1993 Kia Sportage Convertible 4X4 – Oddball Awesomeness

This is a 2002 Kia Sportage 4X4 convertible.
(Image: Kia)

Kia Sportage? Would you believe – Dakar?

The first generation of the Kia Sportage was built from 1993 – 2002. It was a tiny truck with a frame, solid rear axle and a real low-range gearing. Among the most unique of the first generation Sportages was the convertible which sold in very low numbers compared with its five-door brethren.

Check out this fun little promo

The basics

Built for rugged use and urban daily driving, the Kia Sportage was fairly simple, but it was a good recipe for the American market. Under the simple and unassuming exterior design lies a real ladder frame and a front-engine-rear-drive layout. You had two flavors to choose from, three door convertible and five door wagon.

The 2.0-liter FE DOHC engine produced 130 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque with a five-speed manual or a four-speed auto as optional transmissions. Having Mazda build this four-cylinder engine helped with overall reliability, which was one of the little Kia’s notable points.

Amazon.com: 2001 Kia Sportage Reviews, Images, and Specs: Vehicles
Image: KIA

It never sold like hotcakes, but Kia did move about a quarter of a million units into North America before moving on to a crossover platform.

The Kia Sportage was rated to two up to 2,000 lbs and it had a payload capacity of 838 lbs. Sportages were replaced by the larger Sorento as Kia’s truck-based SUV. It was larger and safer – but it the first generation didn’t last nearly as long. It too, became a car-based crossover by its second generation.

Kia went through a lot of changes since the Sportage first went on sale in the United States, notably when Hyundai Motor Company acquired 51% of the company in 1998. In 2002, the party ended for the first generation Sportage. Around the world, and with names like the Mazda Bongo, the little Kia made a name for itself as a capable little off-roader.

The short wheelbase of the Kia Sportage convertible and its tight confines made it a not very popular choice in the states. At 104.3-inches wheelbase, the five-door was actually longer than many competitors. On the other hand, the 92.9 inch wheelbase on the convertible was about a half-inch shorter than the 90s Jeep Wrangler wheelbase.

This was a Baja version.
(Image: Kia)

Cheap as chips!

There are a ton of used first generation Sportages for sale, but only a handful of convertibles. Lots of owners lift and augment these things and there are aftermarket goodies out there for serious modifications. Prices for these tiny trucks hover between $1,000 – $7,000 for a nice example.

While it’s not as special and unique as, say, a Daihatsu Rocky, it is a cheap and easy ride. One that can become pretty badass off-road with a little work. Hell, some people even do an axle swap!

Speaking of badass…

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.