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1998 Kia Sportage

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Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

170.3” x 65.0”


Rear-wheel drive



2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1998 Kia Sportage trim comparison will help you decide.

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1998 Kia Sportage review: Our expert's take

By Editors

So attractive, so appealing, so stylish, you’d think Chrysler Corp., the industry’s reigning design guru, shaped the sheet metal on the Kia Sportage, one of the few affordable, small, sport-utility vehicles on the market.

The lines are clean and crisp, yet bold. The Toyota RAV4 looks plump and the Honda CR-V looks sterile by comparison.

The Sportage offers four-wheel-drive for all-season motoring yet delivers more than 20 m.p.g. so you don’t have to spend most of those seasons visiting your local Amoco. Or is it BPmoco?

And with all the goodies except automatic transmission (better sit down for this: automatic is a $1,000 option) and anti-lock brakes ($490), the sticker still is about $1,500 short of $20,000.

What’s not to love about the Kia Sportage?

Well, after the styling and ability to maneuver through the snow, there’s not much to write home about.

To put it kindly, the South Korean-built Sportage is a Third World machine. The RAV4 might not win many beauty contests when marching down the same runway as Sportage, but the RAV4 at least will win the congeniality award. Sportage won’t.

Now, you might argue, hasn’t the media been filled with stories about Kia being one of the industry’s fastest-growing companies? Haven’t sales been going through the roof when compared with a year ago?

Sure, and the reason is that Kia initially was found only in a few West Coast states and has just started moving into the Midwest. (The automaker had its Midwest coming-out party at the Chicago Auto Show in February before opening a handful of stores in the area.)

Sales growth is a result of dealership openings. With each new store comes an upward blip on the sales charts as the curious–and those seeking a lower-cost alternative to a $30,000 sport-ute–welcome the vehicle.

When the novelty wears off–and it will; just ask those who sold the Yugo and the Hyundai Excel–good looks and low price no longer draw people into the showrooms unless those attractions are teamed with top quality. Sportage has a way to go to roam with the big boys.

The 2-liter, 130-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine makes quite a racket and the noise filters back into the passenger cabin. The industry watchword is that “Quiet is the sound of a well-made car.”

The 2-liter is also a bit slow when leaving the light.

Our test vehicle came with the standard 5-speed manual, which wasn’t as slippery smooth as that in its chief rival, the RAV4. The 5-speed is a Getrag. Remember when GM used Getrags, the balky and hesitant and most unpleasant German-made 5-speed used in the 1980s, sending motorists to chiropractors to straighten out their arms? Nuff said.

Basically the Sportage felt as if a few nuts and bolts had been left out. Sportage comes with a swing-out spare tire on the hatchback lid, a location that frees interior space for more cargo. On our test vehicle, the swing-out spare rig would swing out and close easily on one oc casion, but the next time it would take more than a try to close.

When the rear seats are folded, Sportage offers added cargo capacity, but the seats don’t fold flat, which limits what you can do with the space.

Another Sportage shortcoming is that to keep the sticker price down, four-wheel anti-lock brakes are a $490 option–this in a vehicle aimed at youth, and one that will be used extensively in foul weather. At least optional four-wheel ABS is better than the optional rear-wheel ABS Sportage had been offering before this year.

Sportage is offered in two- or four-wheel-drive. Prices range from $14,895 for the base 2WD model to $17,295 for the 2WD EX, $16,395 for the base 4WD model we tested and $18,495 for the 4WD EX.

Standard equipment includes dual air bags, driver’s side knee air bag (to keep you from submarining in a collision), 15-inch radial tires, power locks/windows/steering, dua l power mirrors, rear-window defogger, intermittent wipers, passenger-side visor va nity mirror, tachometer, tilt steering and digital clock.

New for 1998 are automatic locking/unlocking hubs when engaging/disengaging 4WD using the transfer case.

But since Sportage wasn’t sold in the Midwest in ’97, few here knew that you used to have to get out and lock/unlock hubs manually.

Our test vehicle came with air conditioning at $900, AM/FM stereo with CD player at $545, roof rack at $195 and carpeted floor mats at $69. Add $425 for freight.

If ABS at $490 and automatic at $1,000 were added, the sticker would have gone $19 over the $20,000 mark. However, had the roof rack been left off, the sticker would have stayed $176 under $20,000.

Very good idea: a low-cost, high-mileage, well-equipped, 4WD sport-ute for those who don’t want to be indebted for life for purchasing the current fashion trend.

Now that Kia has captured the public’s attention, it needs to capture their respect by assigning wrenches and pliers to its engineers and having them give the machine reliability and durability–along with a quieter engine and smoother transmission.

Kia needs to learn the Yugo/Excel lesson: Even consumers short on funds have long memories.

>> 1998 Kia Sportage 4×4
© 1998 Chicago Tribune Wheelbase: 104.3 inches Length: 170.3 inches Engine: 2-liter, 130-h.p. 4-cylinder Transmission: 5-speed manual Fuel economy: 19 m.p.g. city/23 m.p.g. highway Base price: $16,395 Price as tested: $18,104. Includes $900 for air conditioning; $545 for AM/FM stereo with CD player; $69 carpeted floor mats; and $195 roof rack. Add $425 for freight. Pluses: Stunning styling fit for Chrysler. Four-wheel-drive for all-season motoring. Good fuel economy. Priced as an economical alternative to the $25,000 to $30,000 rivals. Minuses: A Third World machine. Must carry pliers in glove box. >>

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 2.2
  • Interior 2.3
  • Performance 1.6
  • Value 2.6
  • Exterior 2.9
  • Reliability 1.4
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Most recent consumer reviews


Stay Away!!

Bought new in '98. Failure of many items on the vehicle over the next 2 years. KIA finally said they would replace no more items. Dismal vehicle and an incredible waste of money.


Worst car I've ever owned...and i have had some c

When i got this vehicle we thought we had scored...with 8000 miles on a 22 year old has that cute sporty stile i love and it was in my price range....driving it home (i swear i heard the previous owner laughing) the tail lights and turn signals go out had to fix on the side of the highway in the dark....trying to start it was a nightmare you would have to turn it over 20 times before it would start...New starter $$ to get the thing in my name....nope....needs an emissions test...pass...nope....$570 later the mechanic cant get the check engine light off or for it to pass emissions..(and he isn't certified to do a waver) another mechanic and $267 to get it to pass...yah..shifting is a struggle every time have to stand on the clutch and force it into gear...New clutch $$$$ and the trani flush because of the forcing it in gear $$ after this it is still rattling ( people on the street will stop and stare because it makes so much noise...heat shield is loose....OMG have you ever tryed to fix that? Don't #×!&@ fast forward 3mo and i get creamed on the drivers side by a guy doing well over the posted 35 the impact caved in the post and both drivers side doors in 9" pushed drivers seat into shifter buckeled the drivers seat (so i had bruses on the back of my thighs) the seat actually broke the e- brake and the console is wedged inbetween the seats the dash poped out and the hood wont open and the rear pass door wont open either...neither airbag deployed....but still i walked away with only bumps and bruses. (Wont mention that i got hit because the car stalled when i was turning)



We purchased a 1998 kia sportage in 2003 as a second car. The main purpose of the vehicle was the 4wd benifit. What intrigued my wife was the terrific gas mileage achieved by a 4wd suv. The sportage was also not costly by any means. We bought it in 2003 while it was 5 years old with only 26,000 miles. The transmission went about one year into ownershi[p. That was an expensive replacement which was performed by Kia. The second year of ownership we had unidentified engine troubles as kia stated it. After multiple repairs including the faulty starter. We finally gave up on the vehcile and sold it for parts in 2006.

See all 6 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Kia
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/100,000 miles
60 months/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
6 years or newer/less than 80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12,000 miles
10 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
165-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

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