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Remembering the First-Gen Kia Sportage in Pakistan

The arrival of Dewan Farooq Motors (DFM) during the late 90s was nothing less than a breath of fresh air in the local automotive scene. Since the beginning of the 90s, the immense choices available to us during the 1980s vanished as imports were capped in favor of locally assembled vehicles.

Suzuki, Toyota, and Honda stepped in with a handful of options without much variety available in terms of models as well as variants. However, Dewan having ventured with Hyundai and Kia tapped into every possible segment, from hatchbacks to entry-level sedans, from compact saloons to SUVs & even commercial vehicles, DFM left no stone unturned.

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And unlike today when most Kia and Hyundai cars are targeted towards the elites, back in those days Dewan pitched them to the mass-market buyers. And it paid them off quite well too.

Related: History of Kia Pride- the First Kia in Pakistan

Dewan Farooque Motors was incorporated in December 1998 and the company made agreements with South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia to assemble and sell their vehicles in Pakistan. The plant built in rural Sindh’s Sujawal area at a cost of Rs 1.8 billion was completed in just 7 months. It was the first automobile manufacturing plant in the country to have robotic paint machines.

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The company started its operations with the launch of the Kia Classic (Pride-B) sedan and Santo Plus tallboy hatchback in the year 2000. After this, the company introduced the Spectra saloon and the first-generation Sportage SUV. While the Santro Plus was replaced by Santo Club which being a typical hatchback was more pleasing to the eyes compared to the Santro Plus which wasn’t well received by the public. Furthermore, the Shehzore truck (Hyundai Porter) cemented its position as a trusted choice in the 1-ton commercial vehicle segment.

Kia Sportage

The Sportage first appeared in Pakistan in 1996 when Naya Daur Motors brought the SUV here alongside the Pride hatchback and Ceres 1-ton pickup truck. The Sportage brought by Naya Daur didn’t have a turbo engine, came without a bonnet scoop, roof rails, rear spoiler & door stickers, it had less protruded bumpers, had a relatively shorter wheelbase & length, and adorned a horizontally slatted radiator grille up front.

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According to court filings, the company took over Rs 800 million as booking from 16,000 people and delivered only a few hundred vehicles before going bankrupt. The collected money was allegedly transferred outside Pakistan for the company’s other businesses.

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Naya Daur Sportage of 1996

The Sportage launched by Dewan in Pakistan in the year 2022 (often referred to as Grand Sportage) became popular primarily due to the fact that it was the least expensive SUV in our market that was equipped with a proper 4WD system. Plus, unlike the previously imported one, the Sportage by Dewan was assembled in Pakistan.

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In terms of dimensions, it wasn’t too large means was easily maneuverable within the city traffic. Plus it had decent looks too. The first-gen Kia Sportage in Pakistan was available in several attractive colors and was recognizable due to a vivid 4WD Turbo Intercooler livery on its side. The bumpers, lower section of the doors & wheel arches were in a different color that created a dual-tone effect.

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The first-generation Kia Sportage was developed using a Mazda Bongo platform. It shares many mechanical components such as the engine, transmissions, and differentials with the Mazda vehicles. This was because during those days Kia had an alliance with Ford and Mazda, which involved Ford/Mazda providing technology and Kia providing inexpensive manufacturing facilities for Ford. Most of the early Kia vehicles including the Pride/ Classic, Spectra, and Sportage were based on Mazda/ Ford engineering.

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Under the hood, it had a Mazda-sourced in-line 4-cylinder 2.0L (1998cc) turbodiesel engine good for 85hp and 201Nm. A 5-speed manual transmission was deployed to channel power to the wheels. The Sportage had a part-time 4WD system with auto-locking hubs.

Brochure of Dewan’s 1st gen Kia Sportage in Pakistan

The list of features included power steering with tilt adjustment, power windows, power side mirrors, central door locking, a climate control system, a VCD entertainment system, an illuminated ignition key switch, a digital clock, a day/ night rearview mirror, leather seats with 4-way adjustments, a center armrest, 3-point ELR seatbelts, a rear windshield wiper with washer, power antenna, ventilated front disc brakes, doors with side impact beams, and a protective safety cell with front & rear crumple zones and more. Back in those days, these features were considered on par with the standard market offerings.

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The Sportage was available for around Rs 13.0 lac (starting price) however at its prime, it was available for as high as Rs 15.49 lac. Even at that time, the Sportage carried a Rs 200,00 own/ on-money. Between 2002 and 2005, Dewan sold around 2,440 units of Kia Sportage in Pakistan before the downfall of the company started.

Dewan’s Downfall

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2nd gen Kia Sportage CBU in Pakistan

Dewan acquired Pakland Cement in 2004 for Rs 1.1 billion in cash soon after which Dewan group started to post losses cascading into problems for the entire group in just 24 months. In 2006 however, when DFM was taking its last breaths, the company introduced a new CBU range of vehicles including the Picanto hatchback, Rio sedan, and 2nd gen Sportage as a replacement for its aging CKD lineup. But the group faded into history before making any of these 3 imported vehicles successful.

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The first-gen Kia Sportage despite being almost 20 years old now, is still surviving in the used car market. Most of these vehicles now have a swapped engine under the hood. Some owners have even installed third-row seats to make it a proper 7-seater SUV. For those who can’t afford a (rather expensive) used Toyota Surf or Mitsubishi Pajero, the first-gen Kia Sportage still serves as a decent low-budget 4×4 SUV option in the used-car market.

Various images of 1st gen Kia Sportage in Pakistan

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