QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Asia?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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