QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Asia?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd trucking awful nineties design from asia

Today’s QOTD marks the last post in the Nineties design discussion on which we embarked in the beginning of May. We discussed the good and bad points of Nineties design from America, Europe, and Asia. SUVs and trucks were off-limits initially, until we focused solely on them starting in June. As our final entry in the Nineties, we talk bad SUV and truck design from Asia.

The rules, in case you forgot since last week:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from an Asian manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Honda Crossroad).
  3. The only eligible body styles are trucks and SUVs.

You won’t have considered today’s sample styling failure, because it’s probably been years since you’ve seen one:

The anodyne shape before you is the Kia Sportage, and your author had to Google “1997 Kia SUV” to get a clue for the model name. Developed in one of Kia’s past lives, the original Sportage was based on the Mazda Bongo platform. The Bongo is one of those van-and-truck vehicles you’d see doing duty as a fruit stand and family hauler in a far away land. Kia needed something compact on which to build their SUV, and Mazda’s 1983 platform was handy because of the company’s tie-in with Ford. There’s an internet rumor that Kia’s SUV project started out in cooperation with Daimler. The project netted 25 small SUVs which were sold as test vehicles in South Korea and Taiwan. But Daimler changed their mind, and pulled out from the partnership. A search netted no conclusive proof of said rumor.

Kia began production of the Sportage in 1993. Kia cars didn’t come to America until 1994, as dealers in Oregon premiered the brand with the Sephia. The Sportage was the second model, and came along in 1995. It was available in five-door guise, as well as a three-door soft top. All engines were two-liters of displacement, and provided by Mazda. It had an inoffensive shape which was entirely forgettable and without any distinguishing characteristics. Yet, it wasn’t a well-aging design like other minimally-detailed vehicles. It may surprise you to learn the first generation Sportage was sold in the US through 2002, and remained in other markets through 2004. It was a real SUV, with four-wheel drive and a manual transmission among its qualifications. But good grief it’s homely.

What’s your pick for bad Nineties design?

[Images: Mazda, Kia]

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2 of 45 comments
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.
  • Inside Looking Out Scandinavian design costs only $600? I mean the furniture.
  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.