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1990s Cars Drivers Are Desperate To Forget

Cameron EittreimJune 8, 2021

The 1990s were an in-between period for the automotive industry where the design of cars and trucks was evolving. This decade was perhaps one of the most underrated when it comes to classics, as there were more than a few.

The C5 Corvette is one example of a 1990s car done right. But there were many failures as well, like the oval-shaped Ford Taurus which was relegated to rental car lots for the rest of its existence. Join us as we delve into 1990s cars that drivers are desperate to forget about.

Plymouth Prowler
Photo Credit: Motor Trend

20: Plymouth Prowler

The 1990s featured a time of retro-infused concept cars and production models such as the Volkswagen New Beetle. Chrysler was also quick to jump on this bandwagon with the hot rod-inspired Plymouth Prowler. The car was supposed to be a halo car for the Plymouth brand that would give it a new direction. Up until that point, Plymouths had just been rebadged Dodge and Chrysler models with nothing to differentiate them.

Plymouth Prowler
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Unfortunately, that’s where the Prowler fell short because the engineers at Chrysler decided to plunk a V6 engine out of the Dodge Intrepid sedan. When you think of a hot rod, you think of noise and speed, but that wasn’t the case with the 1990s Prowler. Factor in the high price tag and the car was a 1990s novelty item that no one wanted.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

19: Ford Taurus

The next generation of the Ford Taurus was highly anticipated in the mid-1990s yet unfortunately, Ford pulled the rug out from under everyone. The oval-shaped Ford Taurus was an obscene car to look at and greatly tarnished the Taurus’s popularity. In addition to the eye-gouging design, the reliability of this 1990s generation of Taurus was also questionable. Transmission failures were rampant and the repair costs were astronomical at a time when the car was still brand new.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford revolutionized the passenger car market in the 1980s with the original Taurus, but the remake was a failed project. While the plan with the Taurus was to be cutting edge, the final product was far from it. Consumers just didn’t flock to this generation of the Taurus and the car was redesigned again for the 1999 model year.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

18: Kia Sephia

The subcompact Kia Sephia was the first Kia model to be sold in America, having been released in 1994 to much fanfare. The affordable price tag of the car made it a welcome addition to the North American car market. There were more standard features than any other car in its class, quickly outpacing the Geo Metro in sales. Sadly, the Sephia was barebones transportation and time has not been kind to this car.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

If you do see one on the road it’s probably in very bad condition as these cars were cheaply made to begin with. While Sephia was instrumental in helping establish Kia Motors as a value-oriented brand, the company also cut corners. Drivers who recall the 1990s are desperate to see the last of these little cars disappear from the roadways altogether.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

17: Ford Aspire

Speaking of Kia, the Ford Aspire of the 1990s was designed by Kia Motors, and as such, the car was horrific. Sold to compete with the likes of the Geo Metro at the time, the Aspire was about as bare-bones as you could get. The car came in an optional four-door hatchback which was cramped inside and suffered from lackluster performance. Even back then when the car was brand-new in the 1990s, reliability issues were rampant.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Aspire did come in a four-door hatchback variation, which we saw later in the Ford Focus as well. But it just wasn’t enough to propel the tiny car to any level of sales success instead of pushing more drivers away. Drivers from this era like to forget the Aspire altogether, and that won’t be a problem because replacement parts are very hard to come by.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

16: Subaru SVX

The sports cars of the 1990s were some of the best to come out in terms of technology and performance. An often underrated sports car from this era was the SVX, Subaru’s first attempt at a sports car. The SVX was quite powerful, boasting a 3.3 L 6-cylinder that produced an impressive 230hp at the time.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Subaru was a company that hadn’t been known for performance up to this point. Before the release of the SVX, the company had focused on All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) models. The SVX has acquired a sort of cult-like following in the past decade, but the reason drivers are quick to forget this 1990s sports car is the role that Subaru has been typecast into since with its AWD focus.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

15: Plymouth Voyager

By the 1990s, the Voyager was an everyday occurrence, whether you saw it at the grocery store or at a soccer field. There was a lot to like about the Voyager, heck it revolutionized family transportation as we know it. But as practical as the original Voyager was, in retrospect the car was just hideous to look at. There was a lot of cheap wood paneling and the interior just wasn’t functional.

Photo Credit: Chrysler Corp

Nevertheless, the Plymouth Voyager was one of the best-selling cars of all time. 1990s kids are still trying to forget the car that seemed to be at every soccer game and PTA meeting. Chrysler has since moved on with a different minivan nameplate and the Plymouth brand has been all but abandoned since 2001.

Photo Credit: Honda

14: Honda Civic Del-Sol

You can’t say that Honda didn’t try to innovate during the ’90s, but the Del-Sol was taking things a bit too far. The Honda-themed “roadster” was designed to entice younger buyers, but being based on the Civic platform, it wasn’t going to win any races. Enthusiasts squealed at the lack of power or refinement, and there was no passenger seating. The Del-Sol just didn’t latch on with customers, the same problem that Toyota had with the Paseo.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Surprisingly enough, the Del-Sol has become a bit of a collector’s item 20 years later. Resale values for the car have started to spring up and the overall design of the car is iconic. Honda has since sold the S2000, which was a slightly more appealing roadster. Nevertheless, most drivers are trying to forget that the Del-Sol was even a thing.

Shelby CSX
Photo Credit: Car Domain

13: Dodge Shadow

Chrysler had a fair bit of fun with the K-Car platform in the 1980s and ’90s, although by the latter the platform was tired. The Dodge Shadow was an entry-level car that you could get for a little bit of nothing and drive for a reasonable amount of time. The interior was fairly spacious and the power wasn’t bad considering the dated design. But most drivers from the 1990s are tired of looking at these cars if they’re even still around.

Shelby CSX-VNT
Photo Credit: Me

The Shadow wasn’t necessarily a bad car, but the inherent cheapness in its design turned a lot of drivers off. These days, you seldom see a Shadow on the road, and with good reason. Most of them have either had a catastrophic transmission failure or worse, costing more than the car is worth to repair.

Mercury Topaz
Photo Credit: Mercury

12: Mercury Topaz

Toward the end of its life, Mercury was a sad example of what it once represented. By the ’90s, Mercury was nothing more than home for rebadged Ford models, and poorly rebadged examples at that. The Topaz is a fine example of badge engineering gone wrong, being nothing more than a Ford Tempo with makeup on. The Topaz didn’t have any unique features to differentiate it from the Tempo, not even a different radio.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Yet Ford shoved this car down the throats of consumers for decades in hopes it would appeal to them. Few cars have developed as much of a hated reputation as the Topaz did in a very short amount of time. The car just didn’t resonate with anyone and Ford eventually got the hint and discontinued the car altogether.

11: Jaguar XJ220

Jaguar is a brand that has been on an uphill battle to escape obscurity for some time now. When it comes to supercars, Jaguar isn’t the first brand that pops into your head. Yet, at one point the company attempted to market a true supercar during the ’90s. The Jaguar XJ220 was so poorly received that there were less than 300 of these cars made. Famous singer Elton John had one but that was about it; overall the car just didn’t sell.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

Nowadays an original Jaguar XJ220 will fetch a pretty penny, but that doesn’t mean that anyone wants to buy one. Jaguar is notorious for having reliability issues and high maintenance costs, could you imagine on a supercar? You may not think about that when you’re buying a supercar, but Jaguar’s reputation still isn’t the most stellar one in terms of ’90s cars.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

10: Chevrolet Lumina

The Chevy Lumina has been a favorite of used car lots for decades, offering dirt-cheap transportation that will run a long time. But reliability isn’t the most important thing when it comes to a vehicle as sometimes you want quality too. The Lumina is far from being a quality driving experience. Drivers know this if they’ve ever seen the paint flake on one of these cars. Luminas were notorious for the paint falling right off of them, on top of transmission failures.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Chevy marketed the Lumina as an entry-level family car, but it was eclipsed by Toyota and Honda. Few people wanted to opt for the outdated and ugly Lumina when they could just go across the street and get an Accord. Chances are the Lumina will go down in history as one of GM’s worst failures, and most drivers from the ’90s agree.

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9: Chevy Monte Carlo

Perhaps one of the oddest things to come out of the nineties was the Monte Carlo, also known as the Lumina Coupe. GM decided to chop two doors off of the Lumina and call it the Monte Carlo, which, at the time, was a coveted nameplate. We’re not sure what GM was thinking but this ’90s version of the Monte Carlo was poorly received. The quality was subpar at best and the performance was nonexistent.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Coming from a nameplate that was known for its V8 powerplant, the fact that GM did this to the Monte Carlo was appalling. Naturally, enthusiasts rebelled against the car and GM was forced to do a redesign for the year 2000. Automotive enthusiasts are far past ready to see this particular Monte Carlo hit the graveyard already.

Photo Credit: GM

8: Oldsmobile Achieva

By the turn of the decade, Oldsmobile had also become a mere relic of what it once was. In the ’90s, Oldsmobiles were badge-engineered and non-imaginative. That is, save for the Aurora, which was quite the accomplishment in terms of technology and performance. But the Achieva was a poorly executed two-door that just felt downright aged and cheap. Astonishingly enough, it was said that GM had spent over a billion dollars on the platform.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

You could say that investment wasn’t well spent, as the Achieva has become the laughingstock of the used car market. There was nothing remotely appealing about this car other than the standard V6 engine. From a power standpoint, the car was reasonable to drive, but the rest of it was lackluster at best.

Suzuki X-90
Photo Credit: Zomb Drive

7: Suzuki X-90

Of all the automakers that should get some props, Suzuki is one of them. The company didn’t make great cars in the 1990s but at least put an effort forth. The X-90 was an ugly rendition of the classic Suzuki Samurai SUV. From a design standpoint, nothing about this car looked right, from its Targa top to the awkward trunk.

Suzuki Motors
Photo Credit: Suzuki Motors

Nevertheless, Suzuki was trying to innovate at a time when other automakers had become stagnant. The X-90 could be construed as one of the first “original” crossover vehicles. But enthusiasts are tired of seeing these things from time to time and so the X-90 must take a final bow soon.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

6: Pontiac Grand Am

In the mid-’90s, the Grand Am was a bit of an oddball, incorporating a shrunken design and a lack of power. The car didn’t seem much bigger than a Chevy Cavalier at the time, yet it was was competing with the Camry. The usual Pontiac treatments were evident on this car from the oversized body cladding to the boy racer image.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Grand Am from this generation sold quite well and thus there are a lot of them still on the road. But drivers are tired of seeing them and it’s time for this generation of the Grand Am to say bye. Pontiac has since died off and the Grand Am is an example of what to do wrong with a storied car brand.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

5: Land Rover Discovery II

In the 1990s, Land Rover was at an impasse and had to decide if it would compete with the rising SUV tide or keep the same design. The company decided to compete with the other SUVs on the market at the time, and thus the Discovery II was rushed to market. The problem was that this SUV was notoriously unreliable and suffered from a ton of expensive fixes and recalls.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Land Rover buyers quickly figured this out and by the turn of the millennium, the Discovery II was flooding used car lots. There is still an enthusiast community behind it, but for the most part, it is is a no-go. Its unreliable design and expensive repairs just make this Land Rover a pain to live with. If you enjoy off-roading, other models are much more reliable and easier to work on than the Discovery II.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

4: Honda Passport

The Passport has the unique distinction of being one of the few Honda models that isn’t a Honda model. Honda needed an SUV to compete in the boom period during the ’90s. The company turned to Isuzu to rebadge the Rodeo SUV instead. The Rodeo wasn’t a bad SUV, but it wasn’t a Honda and buyers weren’t convinced.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

One of the main reasons drivers buy a Honda is for the reliability, and the Passport just didn’t cut the mustard. Still, Honda sold the Passport for quite some time with minimal changes. Although the final generation of the SUV seemed to become more refined, enthusiasts are ready to see this thing vacate the road once and for all.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

3: Ford Thunderbird LX

The ’90s Thunderbird was just lost as the design was dated and the fanbase had left. The car had gone from being unique to just another relic of a bygone era. Ford stopped innovating with this car and SUVs had taken over. So, it was time to pull the plug on the Thunderbird. Ford even replaced the car in the NASCAR circuit with the Taurus after many successful years.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The final year for the Thunderbird was 1996 and the car was about as unimpressive as you could get. The V8 was cut from the lineup and all you got to choose from was a standard V6 engine. Not what most Thunderbird enthusiasts were looking for and the car died a quiet and obscure death.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

2: Ford Mustang

The 1990s Ford Mustangs were some of the worst, both in terms of quality and performance.
GM was outpacing the Mustang 3-to-1 with the Camaro, and part of this was due to the Camaro’s standard Corvette motor. Not only was the Mustang from this era underpowered but it was also ugly to boot. True, you had the Cobra, but how many ordinary drivers were going to get one of those?

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford had to improvise the Mustang was redesigned later in the decade, but the first couple of years was rough. The car just couldn’t compete with what the market had to offer, and Ford knew it. We’re not sure what the company was thinking with this generation of the Mustang but it was the wrong move.

Ford Probe 24V
Photo Credit: Ford

1: Ford Probe

The funny thing about the Probe was that it was supposed to be a replacement for the Ford Mustang. But after doing market research on the car, Ford could see that buyers weren’t going for it and it was sold alongside the Mustang. We’re not sure what Ford was thinking with the naming of this car but that’s one reason people want to forget it. On top of that, the bland styling just didn’t stand out like you’d expect a sports car to.

Ford Probe 24V
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Probe was unimaginative and the car didn’t bring anything particularly unique to the table. There was a 24V version of the car that got high marks in the performance community, but this car was discontinued shortly after the release. From then on, the Probe trudged on as the also-ran partner of the Mustang until being discontinued.

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