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QOTD: Trucking Awful Nineties Design From Asia?

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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:

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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