South Korea’s oldest car company, Kia, was founded on 1944 as a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts. Kyungsung Precision Industry began building complete bicycles in 1951, in 1952 changed its name to Kia. The first generation Sportage won’t arrive until 1993.
The Brisa continued its production until 1981 where Kia stopped its car production to built light trucks.
In 1987 Kia built 95,000 passenger cars, from only 26 cars in 1986, thanks to its partnership with Ford Motor Company. Kia’s alliance with Ford/Mazda provided some technology for Koreans, while Ford and Mazda received a cheaper manufacturing prices.
1993 Kia Sportage Commercial (South Korea)
Thanks to this agreement, Kia launched several model like the Pride, the Avella (known as Ford Festiva in the US-market) and finally the first generation Kia Sportage in 1993, all of this vehicles were manufactured using Mazda powertrains.
In the case of the Kia Sportage, Kia used the Mazda Bongo engineering base platform to develop its first Sport Utility Vehicle. With the Mazda Bongo, the Sportage shared a lot of components like the engine, transmissions and AWD technology.
At launch, Kia used a Mazda 2.0-liter FE DOHC engine delivering 128 hp, they also offered a basic range with the same FE engine, but with a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) and delivering 117 hp. For Europe, Kia used a 2.0 diesel engine with 82 hp.
The Kia Sportage was sold in two variants, a five-door crossover or a two-door soft-top convertible. Kia initially developed the Wagon in standard length form, but in 1996, the company released an extended length version.
This stretched model—mainly sold in Asian markets under the name “Sportage Grand” or “Grand Wagon”—featured a 305 mm (12.0 in) longer body utilising the same wheelbase, an increase in luggage capacity from 1,570 to 2,220 liters (55.4 to 78.4 cu ft), and the relocation of the spare wheel from the tailgate to underneath the floor.
2000 Kia Sportage Commercial (North America)
The 1993 Kia Sportage scored the lowest possible result in the Australian ANCAP crashtests – one star out of five. As well as a failure of the seatbelts and the vehicle structure collapsed. But this was normal at that time for all cars, the big problem is when in 2015 automakers can develop and sell new cars with one star rating in Crash Test for developing markets
Another curious thing, the 1998 MY Kia Sportage was the world’s first production vehicle to be equipped with a knee airbag.
This first generation model (1993–2002) sold in low numbers even in South Korea (for example, in Europe the first generation Sportage sales during 1997-2004 period were 69,504 units, while the current model since was launched in 2010 and until June 2015 accumulate 423,454 units.
The first generation Sportage was discontinued in South Korea in 2002, and in North America after the 2002 model year. By 2003, most international markets had discontinued the Sportage range, although it did remain on sale in some developing countries until its second generation replacement arrived in 2004.
The Kia Sportage completed the 1993 Paris-Dakar rally and the 1995 Baja 1000, becoming the first vehicle ever to complete both courses.