Published on July 24th, 2023 | by Subhash Nair0
The Kia Sportage Is Now 30 Years Old And Still Going Strong Outside Malaysia
The Kia Sportage turns 30 this year and continues to take market share from rivals… just not in Malaysia.
Since its inception in 1993, the Sportage has left an indelible mark on the automotive world. With an impressive seven million units sold across five generations, the Sportage has firmly established itself as Kia’s best-selling model worldwide since 2015, captivating drivers with its distinctive design and inspiring performance. In Malaysia, the Kia Sportage was available as early as its first generation model.
The Evolution of the Kia Sportage Through Generations
As Kia’s first unique model exported overseas, the Sportage holds a special place as a pioneering compact SUV. The first-generation Sportage stood out with its sleek design, spacious interior, and sedan-like driving experience, setting it apart from traditional off-road-focused SUVs.
This was the only generation of the Sportage to be made prior to Hyundai’s partial takeover of the brand. It was engineered on a Mazda Bongo van platform with some other Mazda/Ford parts and technology used. You still see plenty of these Sportage SUVs still running in Malaysia, but globally it was not an impressive vehicle with poor safety standards. Kia did offer a lot of kit on this product including electronically controlled on-the-fly 4WD switching, rear coil springs, and the world’s first knee airbags.
From the second generation onwards, the Sportage adopted a modern monocoque platform, enhancing ride comfort and capitalizing on the growing SUV demand. The second generation prioritized quality and safety, earning the top spot in the J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) in 2005.
The third-generation Sportage, known as the Sportage R (Revolution), displayed its innovative spirit through its design. Its outstanding appeal garnered global recognition, surpassing two million units in sales. The iconic Tiger Nose grille design received prestigious accolades like the iF Design, Good Design, and Red Dot awards. Along with impressive safety ratings, including a five-star Euro New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP) rating in 2010, and being designated as a Top Safety Pick (TSP) by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US in 2011, it consistently ranked first in J.D. Power’s quality surveys, solidifying its reputation as a stylish, safe, and high-quality vehicle.
The fourth generation focused on safety enhancements and convenience features, impressing with its performance in rigorous small overlap front crash tests conducted by the IIHS and incorporating advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). It expanded its customer base in the compact SUV segment by adopting downsized engines, retaining its title as Kia’s best-selling car for eight consecutive years since its introduction in 2015.
The fifth-generation Sportage, introduced in 2021, further prioritized safety with a multi-structure body and increased mid-size SUV proportions. Its striking appearance, inspired by Kia’s ‘Opposites United’ design philosophy, along with diverse powertrain options, garnered widespread recognition and numerous automotive awards on the global stage.