30 years of the Kia Sportage

2023 sees the 30th birthday of the iconic Kia Sportage. The best-selling SUV made its debut way back in 1993 and has gone on to be Kia's most popular car in the UK. So much so that it helped Kia propel its UK sales of new cars in 2022 to over 100,000 for the first time in its history

The Sportage is virtually unrecognisable from the model that launched in the early '90s. It is now in its fifth generation of design and has a wide range of powertrain options to suit the needs of many drivers, ensuring that it's at the forefront of Kia's global electrification strategy. 

First generation - The Sportage is born

The Kia Sportage was first released in the Asian car market way back in July 1993. Two years later in '95, production of the Sportage began in Germany, ready for its launch in Europe.

There were two different versions of the Sportage that initially went on sale: a five-door SUV and a 3-door convertible soft-top. It underwent its first changes in 1996, with the body being lengthened for a bigger luggage capacity. 

This version of the Sportage remained on sale until being discontinued in 2002 in South Korea and North America, and the following year in Europe. 

Second generation - The Sportage is reborn

Following a two-year hiatus from sales, the Sportage was relaunched by Kia in 2005. European production of the Sportage moved in 2006 from Germany to Kia's Zilina Plant in Slovakia - where the Sportage continues to be built to this day. 

The second-generation Sportage shared many similarities with its SUV class rival, the Hyundai Tucson; Hyundai had taken part-ownership of Kia in the late 1990s. 

A 2.0-litre diesel engine sat under the bonnet and huge strides in safety upgrades in the Sportage led to its popularity growth, compared to the previous design. 

By 2009, the Sportage had earned a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It was named as one of the most reliable vehicles to drive in the Consumer Reports reliability survey too. 

This coincided with Kia hitting 50,000 UK new car sales for the first time in a single year. To put that achievement into context, Kia sold 61,748 new cars in total in the UK in ten years, between 1991 and 2001. A great deal of this success was down to the much-improved Sportage.

Third generation - Major player

By the time the third generation Sportage hit the roads in the Spring of 2010, it had become a major player in the SUV market. It was available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine as well as the 2.0-litre diesel option. 

To underline its huge jump in quality yet again, the Sportage picked up a prestigious 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. 

Another big change was the size of the third-gen Sportage. The SUV had bulked up in size from previous versions to accommodate a larger boot capacity and greater cabin space for its occupants. Kia's trademark 'tiger-nose' grille design also made its debut on this version of the Sportage. 

95,626 of this model was sold - four times more than the previous version in the same number of years!

Fourth generation - Best seller

The fourth generation Sportage was first unveiled at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show to much anticipation. The design of sharp edges and smooth surfaces was said to have been inspired by modern fighter jets. 

Going on sale a year later in Europe, it cemented its place as Kia's best-selling model and one of the UK's favourite SUVs. The fourth-gen Sportage accounted for around 40% of Kia's overall new car sales and almost 200,000 units were sold during its run.

Fourth generation Kia Sportage Used Car

It underwent a subtle facelift in 2018, receiving a new front bumper design and bold taillights. This was also the first version of the Sportage that had the option for a part-electrified powertrain. 

A mild hybrid model that featured a 48-volt electric motor was launched to join the line-up of petrol and diesel options. This set the groundwork for what was going to come in Kia's electrified revolution.

This is still a very popular version of the Sportage and well conditioned models can be found in our Used Car stock

Fifth generation - SUV class leader

The latest version of the Sportage launched in the Spring of 2022. Its stunning new sleek yet muscular design, that features boomerang-style LED headlights and reimaged 'tiger-nose' grille, makes it stand out from the SUV pack. 

It has picked up a catalogue of awards since its launch, including What Car? 'Best Family SUV' and 'SUV of the Year' at the Company Car and Van Awards

New Kia Sportage SUV
New Kia Sportage SUV

The Sportage now boasts a wide range of powertrain options: Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), Hybrid Electric (HEV), Mild Hybrid (MHEV), and efficient petrol and diesel engines. The Sportage PHEV can travel over 40 miles of exclusively battery-powered driving thanks to its powerful 66.9kW electric motor. 

The Sportage ended 2022 as Kia's most popular car in terms of sales once again, and a highly impressive sixth overall in the UK.

Sixth generation and beyond - Sportage EV?

It's perhaps not too much of a stretch to assume that the next generation of the Sportage will rely solely on electric power. 

Kia has already stated in their 'Plan S' for electric driving that the brand will launch nine EVs in the UK market between 2021 and 2027. Two of those, the Niro EV and the powerful EV6 GT, are already on sale, with the stunning EV9 due to follow at the back end of 2023. 

We can't wait to see what Kia and the Sportage have in store!