Is Kia’s Forthcoming Pickup Model at Par with Mid-Size Trucks in the U.S.?

4WheelOnline
5 min readAug 22, 2023

Pickup trucks have been a big part of the American culture. From rugged workhorses to stylish urban cruisers — these vehicles became popular in the American automotive landscape. Giants like Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram have long dominated the truck segment, but a new contender is about to join the arena.

Kia, the South Korean automaker known for its stylish cars and SUVs, is set to introduce its mid-size pickup truck to Australia. But will its forthcoming pickup model be able to hold its own against the mid-size trucks if brought to the United States?

Photo by Mark Bishop on Unsplash

Kia’s Ranking in the U.S. Automotive Market

Over the last decade, Kia has made remarkable strides in the American automotive market. The brand has gained recognition for its commitment to quality, safety, and innovation. The South Korean automaker has steadily risen through the ranks, capturing the attention of American drivers with its blend of affordability, style, and technology.

Kia’s journey in the U.S. automotive market has been remarkable. Over the past few decades, the brand has evolved from being perceived as a budget-friendly option to a serious contender in different segments. The combination of advanced features, sleek designs, and competitive pricing has contributed to the automaker’s growing popularity among American consumers. Moreover, the Soul EV and EV6 demonstrate the brand’s commitment to the electric future. This proactive approach places Kia in the same conversation as American EV pioneers like Tesla and General Motors.

According to industry reports, Kia’s market share has expanded, and its vehicles consistently receive positive reviews from experts and consumers alike. Like a rising star, the upward trajectory suggests Kia’s entry into the truck market met with curiosity and anticipation.

Kia adding pickup trucks to the lineup

Hyundai has shown that it can build a solid vehicle with its compact truck, Santa Cruz. But unlike Hyundai’s unibody vehicle, PerformanceDrive said a Kia insider reported that the truck will get its off-road credentials from a body-on-frame setup.

For ICE-versions, the key rivals include Jeep Gladiator, Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Honda Ridgeline, and more — but that is if Kia pursues bringing its new truck to the U.S. The pickup may face fewer competitors in electric variants, such as Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Rivian R1T, GMC Hummer EV SUT, and Lordstown Endurance.

But where does the South Korean automaker stand compared to its homegrown counterparts in the United States? Know how the company stacks up against other automakers from the United States.

Truck in the making

Kia has been making waves in the American automotive market for the past few years. The company has successfully transitioned from being perceived as a budget-friendly brand to a formidable player offering well-designed and feature-rich vehicles. With its new venture into the mid-size truck segment, Kia aims to tap into the demand for stylish yet versatile pickups that cater to daily drivers and adventure enthusiasts.

Kia currently offers SUV models such as Telluride and Mohave in the U.S. Some features of the SUVs can be included in the upcoming truck models. Spy shots about a vehicle tested in camo have sparked discussions. It seems like a Mohave with a dual-cab body style, with its exposed grille and headlights. Aside from the rear bed, it has a stretched wheelbase that’s good for certain truck tires and aftermarket wheels.

Kia confirmed to dealers in Australia that it will soon sell pickup trucks, Carscoops reported. The company will release not just one but two mid-sized trucks to compete with the Toyota Hilux (known as Tacoma in the United States). Although an official announcement has yet to be made for a truck launch in America, there’s still a possibility because Kia did not deny the reports.

What to expect

Kia made a bold statement to Australian dealers. The new truck is said to be a serious rival to the mid-size offering of the fellow Asian automaker, Toyota.

Carscoops created speculative illustrations (although it is not affiliated or endorsed with Kia). It has a fierce front end with a stunning grille and vertically stacked LED headlights. The wide-set fog lights recessed into the protruding bumper, which seems to be positioned higher than usual. They are positioned high enough to show that the truck could tackle any off-road trail.

Kia’s pickup has an angular three-box design. As you look closely at the illustration, you will notice the boxy body and squared-off wheel arches, hinting at Jeep Gladiator’s design cues. It also has boxy fender flares and unique door handles with vertical orientation. The stock rims add style points to the exterior, especially if combined with Nitto off-road tires. But the cabin looks immaculate with a minimalist interior, which seems very different from the muscular exterior.

Two truck variants

According to automotive news outlets, Kia will sell one of the forthcoming trucks with electric engines in emerging markets, while the other variant has an internal combustion engine (ICE). The future pickup models are still under development but are said to be good to drive on and off-road.

The Australian truck with the codename TK will probably follow the tracks of Hyundai Santa Cruz, which is currently available in the U.S. compact truck segment. With the new trends, Hyundai has been ahead of the curve, and Kia can learn many things from Santa Cruz.

The electric powertrain may be built on the E-GMP platform, shared with another South Korean automaker, Hyundai. The TK truck may also be available with a diesel engine variant for customers who want better payload and towing capacity figures.

Kia entering the competition

The Chicken Tax is often a part of the conversation when it comes to vehicles from foreign brands produced outside the U.S. If the South Korean automaker wants to sell trucks in the U.S., it will probably need to find a way to build them in North America — or else the company will face heavy tariffs.

Ultimately, the success of Kia’s forthcoming mid-size truck in the U.S. market will depend on its ability to offer a compelling package that resonates with American consumers. If the company can deliver a combination of style, performance, and technology at a competitive price point, it stands a good chance of gaining a foothold in the mid-size truck segment.

Moreover, Kia’s entry into the mid-size truck market reflects the brand’s ambition to diversify its product portfolio and cater to a wider range of consumers. While the competition is fierce, the company’s track record of innovation and improvement suggests that its forthcoming pickup model could hold its own among the established mid-size trucks in the United States.

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