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25 ’90s Cars Drivers Are In No Hurry To Remember

Cameron EittreimFebruary 4, 2020

The ’90s were definitely a great time for the automotive industry. But as with any decade, there were also a lot of bad designs that came about. Automakers tend to become complacent. A good deal of cars were either poorly designed or just had no purpose on a showroom floor. While the ’90s were a successful decade for a lot of the automotive industry, there are quite a few cars we question.

Either the designs were too extreme or the car just didn’t appeal to the masses. Automakers in the ’90s were being swept away by the popularity of the full-size SUV. A lot of passenger cars fell to the wayside. The cars that we’ll look at are some of the most lackluster cars of the decade. Read on below as we take a trip down memory lane.

via: The Auto Channel
via: The Auto Channel

25. Ford Aspire

The Kia-built Aspire was supposed to rival the Geo Metro. It was so bad that it would routinely break down, even as when brand-new. In addition to the lack of reliability, the Aspire was also fairly hard to work on. To this day, finding parts for the it is almost impossible. Part of this problem falls on Kia canceling support for the car. Most owners of these Ford Aspires either have to go to the salvage yard.

via: Wheelsage
via: Wheelsage

The Aspire probably could have been a good car had quality been a focal point. Instead, the Aspire is a car that was cobbled together. There were quite a few lackluster compact cars from this era and the Aspire is one of them. Ford has since made great strides in quality.

1999 Mazda Protege
via: Motor Trend

24. Mazda Protege

The compact Protege was more famous for being stuck on the side of the road then sales. To be fair, Mazda did put a lot of effort into the Protege by offering a good deal of standard features. There was also the very rare Protege Wagon, which also managed success with consumers. Bad reliability and a paltry warranty plan hurt the Protege in the long run.

1999 Mazda Protege
via: Motor Trend

The Mazda Protege is still seen from time to time on the used car market. You can find these for a little bit of nothing. But the difficulty of maintenance and the pricey parts have made the car a relic. Mazda has since changed things up with the Mazda 3 compact, which has become a success for the brand.

1998 Suzuki Esteem
via: Car Pictures

23. Suzuki Esteem

The little Esteem hit the market at a time when Suzuki was known for the Samurai SUV. The Esteem came in a sedan and wagon form and was designed to be an affordable offering. The car was tiny by any stretch of the imagination, but Suzuki still managed to sell a decent amount. Reliability was a problem for the little Esteem and repairs were costly.

1998 Suzuki Esteem
via: Car Domain

These cars had somewhat of a resurgence after being the car of choice in the hit TV show, “Better Call Saul.” The Esteem is the perfect example of cheap ’90s engineering.

1996 Ford Probe
via: Autopolis

22. Ford Probe

The Probe started like it had a lot of potential as a V6-powered sports car that’s different than the Mustang. Ford probably wasn’t expecting that the Probe ended up bombing. There just wasn’t room in the lineup for two sports cars. It’s not that everything about the Probe was bad, in fact, the second generation of the car was quite stylish. But the Mustang commands presence in Ford showrooms and the Probe just couldn’t outdo it.

1996 Ford Probe
via: Honest John

Then you had the Ford Taurus competing with the Probe as well. The Probe was replaced by the Mercury Cougar. The appetite for two-door coupes has since diminished. The Probe has always been a competent performer on the road and track. But the car just ended up being a relic.

1999 Sunfire
via: Car gurus

21. Pontiac Sunfire

The Pontiac Sunfire was always a little car that didn’t have a solid footing in the Pontiac lineup. Pontiac was supposed to be the brand of excitement, but the Sunfire was far from exciting. The Sunfire was a lackluster and barebones offering. Even the GT version really couldn’t get it in motion.

1996 Sunfire GT
via: Neo Drive

Even during later years of the car’s existence, the Sunfire was lackluster. Pontiac had offered quite a few blunders during the ’90s but the Sunfire was perhaps the most staggering. The car just didn’t offer all that much in terms of design or implementation.

1996 Cougar XR7
via: YTMG

20. Mercury Cougar XR7

The Cougar XR7 was a notable performance package that had graced Mercury’s Cougar for some time. While the engine inside of the ’90s XR7 was an excellent choice, the problem laid with the design based off the dated Thunderbird. Except for a squared-off back portion, you really couldn’t tell that the car was different.

1996 Courgar XR7
via: Cargurus

Interiorwise, the XR-7 was also just like the Thunderbird, which left a bad taste in consumers mouths. For the most part, it was just the same old car. Cougar XR-7 was a chance for Mercury to sort of redeem itself during the ’90s. But instead the brand, just created another bland badge job.

1994 Chevy Celebrity
via: Hemmings

19. Chevy Celebrity

The Celebrity was a well-known compact car sold throughout the 90s. The cheap car was the delight of most fleet organizations for the decade. They were cheap to run and even cheaper to fix, but that’s about as far as it went. The sheer build quality of the Celebrity was laughable at best. Interior fixtures routinely fell off during ownership of the car. These cars came in several body styles, with the most common being the sedan.

1992 Chevy Celebrity
via: Wikipedia

You’d be hard pressed to find another ’90s car that was as polarizing as the Celebrity due to its awkward shape and finish. The fit and finish of the Celebrity is one of the reasons general consumers made a push away from domestic cars during this period. The quality just wasn’t there.

1994 Dodge Neon
via Beniot

18. Dodge Neon

The compact Chrysler was a valiant car in its own right for a lot of reasons. First, the Neon had a lot more power than people were used to getting in a car of this size. The interior dimensions were a lot larger than other compact cars, and the overall size of the Neon was quite large. The DOHC motor was a fine powerplant and there was even a special edition sports model.

1994 Dodge Neon
via: Wheelsage

But the reliability and shoddy build quality caught up to the Neon. You’d never expect a car to show its age that soon. The Neon was full of rattles and interior sounds early on in ownership. The car didn’t offer anything too pressing to keep shoppers coming back and eventually lost market share.

1992 Colt Visa
via: Gawker

17. Plymouth Colt Vista

There were crossovers even before crossovers was a popular choice. Plymouth which was a brand that was sold by Chrysler had a few of these models. These odd-shaped cars were direct knockoffs of current Mitsubishi models, but at this time Mitsubishi was still fairly new in America and Plymouth had more brand recognition.

via; Blogspot
via; Blogspot

The odd shape of the Colt Vista made the car the butt of many jokes. But you can’t deny how its versatility was ahead of the time. There were very few cars that were willing to step out of their comfort zone and the Colt Vista was. Too bad the car had so many reliability issues.

via: Auto Evolution
via: Auto Evolution

16. Isuzu Amigo

During the ’90s, the Isuzu brand was one of the most well-known car companies on the road. SUVs were just finding themselves in terms of popularity. The Amigo had many of the same attributes of other two door SUVS at the time. A removable top and a high ground clearance made the car a blast to drive off-road. But when it came to reliability, the Amigo was shoddy. There were routine head gasket problems and other reliability issues that sent shoppers to the hills.

via: Motor Trend
via: Motor Trend

Naturally, you’d expect a company as big as Isuzu was to have a better reputation. But by the time the Amigo begin to develop problems, it was already too late. The reputation of the brand was beginning to become tarnished and the Amigo will go on as one of the failed cars of the ’90s.

1996 Mercury Topaz
via: Wikipedia

15. Mercury Topaz

The Topaz was a luxury upgrade over the standard Ford Escort. But in reality, all you were getting was a fancier grille. The car had no real upgrades. The buzzing engine and the lack of sound densening inside of the cabin makes the car a nightmare to drive. Lackluster acceleration and safety features relegated this car to the clearance racks early on. If you wonder why Mercury disappeared, the Topaz is the reason.

Mercury Topaz
via: Car Domain

Cars like the Topaz managed to tarnish whatever reputation Mercury had left. To even slightly enjoy driving one of these things, you’d have to be in dire need of a vehicle. The Topaz is just a sad excuse for a car compared to other vehicles that were on the market at the time.

via: Ford
via: Ford

14. Ford Taurus

The ’90s Taurus is undoubtedly one of the ugliest cars that you’ve ever seen. The oval shape of the sedan was synonymous with ’90s Ford design. The Taurus was responsible for saving the Ford Motor Company during the 1980s. But the latter part of the ’90s was a tough time for Ford and the Taurus was panned by the critics. The lackluster performance and style of the car just made it look and feel lethargic.

via: Ford
via: Ford

The oval Taurus is perhaps one of the most junkyard-ridden cars of the ’90s. The sedan could have had a much better design. But domestic sedans during this time were just left to the wayside. The oval Taurus will probably be one of the most forgotten sedans of the last few decades.

via: Ford
via: Ford

13. Ford Thunderbird

The ’90s Ford Thunderbird was perhaps one of the most forgettable two-doors on the market. There were plenty of two-door coupes around this time. The V8 engine was a nice tough to make the coupe powerful, but the design was forgettable at best. Ford was at a peak during this time, and the Thunderbird was an effective car on the Nascar circuit.

via: Ford
via: Ford

The Thunderbird didn’t have a product line toward the end. There was no convertible version of the car, and the supercharged version went away. There were some advantages to the Thunderbird such as the engine. But the styling made the car a forgotten addition to the Ford lineup.

1999 Oldsmobile Alero
via: Auto Evolution

12. Oldsmobile Alero

Toward the end of its life cycle, the Oldsmobile brand was dated and made nothing more than rebadged cars. There was not one unique Oldsmobile car model except for the Aurora. The Oldsmobile Alero was a cheap coupe and sedan. The V6 engine was a solid power plant for the Alero, but that was the only option. The car never had any major upgrades during its run.

1999 Oldsmobile Alero
via: Auto Evolution

The Alero could have been a great compact car to get Oldsmobile back into the mainstream. But around this time, GM was focusing more energy and resources on full-size SUV models. Unfortunately, the Alero was just an afterthought in a crowded marketplace of like-minded automobiles.

1998 Nissan 200SX
via: Car Gurus

11. Nissan 200SX SE-R

The Nissan brand was in tough shape during the ’90s. The 200SX was an odd little two-door that managed to slot right above the Sentra in terms of size and price. In the ’90s, two-door coupes were some of the most popular cars hitting the market. They were good on gas and somewhat fun to drive, which meant that younger drivers would come into the showroom. The Nissan 200SX SE-R was a sports-oriented model but just ended up being an oddity.

1998 Nissan 200SX
via: Edmunds

The Nissan 200SX SE-R didn’t offer anything in the way of real sportiness. The features and design of the Nissan 200SX SE-R were just not enough to keep the car going but it stands as just another blur in the history of Nissan.

Hyundai Scoupe
via: Consumer Guide

10. Hyundai Scoupe

The early ’90s Hyundai was a far different car company than today. The cars were a lot different and a lot cheaper. So what made the Scoupe stand out from the crowd? This was Hyundai’s first attempt at a sports car. The Scoupe was a lot better than the Excel in a lot of ways and this was enough to give Hyundai courage. The car came with a good deal of standard features, making the Scoupe a modest success for Hyundai.

Hyundai Scoupe
via: WP

Even though it’s very seldom that you see one of these cars on the road anymore, the Scoupe was a great attempt at a sports car. This was especially true from a brand that was just starting to expand their product portfolio on American soil.

Subaru SVX
via: Wiki

9. Subaru SVX

Subaru has always been a major player on the American market. But one thing that the brand could never seem to do is sell a sports car people wanted. The SVX is one of the most forgotten sports cars ever made. It’s not that it was necessarily a bad car by any means. But for the most part, the SVX just lacked what it took to be a universally-accepted sports car. The Subaru SVX had a powerful motor, but horsepower wasn’t the only important thing.

via: Car and driver
via: Car and driver

The Subaru SVX lacked features of refinement and that’s why it didn’t survive. Doing maintenance on it was a pretty expensive task. The car was difficult for most technicians to work on and reliability was scarce.

via: WP
via: WP

8. Eagle Vision

Chrysler was trying everything during the ’90s. Their Eagle brand was an attempt to get sports car buyers into the dealerships. The Eagle Vision was a sport sedan that had some promise to it, but when production came, everyone knew it was just an Intrepid. Chrysler did nothing to rebadge the sedan the right way. There was no reason for the price increase.

via: Wikipedia
via: Wikipedia

The Eagle Vision could have been a great sedan. It had a clean appearance and powerful V6 engine that was sportier than most on the market. The Vision just needed the right push to get the job done. Instead, Chrysler decided to start winding down the Eagle brand.

1996 Hyundai Tiburon
via: Car Photos

7. Hyundai Tiburon

The Tiburon is another decent Hyundai from the ’90s. The company was expanding and cheap sports cars seemed to be the way to go. But the Tiburon didn’t offer much different from the Scoupe. What was essentially a two-door Elantra ended up being a cheap mode of transportation. The Tiburon didn’t stand out from the crowd in terms of performance and became forgotten quickly.

via: Car Invasion
via: Car Invasion

Aside from fading into the memory of the ’90s, the Tiburon was also a lackluster performer. Which means that you won’t find very many of these that were taken care of. Instead you’ll find junkyard-worthy examples that have been put through the ringer and suffer from ’90s Hyundai build quality.

Infinti G20
via: Car Pictures

6. Infiniti G20

This short-stacked little sedan was notorious for being a cheap part of the Infiniti lineup. The brand was working on competing with other luxury brands from Toyota and Honda, but the cars coming out at the time were forgetful. The G20 was a particularly sad example of what a compact luxury car should not be. It was nothing more than a slightly fancier Sentra.

Infiniti G20
via: Consumer Guide

But the shoddy build quality and lightweight design made the car an impossible mix of what could have beens. The car never had a chance of competing against much more refined offerings from the Germans. The only thing that the G20 did have going for it was bulletproof reliability.

X90 via Daily News
via: Daily News

5. Suzuki X-90

Suzuki wasn’t quite in the same boat as Hyundai during the ’90s, but it was close. The brand was constantly tethering on the edge of obscurity. The only good thing that Suzuki had going for it was its motorsports division. The X-90 was a small two-seater SUV that the brand was hoping to market to a younger demographic. The fun colors and open-air design made the X-90 look like nothing else on the market. But aside from being cheaply-made it was also only a two-seater.

1995 Suzuki X90
via: The Truth About Cars

Even the in-house Sidekick had more interior volume then the X-90. What was a pretty cool concept never really managed to latch on with consumers. The car just wasn’t appealing on a broad enough scale and thus you don’t see these things that often anymore.

Nissan NX2000
via: Top Speed

4. Nissan NX2000

The ’90s were full of Japanese cars that were not sporty enough. The Nissan NX2000 was very similar in design to the Mazda MX-3, another hatchback sports car. The features that the Nissan NX2000 had made it seem like an appealing buy on paper. But the reality was that it just couldn’t handle the everyday tasks of being a real sports car. The forgettable design made these things fall out of favor very quickly.

Nissan NX2000
via: Top Speed

The folks at Nissan were offering all types of incentives to give these things away. There are some interesting features, but for the most part it was a dud through due to lack of design.

Isuzu Impulse
via: Motor Trend

3. Isuzu Impulse

There were quite a few forgotten compact cars from the ’90s that you might not remember. The Impulse is one of these cars. The company began to shift its focus to sport utility vehicles. The Impulse is a car that might not have had a chance at life had the company not already had cheap compact cars. You seldom see one of these driving around, but surprisingly the Geo Storm was quite popular.

Isuzu Impulse
via: Motor Trend

The Impulse had a lot of potential had the design been implemented right. But when it comes down to it ,the Impulse was just another cheap Japanese car that didn’t have what it needed to survive. There was a lot of competition around this time and the Impulse got lost in a sea of it.

1981 Isuzu Imark
via: Barnfinds

2. Isuzu I-Mark

Another part of the failed Isuzu sedan lineup is the I-Mark. This interesting-looking sedan was tiny and didn’t have too many interesting features. Isuzu was on the way out of the passenger car business, so the I-Mark didn’t need to attract buyers to a great degree. The company wasn’t going to be putting a whole lot of time and energy into this car and thus it went the way of other cheap imports at the time. There were very few of them made.

Isuzu Imark
via: The Truth About Cars

Had Isuzu put more emphasis into their passenger cars, there is a good chance that the company might be with us today. But cheap competition from Hyundai and other affordable car makers all but made Isuzu the walking joke of the automotive industry.

1989 Dodge Colt
via: Car Domain

1. Mitsubishi Colt

The Colt was another fairly popular compact car from this period. Mitsubishi was selling them with a variety of different badges on them, including Dodge. The Colt in its regular form was a hatchback like the Suzuki Swift. The car had a lot going for it including an optional turbo version. The Colt had a roomy interior and the car was available in quite a few options that made it a viable choice.

1989 Dodge Colt
via: Car Gurus

Fortunately, a cheap build quality and a lack of reputation made the Colt a forgettable member of the Mitsubishi lineup. There were quite a few cheap compacts from this period and the Colt was among them. You do see these cars from time to time, but it’s few and far between because the offering was so subpar.

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