By on January 23, 2010

Do you remember this car? I didn’t. I don’t mean the vehicle in general, but this variation of it. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s humbling to know there are gaps, and I’m thankful to come across the opportunity to refresh the memory banks.

As I said, I knew it was  Kia Sportage, but totally forgot this variation existed. The half-soft top small SUV was popular for a while there, with Suzuki leading the charge, and Isuzu’s Amigo, Daihatsu’s Rocky, and…oh oh; am I forgetting another?

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31 Comments on “Curbside Classic Outtake: The Car I Forgot Existed Edition...”

  • avatar

    The Geo Tracker had a rear soft top, our neighbor had a preferance for them. The first gen Freelander also had a hardtop version of this body style and I think the M-class was going to have a similar style but that idea never made it past the AAV concepts they used for The Lost World.

  • avatar

    ack, those things had HORRIBLE service records. I used to see one driving around in NoVa with a big sign in the rear window proclaiming it to be a lemon and how no one should buy one.

  • avatar

    A few Canadians may remember the Asuna Sunrunner. Basically a badge-engineered Geo Tracker for Pontiac dealers. Sold as an Asuna from 92-93, then as a Pontiac from 94-98.

    • 0 avatar
      Extra Credit

      If you’re going to dig up the Sunrunner, then you have to pay due credit to the requisite umlaut – Asüna. While we’re on that little piece of (an excruciatingly short) history, let’s also pay due credit to the brand itself. Asüna was created to be a sport-minded, youthful brand targeted at import intenders. It would be GM of Canada’s not-so-secret not-much-of-a-weapon against the increasingly popular import brands basically by rebadging Isuzu products. It was the brainchild of Don Johnson and Susan Docherty. This was one of Susan’s final contributions to GM of Canada before leaving to masterfully conquer the GM organization in the US.

    • 0 avatar

      And the Geo Tracker was a badge-engineered Suzuki Sidekick

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    1st gen RAV4 convertible

  • avatar

    RAV4 is another (similarly rare)

    Blazer as well, if that counts

  • avatar

    This was an interesting niche for a while. I think the market was for people that aspired to buy a 2-door Wrangler but didn’t want to suffer with the myriad compromises of driving a ‘trail-rated’ Jeep as their only means of transportation. IIRC, the contenders were:

    Geo Tracker / Suzuki Sidekick
    Daihatsu Rocky
    Isuzu Amigo
    Kia Sportage

    It wasn’t a particularly bad idea but the market seemed to dry up when Chrysler saw the light and began updating (the Jeep faithful would say compromising) the Wrangler by softening up the ride and other creature comforts to widen the market outside of the relatively small group of hardcore off-roaders that would tolerate its masochistic tendancies.

    The best of the lot was arguably the Tracker/Sidekick, if for no other reason than it was the only one that had a soft-top that extended above the driver/passenger seats, making it much more of a convertible experience than any of the others (and closest to a soft-top Wrangler).

    This is one time when Chrysler saw the shift in the market early enough to be able to correctly adapt to it which, to this day, continues to make the current Wrangler one of the few bright spots in Fiatsler’s line-up.

    I mean, the vehicle hasn’t had any significant changes since the successful Unlimited was released in 2007, yet still sells well, despite a noticable lack of incentives and when Consumer Reports consistantly rates it at or near the bottom as the worst vehicle available.

    Speaking of which, a CC on a Suzuki Samari would be interesting. To this day, there are still a few of those running around (many with wildly oversized tires and lift kits). Talk about a death-trap…

    • 0 avatar

      + RAV4 2-door soft-top. Forgot about that one.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Eugene is absolutely flooded with Samurais, from bone stock to absurdly jacked up, yet there are very few Wranglers here. CC coming.

    • 0 avatar

      Someone around here is driving a cherry purple Daihatsu Rocky (lic GJY793), although it has an hard cover where softback would’ve been otherwise (the cover is white). The top over the front seats can be partially opened, BTW. I’m shocked that thing is still driveable.

    • 0 avatar

      I cross-shopped the Jeep Wrangler, Isuzu Amigo, and Suzuki Sidekick, and ended up with a 94 Sidekick JX with the 16v motor. The Jeep was just too crude and ugly inside to want to use as a daily driver, and the Amigo had all the disadvantages of a convertible but you still had a solid roof over your head. That the Sidekick was also the cheapest was a bonus.

  • avatar

    I had an employee with this car. She had a 300K + mile Cherokee that died in front of of a Kia dealer and they sold her one of these new. She always felt that she got ripped off. The top always leaked, the Check Engine light was perpetually, and it was always in the shop. I drove it once and it reminded me of farm equipment.

  • avatar

    There was also a T-Top Suzuki X90.

    • 0 avatar

      The x-90 immediately popped into my head –

      I remember looking under the hood of an early Samarai that was in use on a farm in New York State and seeing a label saying (I paraphrase): For Off-Road-Use Only; Engine life = 50,000 miles.

      I was drunk at the time, so I probably got the wording wrong, but I’m curious if some early Samarais were not road legal?

    • 0 avatar


      Are you sure what you saw was a Samurai? There were some SJ models imported as utility vehicles, which weren’t street legal. They’d be indistinguishable from a Samurai except for the badging and some subtle details.

  • avatar

    And before the Suzuki Sidekick (and it’s Geo/Chevrolet Tracker twin), there was the Suzuki Samurai.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    There was also an Isuzu Rodeo soft top for a short period of time.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave Skinner

      During the last three years of production (2001-03), Isuzu rebadged the Amigo the “Rodeo Sport”. I’m guessing Isuzu wanted to increase Rodeo market numbers by combining the two door and four door sales.

  • avatar

    Since I’ve gone on record as saying that the current Wrangler is too heavy, I’ve always wished that the “cute utes” of this type had made some attempt to be a bit less, well, cute, and a bit more off-road capable.

    It always amazed me that Daimler-Chrysler made the ill-fated decision to produce the Patriot and the all-but-identical Compass, rather than using the resources to build something like this off of the MK platform. Sure, the Jeep purists still would have been outraged, but at least the decision would have made slightly more sense.

  • avatar

    My high school girlfriend had this EXACT car, color and all.

    Many, many memories in that cute ute…

  • avatar

    The AmigoRodeo “Sport”, at least with the 3.2 and 5spd always tickled my “wanna hav one” bone. Even if was just a Rodeo chopped up with a machete.
    Wouldn’t mind a 2dr Rav4 as a second car. Simple runabout when snow accumulates.

  • avatar

    The Suzuki Vitara was also available in the SWB form with a soft top. Not sure if they did that generation of the Tracker with a soft top. Anyway, my wife had a Vitara and the rear section was a pain to put back on. She loved that car and I do not think we had any problems with it.

  • avatar

    From “ozkia racing”

    Darren Skilton’s Career Highlights (Kia Sportage)

    1992 2nd Place, SCORE Baja 500, Class 6

    1993 1st Place, SCORE Baja 1000, Class 6
    1st Place, La Rana, Class 6

    1994 1st Place, SCORE Baja 1000, Class 6

    1995 1st Place, FIA Baja Espana, 2WD Class
    1st Place, SCORE Baja 1000, Class 3

    1996 Seeded by FIA for Cross Country Rallies

    1997 1st Place, SCORE series, Class 3
    1st Place, Vegas to Reno, Class 3000
    1st Place, SCORE Baja 500, Class 3

    1998 Completed th Paris-Dakar Rally
    1st Place, Best In Desert, Class 3000
    1st Place, SCORE series, Class 3

    1999 1st Place, SCORE Lauglin Desert Challenge, Class 3
    1st Place, SCORE San Filipe 250, Class 3
    1st Place, SCORE Baja 1000, Class 3
    1st Place, SCORE series, Class 3

    2000 Completed Paris-Dakar-Cairo 2000, Class T3
    1st Place, SCORE Baja 500, Class 3
    2nd Place, Nevada 2000, Class 3000
    1st Place, SCORE Baja 2000, Class 3
    1st Place, SCORE series, Class 3

    The success of the Sportage in the gruelling events has been even more amazing considering how ‘stock’ some of the vehicle is. As mentioned earlier it uses a factory Kia ladder frame chassis and body, stock automatic transmission, engine block and management system

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of mine sold Kias back when these were available new off of the showroom floor. I remember a big display on one of his inside dealership walls proclaiming how superior the Sportage was to the likes of the Rav4 or CR-V (or whatever the competitors were at the time) because it was body on frame and not unibody.

  • avatar

    I just recalled an oddity of these first-generation Sportages: The driver’s side included a knee airbag. Regardless, this generation of Sportage was not a stellar performer in crash tests.

  • avatar

    I had a second generation Isuzu Amigo with the half soft top. It was the V6 + Auto + 4wd and performed quite well anytime I went off road. I never tried any of those rock courses that you see the jacked up trucks climb, but it was very competent for my needs. I remember it’s reliability and capability fondly. Not so fond of its ride quality which was better than the Wrangler (and much better than my previous K5 Blazer) but eventually a little too harsh for me. I went car for a turn and now I’m in an Isuzu Trooper with a little bigger engine and a lot better ride.

  • avatar

    My two year old’s doll stroller has a similar top. Maybe that is why this vehicle looks like a girl’s toy.

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