By on July 17, 2019

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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45 Comments on “QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Asia?...”


  • avatar
    spookiness

    Suzuki X-90.
    No further comment.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Oh yeah, that thing was awful :(

    • 0 avatar
      FerrariLaFerrariFace

      Came here for this. Game over.

    • 0 avatar
      Audiman

      That wins!

      On the flip side, the Mazda in the pic (and twin ranger) was the exact opposite. I think they’re awesome and had a few of them

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        I had a ’93 so I am partial to the Japanese design, but nothing wrong at all with the ’94+ B-series/Rangers. Wish I still had mine.

        • 0 avatar
          Audiman

          Yeah 93 was a much better truck in so many ways. It was a Mazda (I think with a small bit of courier mixed in?). The rangers I had were a lot of stupid fun. And I probably had the shiniest best kept ranger around.

          But alas, I fell in love with a German mistress (Audi). Did I ever look back? Yeah, LOTS of times! Lol!

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Game, set, match, mic drop. Close the thread.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Surely nothing can beat the Mitsubishi Triton ?

      This thing had NO suspension – they felt like they simply welded the axle right onto the tray. All but the tiniest dip in the road would send your head flying into the roof.
      That’s before we mention the engine that leaked like the Exxon Valdez and the bits of broken plastic, washers and nuts which it would strew over the road continuously.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      There is a dude in my town who owns one. It is lifted with large (large for it) off-road tires. Looks super cool. I’s love to talk to him about it. I suspect a Samurai chassis is under it.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Subaru BRAT, although a sentimental favorite in retrospect it was a poor design with a useless bed and an ultimate failure for Subaru

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I will see your Suzuki X-90 and raise you one 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara. Pontiac-level cladding bolted on a generic melted bar of soap shape with an interior that a 90’s era Kia wouldn’t even touch with a 10-foot pole. There should be zero surprise after this duo of sadness why Suzuki pulled out of the US market…
    And the BRAT was discontinued in the late-80s – the Baja was mid-2000s.

    Honorable mention: Isuzu VehiCROSS. I knew people who loved the oddness and others that wouldn’t be caught dead in it. Wild design, very ordinary underneath.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      VehiCROSS was my runner-up choice.

      • 0 avatar

        I like the VehiCROSS, because Isuzu made a concept and then actually built it. It’s great.

        • 0 avatar
          Blackcloud_9

          You forgot to edit the cut-and-paste you did from your rules.
          “2. Picks must be from a domestic manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Honda Crossroad)”
          Shouldn’t that be from a Foreign or Asian manufacturer?

        • 0 avatar
          theflyersfan

          I’m in the camp that liked it when it came out, and it had one hell of an advanced 4WD system out of the gate. The engine/transmission combo was nothing special though, and combined with the weight, didn’t help it around town.
          But if the question is “Has it aged well?” – I’m now in the camp of “not really.” It, thankfully, isn’t a generic design (See: Grand Vitara) but the problem of going so radical is that down the road, it looks like it doesn’t fit or belong anywhere except a garage or warehouse somewhere on display. You’ll get looks alright, but they might be the WTF??? looks!
          To put it another way, if this came from Citroen or Renault, we’d all go “Oh well, another French design…” But to come from someone as conservative as Isuzu, yeah, that was a jolt to the system there!

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          …because Isuzu made a concept and then actually built it…

          The JR Isuzu Impulse (Piazza RoW) was also a concept car that basically went straight to production. They had to put the eyebrow pop up headlight covers to fit with the available headlight technology at the time, but that was one of only a handful of changes.

          Doug Demuro has a great video about the VehiCROSS.

          • 0 avatar
            Jeff Weimer

            I think it was US headlight regulations that required the eyebrows. Sealed-beams came in 4 formats and that was all you could use (JDM Piazzas had a one-piece unit under the eyebrows. When regs were relaxed, they got rid of the mechanism and went with a smaller format sealed-beam design also used on a number of GM vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Were those smaller sealed beams also used on an Oldsmobile Toronado? I wonder if they’re still available.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      I like the Vitara for being a relatively tough, cheap little vehicle, but the soap bar second gen was absolutely a step back from both the Sidekick it replaced, and the last Grand Vitara we got (which were really nice for what they were). They’re also as dated as a Palm Pilot.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears. For I have come to bury the Grand Vitara not praise it.

      It did seat seven and provided some degree of practicality. Thus it was noble.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Just cause I owned one and it was such a POS. Isuzu pick up. Not necessarily bad looking or ergonomically poor….terrible motor with head gasket leak issues, poor dealer network etc.

    Next, the Suzuki Vitara. Just an awful place to spend ones time.

  • avatar
    NN

    In 2002 I took a trip to Costa Rica. When I first went in 1998, they had Jeep Cherokee’s and Toyota Rav-4’s as rentals. In 2002 when I returned all the Jeeps were replaced with Kia Sportage, because the Jeeps were too unreliable according to the rental agency. At this time the coast along Costa Rica was mostly dirt roads with occasional stream crossings in the middle of the road, and this was the rainy season, so a real 4×4 was needed. First impressions, with the weak engine and 3-speed auto, was that the Kia was complete junk. Yet the Sportage was actually phenomenal off road and earned our respect. We drove the gnarly lava rock trail to Witches Rock–the hardest core off-roading I’ve ever done, having to walk along the truck to spot the wheels for 90 minutes down a mountainside, and it made it down and back, carrying 5 guys and surf/camping gear, like a champ. It wasn’t a good vehicle here in the States, but for less developed parts of the world it made sense.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    In general the ’90’s were much better than the ’80 and massively better than the ’70. People were generally very happy to trade in their old car for a ’90’s vehicle.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    I think Nissan’s design change from the original Hard Body to the 90s was abysmal. The 90s D20 looked awful, then they went further in terrible design with the D22.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    I think Nissan’s design change from the original Hard Body to the 90s was abysmal. The 90s D20 looked awful, then they went further in terrible design with the D22.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Corey,

    I have a QOTD suggestion: These ‘joint venture’ projects seem often to end badly for both partners, yet automakers keep doing them. Why? Are there any which have turned out well?

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    I vote for the 2019 Nissan Frontier based on its looks that has barely changed since 1999.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    That Mazda B-Series at the top – design from Asia? No, design from Dearborn.

  • avatar
    smapdi

    I guess I am alone in thinking that all of the models being thrown around are attractive… I think that the first gen Kia Sportage, the Vitara, Sidekick, X90, VehiCross, Rav4, etc. were all good looking vehicles. They all had clean curves with few exaggerated styling characteristics outside of the body cladding, which may be the feature I pick as the worst design element. I still want a VehiCross after loving it in High School…

  • avatar
    robinwilkes

    Has anyone said Izuzu Amigo yet?

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The original Tacoma. I’ll get heat, and through today’s lens it is fine, but I remember people being livid when the replaced the original “truck”. Id drive one because they are great trucks, but they’ve never really gotten the styling right since they didched the hilux in the US.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Pontiac Sunrunner ?

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    VEHICross by a thousand miles.


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