The Kia Sportage has come a long way from its initial debut over two decades ago. More importantly, its design has changed radically over the years as well. What was once a boxy, utilitarian-looking compact SUV is now one of the sleekest looking crossovers in Kia's lineup. With the introduction of the new fifth-generation model this month, the crossover's styling has evolved once more.
Just how far has the Sportage come then? Well, let's take a look at the design evolution of Kia's oldest crossover model that started way back in the early 90s.
Yes, the Sportage is not just one of Kia's first SUVs. It's also one of the oldest nameplates in the brand's current lineup. It was even before Hyundai became Kia's partner brand. Back in 1993, the Sportage wasn't a crossover yet. It was technically a compact SUV as it was developed with a Mazda Bongo platform. That means it had a truck frame much like today's mid-size SUVs.
When it comes to styling, the first-generation Sportage wasn't the best-looking model with its mix of upright windows and jellybean styling. It somewhat resembled the Isuzu Trooper as well, albeit with unconventional proportions. Unlike the newer Sportage models, the first-generation was available as a three-door convertible.
In 2004, Kia revealed the second-generation Sportage, and it officially transitioned into a crossover. Front-wheel-drive became standard on the Kia Sportage, with all-wheel drive offered as an option. However, that wasn't all as the Sportage's design evolved significantly as well.
Unlike the first-generation model, the new crossover looked like a smaller version of the first-generation Kia Sorento. It also shared a similar design with its Hyundai twin – the first-generation Tucson. Side by side, it's hard to distinguish the two. Both models looked the same apart from some minor tweaks on the bumpers and different badges.
When the third-generation Sportage debuted in 2010, Kia heavily tweaked the styling of the crossover once again. It looked nothing like its predecessors and features a sleek design with clean body lines. Upfront, there are large upswept headlights that flank the grille, one of Kia's first iteration of the Tiger Nose design. There are no bulky fenders or anything. More importantly, the cabin was updated, making it feel roomier.
Even today, the third-generation Sportage's styling has aged well. If you saw one on the road, you may not think the model is over ten years old. But if you've noticed by now, the Sportage would undergo a radical makeover again when the fourth-generation model debuted.
In 2015, Kia revealed the newly redesigned Sportage, and it looked very different from its predecessor. The model looked a lot taller due to the front end's major makeover. Gone were the sleek headlights, and their place are high-mounted units. Here we also see the brand's signature Tiger Nose grille design more clearly. At the rear, the crossover was fitted with full-width taillights, a design cue that most Kia models have today.
After six years on the market, Kia finally introduced the fifth-generation Sportage. And by far, it is the sleekest looking iteration of the crossover yet. Just like the models before, Kia gave their crossover a radical redesign to follow the brand's current design direction. The Sportage ditches the high-set headlights. Instead, they're now located inside near the grille, separated by large C-shaped LED strips. The redesigned front-end also made the crossover look more aggressive than ever.
Apart from the front, Kia also made the roofline sleeker and is no longer as upright as the previous models. At the rear, the new Sportage gets new full-width LED taillights and an equally aggressive bumper. Higher-end models also come with a panoramic sunroof. It also bears Kia's new logo design.
Like the exterior, the interior also gets a major overhaul. The cabin is much more modern, featuring a large digital display that encompasses the instrument cluster and infotainment system. Kia ditched the traditional shifter for a rotary-style gear knob as well. The design of the aircon vents is unique too. There no shortage of luxury bits either with leather seats and even a two-tone interior.
After five generations, the Sportage has grown up from a rugged compact SUV to a sleek crossover. It's now bigger, more high-tech, and more luxurious than ever. But if there's one constant between all five models, it's their design. The constant change in styling, to be exact. Not one Sportage model looked similar to its predecessor or successor. However, Kia certainly hit the mark with the new Sportage's latest design.