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Mini Toyota HiLux incoming? Bite-sized rival for Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz looms - but there's a catch...

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The mini HiLux rendered (image: Digimods Design)
The mini HiLux rendered (image: Digimods Design)

An internal campaign to encourage Toyota in Japan to develop a mini HiLux that would compete with models like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz is underway, with the brand's American executives suggesting "it's one of the opportunities".

That's the word from Toyota's North American CEO, Ted Ogawa, who told Automotive News he's been talking with Toyota in Japan about delivering a small ute rival.

But there is catch, with the executive suggesting a smaller ute would be a prime candidate for electrification, rather than an ICE powertrain, because it wouldn't have the same capability and capacity requirements as its mid-size and full-size ute products. The executive was also quick to point out that there is no official plan for the model in place.

"We are studying in that area, including the electrification movement. For example, the full-size pickup, electrification is not good chemistry with these customers. However, in mid-size or smaller size, there is more electrification opportunity compared to the full-size area. So for us, it's one of the opportunities to think about — the smaller size than Tacoma pickup in the future. So we will keep on talking with (Toyota HQ)," he says.

"The truck area has a very severe hierarchy — size, displacement — traditionally. It's higher price, but with three classes there's a lower price, but the cost of more electrification is high. So that's now the challenge."

In Australia, it appears the compact ute market will become a new battleground, with CarsGuide understanding that Hyundai previewed a so-called “Tucson Ute” at a recent dealer event, as part of a host of upcoming new models earmarked for our market over the next few years.

While timings (and possibly names) are not yet clear, the Santa Cruz is expected to launch in Australia around 2026 after the second-generation model breaks cover.

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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