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Hyundai shuns the ute sector

We think a Hyundai ute could look like this

…not to mention excellent turbo-diesel engines and transmissions, don't expect to see Hyundai tackling the one-tonne ute segment in the foreseeable future.

While privately Hyundai Australia executives and their dealers would love to take on the likes of HiLux, Triton and the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 cousins, Hyundai global president and CEO Steve S. Yang has thrown cold water on the idea.

At an audience with Australian motoring journalists at the company's Seoul head office, I asked Yang whether a HiLux-like single-cab and/or dual-cab ute were under consideration by his company.

I pointed out that the global dual-cab segment alone was a two-million-unit market and while it was dominated by the Japanese brands, even Volkswagen had seen the potential of adding the already award-winning Amarok range to its model line-up.

Interestingly you just don't see HiLux-type utes on Korean roads but given that country's overwhelming loyalty to home-grown vehicles (about 90 per cent of total sales), one would think a Hyundai dual-cab ute would sell its socks off in its home market not to mention Australia, South Africa, other parts of Asia and South America. Yang at first seemed to think I was talking about pick-up trucks like the big American Ford F250 or Dodge Ram but once he realised the vehicles in question he said he didn't think there was sufficient market potential for a HiLux-type Hyundai.

"We would need to sell 100,000 units to get into the segment and at the moment I don't think it's for us," he said. Speaking of 100,000 units, it's the exact figure Yang says Hyundai is shooting for with the new Veloster crossover/coupe. Currently, if utes were on Hyundai's product-development radar, it has several excellent turbo-diesel engines that could slip under the bonnets.

The iLoad van runs a 2.5litre double-overhead-cam common-rail unit with 125kW of maximum power at 3900rpm and a handy 392Nm of torque that is on tap between 2000 and 2500rpm. For its petrol version, iLoad uses a 2.4litre unit with 129kW at 6000rpm and 228Nm at 4200rpm.

In the case of the ix35 compact SUV, there's the two-litre common-rail-equipped "oiler" with 135kW at 4000 rpm and the same 392Nm of torque produced by the iLoad's engine but it is available between 1800 and 2600rpm.

The most grunt Hyundai currently achieves with a turbo-diesel is with the 2.2litre common-rail unit that's under the bonnet of the Santa Fe SUV.

It's good for 145kW of maximum power and when mated with a manual "box" it churns out 421Nm of torque. With the sports-shifting six-speed automatic this rises to 436Nm, way more than the Amarok's 400Nm.

With all this engine fire power, especially in the diesel department and its engineering clout and build quality, we and Hyundai's Australian dealers, can only hope that one day we see the booming Korean brand's badge adorn a ute.