Since I was about ten years old, I’ve had dreams of buying an old, heavily depreciated 4×4 and putting it through the wringer off-road. The goal wouldn’t be to destroy it, but rather to have as much fun with it as possible without having to stress too much if I did damage it. While browsing Autotrader the other day, I might’ve found the perfect vehicle for doing just this.
It’s a 2002 Kia Sportage. You probably have vague memories of the original Sportage as a cheap, dinky little crossover. That’s at least how I remembered it. But then I did a little research, and it turns out the Sportage was much more than that.
The original Kia Sportage was designed before automakers had ‘perfected’ the formula for mass-market sport utility vehicles. Back then, to have appeal, an SUV didn’t have to ride on a car-like unibody platform. And the Sportage didn’t. The first-gen Sportage was a truck-like body-on-frame sport utility vehicle with a solid axle, a layout employed by vehicles of today like the Toyota 4Runner and Ford Bronco. The Sportage even had a traditional part-time four-wheel drive system with selectable low-range gearing, the mark of a true off-road vehicle. Power in the US-market Sportage came from a little 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 130 horsepower.
What’s also cool about the original Kia Sportage is that you could combine this rugged architecture with a short-wheelbase two-door convertible body style in the same vein as the Geo Tracker and Suzuki Sidekick. The one we’ve highlighted here is a 2002 model, from the last year of the Sportage’s first generation. According to the listing, it comes with just under 40,000 miles on the odometer, though we’d want to confirm this via a photo of the odometer. Either way, though, it even comes with a five-speed manual transmission and looks to be in great shape, with what appears to be a fully-intact canvas convertible top, a clean exterior, excellent body graphics, and even a winch mounted up front. I already own two body-on-frame 4x4s at the moment, though, so I’m simply passing this listing on to you. If you’re interested, this 2002 Kia Sportage is offered by a dealer in Portsmouth, Virginia, though an asking price isn’t listed. Find a Kia Sportage for sale
Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. Find him on YouTube and on Instagram.