Globally, that is.
Twenty-five years ago, Kia was still a relatively small South Korean automaker. Today, it's become a global powerhouse. But we have to admit we were a bit surprised to learn that, since 1993, Kia has built some five million Sportage SUVs, a model the automaker claims first introduced the idea of the "urban SUV" to consumers. The first generation was built on a Mazda platform at the time of Kia's alliance with both Mazda and Ford. However, the original Sportage was not a strong seller, even in its home market of Korea.
The second generation model arrived in 2005 and its overall fit and finish was hands down better, though exterior styling was not particularly attractive. Still, Kia was on to something, so it kept evolving the vehicle. Today, the fourth generation is on sale and it's a massive success. Kia claims it sold more than 38,000 examples monthly in 2017. "We are extremely proud to have achieved this milestone production figure for our global best-seller. The continued and accelerating popularity of the Sportage demonstrates the breadth of the car's abilities and the strength of its appeal to buyers in markets all around the world," said Ho Sung Song, Executive Vice President of Global Operations Division.
In both 2016 and 2017, the Sportage surpassed the Rio as Kia's best-selling model. 2018 is already off to a solid start with a reported 69,562 units sold in January and February combined. Just take a moment and compare today's slick-looking Sportage with the first two generations. It's startling to see the ugly duckling grow up to be a real eye-catcher.