2024.03.06 Kia

Kia Bongo: A Steadfast Partner for Small Business Owners in South Korea

The Kia Bongo has always been by our side as a means of transportation for the whole family and a companion in the industrial history of South Korea. The evolution of this compact commercial vehicle, continuously developing in response to customer and era demands, is evident through its long history.

From a time when every Korean referred to vans as “Bongo,” it has been a familiar presence, serving not just our families but also our neighbors as a passenger van and silently holding its place as a cargo vehicle in rapidly growing industrial sites. The Bongo has evolved entirely with the consumer in mind, continuously adapting over the years to customer needs, making it one of the most practical commercial vehicles of our time.

The Birth and Popularity of the Bongo Myth: Korea’s National Truck

The myth of Bongo began with the 1-ton truck ‘Bongo’ and the van ‘Bongo Coach’

The story of Bongo dates back to the 1980s. With the implementation of the automotive industry rationalization measures in 1981, Kia was able to exclusively supply small and medium-sized commercial vehicles, launching the 1-ton diesel truck ‘Bongo’ and the van ‘Bongo Coach’ into the market. Bongo quickly became very popular upon its release. It gained explosive popularity among self-employed individuals, agriculture, fisheries, and small-scale manufacturers throughout the 1980s, establishing itself as the nation’s truck.

In 1989, Bongo evolved into the second-generation model, the ‘Wide Bongo.’ The Wide Bongo not only became mainstream but also declared luxury to meet the diverse demands of customers. A notable change was the gear shift lever, which, unlike the column type shift lever commonly found in commercial vehicles at the time, was changed to a floor type like those in passenger cars. Additionally, it introduced an 80 horsepower 2.7L JS diesel engine, increasing power, and widely applied convenience specifications such as power windows, power steering wheels, air conditioning, and premium audio.

Bongo Frontier (left) and Bongo Frontier facelift (right)

The third generation Bongo, ‘Bongo Frontier,’ succeeded in generation change in 1997. Thanks to the rapidly growing domestic automobile market environment, Bongo also made significant advancements. The Bongo Frontier increased power with a 3.0L diesel engine and introduced a silent model with noise reduction technology. Furthermore, the exterior underwent a new design, transforming into a more modern look.

Bongo III, equipped with a wide range of convenience and safety specifications, has evolved into a truck tailored to each owner

The current ‘Bongo III,’ the fourth-generation model, was first released in 2004 and has continuously updated its product competitiveness. It adopted a common-rail diesel engine and used AdBlue to meet increasingly stringent emission regulations, improving engine specifications. It also applied a wide range of safety specifications, such as tire pressure warning systems, emergency braking warning systems, forward collision avoidance assistance, and lane departure warnings. Following the trend towards eco-friendly vehicles in the automotive market, the powertrain expansion was notable. Currently, the Bongo III is available for sale with an LPG 2.5 turbo engine model that delivers a maximum output of 159 horsepower and a Bongo III EV equipped with a 135kW electric motor.

A diverse lineup of Bongos for each purpose of use

The diverse lineup tailored to the purpose of use is one of Bongo’s most significant features. Bongo offers a wide lineup that can adapt to various business fields by transforming the cargo space according to the purpose of use. The Bongo III lineup includes standard trucks, refrigerated trucks, parcel delivery trucks, wing body trucks, walk-through vans, dump trucks, power gates, mobile homes, and live fish transport trucks, segmented according to their purpose of use. Especially, the built-in van, commonly seen as a parcel delivery vehicle, is available in Low, Standard, and High configurations, allowing entry into underground parking lots of apartment buildings, optimized for general delivery, and enabling work while standing in the cargo space, respectively. In addition, the variety of powertrain types, cabin space, all-wheel drive, and payload options in Bongo’s diverse models and detailed specifications are countless.

The Bongo refrigerated/freezer truck has a built-in temperature control device and a stainless steel embossed floor

What catches the eye is not only Bongo’s diverse lineup but also the fact that it is composed of features and user-friendly specifications considering the characteristics of each model. For example, the refrigerated/frozen top trucks have a center console built-in temperature control device and a corrosion-resistant stainless corrugated floor, while wing body and power gate models apply electrically operated side gates and tailgates. Thus, Bongo has played the role of a jack-of-all-trades in various business fields by fully equipping each model with specialized features tailored to its purpose of use.

Bongo III EV provides optimized performance for urban transportation through electrification

The electric vehicle Bongo III EV is designed specifically for urban driving. It is particularly suited for the quick commerce (fast delivery) market and urban logistics centers, which have gained significant attention in the distribution industry. The Bongo III EV delivers a maximum output of 135kW and a maximum torque of 395Nm through its electric powertrain. Such powerful performance shines in urban driving conditions, offering excellent power performance regardless of cargo load or uphill driving, thanks to the strong torque available from the start.

Optimized for urban transportation, the Bongo III EV can travel up to 211km on a single charge. Considering the average daily driving distance of a delivery vehicle is around 42km, it allows for comfortable operation with just 1-2 charges per week. Additionally, it produces zero carbon dioxide emissions while driving, making it free from urban emissions restrictions.

The Perfect PBV Solution

Kia’s concept lineup for its PBV mobility strategy includes PV1, PV5, and PV7

Kia, which has provided customer-tailored commercial vehicles through Bongo, is set to introduce a new PBV suitable for the era of future mobility. Announcing the development of PBVs with its mid-to-long-term future strategy ‘Plan S’ in 2020, Kia redefined the concept of PBV as ‘Platform Beyond Vehicle’ at CES 2024, unveiling new PBV concept models that offer new business and lifestyle possibilities through customized designs based on usage. Kia’s newly revealed PBV concept models, which present various vehicle sizes and specific usage plans, signal the full-scale arrival of PBVs.

With its small size and agility, Kia PV1 is optimized for urban last-mile transportation

Kia’s PBV concept models - PV1, PV5, and PV7 based on size - provide a complete PBV solution. Among them, PV1 is the smallest PBV, taking charge of last-mile delivery in narrow urban spaces.

Kia PV5 presents a realistic PBV utilization scenario, from ride-hailing to logistics transportation

Scheduled to be released as Kia’s first dedicated PBV model, PV5 appears in a more realistic form through various specifications and lineups. The PV5 lineup includes PV5 Basic, focused on hailing services, PV5 Delivery (Standard/Long/High Roof) optimized for logistics transportation, and PV5 Chassis Cab, which allows for flexible changes based on usage with a single row of passenger seats and a chassis rail. PV5, capable of transforming freely according to usage or customer demand, is set to act as a new business platform encompassing various mobility services like ride-hailing, robotaxis, delivery, and logistics.

Lastly, PV7, the largest among Kia’s PBV concept models, takes on the transportation of numerous passengers or large cargo. With its spacious interior, it provides ample cargo space and flexible seating arrangements and is equipped with a large-capacity battery suitable for long-distance logistics transportation.

The Kia PBV series is expected to be the successor of Bongo as a next-generation means of transportation

Kia is also focusing on software development for IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment), FMS (Fleet Management System), and Charging to provide optimized PBV solutions to customers. These software technologies, in line with Hyundai Motor Group’s SDx (Software-defined everything) strategy, aim to enhance customer convenience in mobility and differentiate the business. Kia envisions a future mobility era where anyone can enjoy the right to convenient travel without transportation blind spots, and more efficient logistics become a reality through versatile PBVs. Kia’s PBV concept models, freely transformable according to usage and customer demand, are expected to become a practical companion in our mobility life in the future.

HMG Journal Operation Team


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