kia ute?

Photos of a camouflaged (and slightly ragged) test mule posted to KiaClubOfficial show a Kia-branded pickup testing on Korean roads, wearing what appears to be the front-end of the Mohave SUV. Although the images are tight crops, it’s clear in one of the pictures the cabin cuts off behind the rear seats to create a dual-cab ute body.

Details about the Kia ute are thin on the ground, but the company earlier this year committed to building “a dedicated electric pickup truck and a strategic model for emerging markets”.

The brand says it’ll produce one of the utes alongside an SUV in the USA from 2024, and mentioned these would be mid-sized models. This suggests it’ll have an electric counterpart to the likes of the Ford Ranger.

Along with the electric option, there are rumours the “strategic model for emerging markets” could also be offered with internal-combustion power.

It’s possible the Mohave front-end is born of convenience, and bears no relevance to the finished product… but if Kia was to build an internal-combustion ute, something like the Mohave would make a logical base.

Built on a ladder frame, it’s powered by a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine making 186kW and 560Nm. Although it was once sold in the USA as the Borrego, the Mohave (pictured below) is now reserved for South Korea. The fact it’s over a decade old means it’s unlikely the current Mohave’s frame will underpin a new ute.

Which ute models will come to Australia isn’t clear. Light commercial vehicles dominate the sales charts Down Under, with the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux generally occupying the top two spots.

It stands to reason, then, Kia would prioritise getting utes to our market, given the potential they have to elevate it on the sales charts.

In the case of the potential electric pickup, Kia has already said it wants every electric vehicle it can get its hands on locally.

“There is a plan for at least seven [e-GMP cars] in total in the Kia brand,” said Kia Australia product boss, Roland Rivero.

“We are negotiating strongly to bring as many of them to our shores as quickly as possible. If we’re lucky enough, there could be another couple next year.”

As it stands, the EV6 and Niro are leading the electric charge for Kia in Australia. A production version of the Concept EV9 could follow in 2023.

Measuring up at 2055mm wide and 4930mm long with a 3100mm wheelbase, the family-hauling crossover concept is 80mm wider than a Hyundai Palisade, and rides on a wheelbase that’s 200mm longer.

Claimed range is 483km, and the e-GMP platform supports 350kW ultra-rapid charging hooked up to a public DC fast charger. Beyond the EV9, it’s not clear which of the models Kia teased in 2020 is next in line.

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