Although Chrysler started the decade with the Dodge Shadow as the pinnacle of the company’s compact lineup, the Neon was introduced as a replacement for the 1994 model year. Utilizing a new cab-forward design, the Neon was quite the car in every sense of the word. What you got was a track-tested compact car with a DOHC engine. But the inferior build quality and questionable reliability quickly made the Neon less fun to drive.
Consumers flocked to the ACR version of the Neon because of the cool two-tone paint job. But when it came down to the nitty-gritty, the car just couldn’t deliver. It’s not to say that Chrysler shouldn’t get props for trying though. The car was ahead of its time in terms of the cab-forward design and the Neon was more powerful than the Japanese offerings. In recent years, the ACR has started to increase in value on the collectors market.
In addition to the ACR, there was also another performance version of the Neon as well. The R/T didn’t have all of the special edition bodywork of the ACR. But it did have the same peppy performance consumers came to expect from the ACR. The price difference was dramatically different, but the 150HP twin-cam engine was still a performer. The problem with the Neon R/T from this period still centered around the cheap interior.
In terms of being a performer, the Neon R/T was fun to drive, but it was far from a capable sports car. Chrysler would fix these issues in the next generation SRT-4 that came out after the new millennium. There’s no denying that the Neon R/T had the potential to be a superb sports car in terms of design and implementation. Designwise, the Neon R/T just lacked the quality that you’d expect.
Do you remember the Scoupe? Probably not, but for a brief spell during the ’90s, Hyundai was peddling a tiny little sports car. Saddled with a measly 85 HP engine, the Scoupe was a rather lethargic two-door coupe. But the car was an early rendition of the Tiburon that would come later on down the road. The Scoupe was an unfortunate part of Hyundai’s lack of quality around this period.
There was a turbocharged version of the car, which is a rarity on American roads. The transmission was notorious for going out well before the car reached 100k on the odometer. Hyundai had built up a good deal of excitement around the Scoupe because of the affordable price tag and features. But the final product was decidedly disappointing, to say the least.
The ’90s Thunderbird was a final hurrah for big American rear-wheel-drive sport coupes. The overall design of the car was notable for being lackluster and just heavy. The V8 engine was shared with the Mustang of the time. The Thunderbird, in general, was a big car, with a big amount of features that made the most of the V8 powerplant. The ’90s version of the car, however, was a far cry from this, lacking most of what once made the car great.
Cheap Ford interior plastics made their way throughout the car. Substantially different than the Thunderbird models before it, there was a distinct lack of excitement. Design-wise, the Thunderbird was a far cry from what it could have been, which was a powerful rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. Originally the Thunderbird was marketed as a personal luxury coupe, but this ’90s version was lacking innovation.
The early ’90s Sentra was notable for its bulletproof reliability and durability. But as the SE-R was released to the public, the car was a bit of a letdown. The SE-R lineup had previously been one of the most exciting parts of the Nissan line. The Sentra was lacking any real performance touches to make the car stand out from a run-of-the-mill Sentra. Sure, you had the bright red paint job and the DOHC engine, but aside from that, there was nothing unique.
There was so much hype surrounding the SE-R as the Nissan answer to the Civic Si. The car just needed a few more touches to take it over the edge. The performance wasn’t boring from the SE-R, but it also wasn’t exciting either, which left a bad impression on enthusiasts. To this day, the ’90s SE-R has a loyal following, but the car was a bit of a letdown in a multiple ways.
When you think of unexciting Chevies from the ’90s, the Celebrity is probably the most boring car that you can think of. The car was notorious for a sheer lack of quality or innovation, and the only thing that was going for it was a cheap price tag. The Eurosport was far from your grandmother’s Celebrity. The car had a radical ground effects kit that made it look like nothing else on the road. The overall design of the car was pretty cool at a time when boxy sedans were making their exit.
But the execution was lackluster and the car lacked expectations in quite a few areas. GM could have gone so much further with this car. The excitement around the Eurosport was quite high, but the car managed to disappoint.
From a driver’s standpoint, the MX-6 was a noticeable upgrade over other cars on the road. The smooth swooshing lines made the car an attractive option in a sea of boxes. There were high hopes that the MX-6 could be the coupe of the future. Mazda, however, let the automotive community down with a car that looked the part but failed to perform. The MX-6 was lackluster in terms of power as the car just didn’t have it. The interior was roomy, but cheap and awkward plastics made their way throughout the interior.
That’s not to say that the MX-6 was all disappointing. The design itself was immensely attractive, which might have helped to bolster sales. You still see these things on the road from time to time, but as more or less a relic. The car just failed to capture the spirit of what a sports car buyer was looking for at a time when design was crucial.
Another blip in the history of ’90s sports cars is the MX-3. This little hatchback sports car was supposed to take Mazda to the next level. The design of the MX-3 was heavily influenced by the RX-7 of the time. You can see this by taking a look at the rounded glass back hatch. The MX-3 was the only car in this class that had a V6 engine standard, which made it perform admirably. The overall package was bit bland when you look at it though, which lead to Mazda falling on tough times during this period.
The Mazda MX-3 had all the potential to be a hit like the CRX or the GTI, but a lack of execution made the car fail. The short wheelbase and lack of features took away from what could have been a popular Mazda. Later in the next decade, Mazda perfected the compact car design with the Mazda 3, which remains a popular car to this day.
During the ’90s, Acura was just coming into its own. The Integra was selling like hotcakes and the Legend was a capable luxury brand. The second-generation Legend had a lot of hype surrounding it. The automotive community was ready to see just what kind of performance-oriented luxury car Honda could bring to the table. There were some cool features to the Legend, such as the vacuum-sealing doors.
But in terms of styling and performance, the car was unimaginative. The Legend lacked substance in areas where you’d expect a car of this caliber to have it. The performance was dated and the overall driving experience was nothing more than a relic. Still, the Legend was an eye-opener for the Honda brand and the car managed to build a loyal following.
Ah, the Probe, where do we start with this one? Ford had some big ambitions for the Probe with laser-like styling and unique aspects of its design. But when it came down to it, the Probe was missing that something that made a sports car special. The ’90s version of the car was very bland to say the least. The styling was inline with most of the Ford product portfolio at the time, which focused heavily on ovals.
The performance was derived from a V6 and the GT version didn’t offer much more in terms of get up and go. There’s a lot that Ford could have done right with the Probe but instead, the brand missed out on an opportunity. The car was lacking in most areas and this is why the company finally ended production of the car.
The Pontiac brand was at a standstill during the start of this decade. No one was buying Pontiac cars and for good reason, as they were mainly lackluster. The brand hoped to change this perception with a deceptively attractive-looking sports coupe based on its family sedan. The GTP version of the Grand Prix had an aggressive stance, a powerful V6 engine, and a plentiful amount of features. When it came down to the nitty-gritty, though, the car was still painfully dated.
This left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. Not to mention the fact that GM’s product portfolio was having substantial quality issues around this time. Consumers were just not persuaded by American cars from this period. The build quality was flawed. The Grand Prix GTP could have been a winning car had the brand not focused as much on body cladding and more on performance.
There were two supercharged Grand Prix models during the ’90s. The car that hit the market during the latter half of the decade was a valiant effort. There were some positives this car had that the previous model didn’t. First, the body was much smoother, which made the redesign pay off. But the performance was still pretty much the same. Underneath, the new car was the same as its predecessor.
A lot was riding on GM to make this car a success because of the growing demand for exciting cars. While the Grand Prix was a decent seller for the brand, in all actuality, the car was a letdown. There was so much more than GM could have done with the Grand Prix nameplate and didn’t. Still, the redesign went on for quite a few years in one form or another.
The little brother of the much larger Grand Prix was usually understated in terms of styling. But with the redesign, GM looked to change all of this and bring the car into the next decade. The styling of the Grand AM GT was very refreshing to say the least. But the performance from the Ram Air V6 was pretty mediocre. There were some cool aspects of the car but for the most part, it fell short.
GM had promised the automotive community that the Grand AM GT would be a standout car. But when it came down to it the car was just lacking real power and performance. When you took a look at the exterior of the car, that was a real letdown. Aat the time the Grand AM, was one of the best-looking cars on the market.
The Sunfire was a compact car sold by Pontiac for over three decades. The compact Pontiac had a lot of features that made it stand out from the crowd. The overall design was exciting at a time when small cars were underpowered and boring. But the actual production version of the car fell short in terms of design and implementation. What made the Sunfire GT fall short was its underpowered engine.
The car shared most of its sheet metal with the Chevrolet Cavalier at the time. This was a drawback for most consumers who wanted something sportier in terms of design. There were a lot of expectations for the Sunfire GT from a track standpoint because of Pontiac’s other well-performing cars.
When you look back on the Acura lineup of the ’90s, there are a few things that come to mind. The brand was known for producing well-appointed sporty cars. But the next generation of the CL was nothing more than a souped-up Honda Accord. The car shared most of its exterior styling with the sedate Honda, which is what made the CL lack personality.
The CL could have been a capable performance coupe with the right features. But somewhere along the line, Honda missed out on something. Without the execution, the CL was a substantial letdown. Resale values for these cars have started to creep up in recent years, but they’re nothing to get too excited about.
The bold-faced 1990 Celica was a departure from the traditional styling that had made the sports car a success. There were quite a few notable features of this Celica, such as the AWD version. The car was underpowered compared to offerings from Mitsubishi and Eagle. The design was a bit lackluster and the car looked dated even at the time it was on the market.
There’s a lot that Toyota could have done differently with this generation of the Celica. The car had the potential to perform well on the market, especially as the larger Supra was gaining popularity. The Celica has always been a staple of the Toyota lineup, but this model was just a letdown.
The next generation of the Celica didn’t score very well either. Although the swooping design was better for the most part, the car still had a lot of drawbacks to it. The powerplant was still weak, especially when compared to other coupes on the market. This generation of the car didn’t have a specific sport version, and instead, it was marketed as a lightweight sports coupe.
The bug-eyed design did look a lot better than the previous generation. But looks are only skin deep, and the car didn’t perform well otherwise. You can drive the Celica comfortably and still have a level of enjoyment with it. But as far as a true sports car, the Celica of this generation was still a disappointment.
The Audi TT was a big advancement over the previous Audi sports coupes on the market. But when you thought about what the design brought to the table, it was nothing immensely noticeable for the brand. The turbocharged motor was one of the advantages, and the Quattro drivetrain made the TT a stellar bargain in terms of design and sheer horsepower.
But the design was unimaginative and the car lacked any sort of creativity. The TT stayed in production for over a decade and was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments to come out of the decade. Audi has long been a proponent of innovative technology and driving characteristics, and the TT fell short.
Honda had quite a few hits during the ’90s as the cars that hit the market were well-designed. The Del Sol, on the other hand, was a bit of an oddball in terms of design. The car looked a lot faster then it was. There are certain aspects of the Del Sol that could have been a winner. But Honda decided to keep the car fairly underpowered and performance was just not up to par.
There were certain aspects of the design that were innovative, such as the Targa-top. Honda has come a long way in design and performance, but the Del Sol is a blip in company history. There has never been another car that is like the Del Sol, and there probably won’t be.
Acura was on a bold new path during the ’90s as the brand was creating new, one-of-a-kind vehicles. The NSX was a bold new supercar that was designed to put the Acura brand on the map for new and innovative designs. The NSX had a lot of unique benefits to it that made the car stand out for the most part. What made it so unique was its mid-engined design.
But what could have been one of the fastest cars on the road ended up being a disappointment because it lacked a truly powerful engine. Acura decided to go with a V6 instead of going for a larger displacement. This left a lot of the automotive industry in awe because the car was disappointing for the most part.
Chrysler was looking to create unique cars and get some semblance of quality back into their lineup again. The Prowler was a retro-themed roadster that had an immense amount of suspense and excitement around it. What made the Prowler such a letdown was not the design, but rather the lackluster V6 engine underneath the hood. You’d think that a car like this would have a powerful V8 engine.
Instead, the Prowler got the same V6 engine you’d find in a Dodge Intrepid. Why Chrysler decided to use such a lackluster motor in such a beautiful sports coupe is beyond us. The Prowler developed quite a reputation for its striking design and innovative features, but when it came down to it, the car was disappointing.
Porsche had a couple of unique sports car models during the ’90s. The main problem with the Porsche 968 was that the design was becoming ancient. When you think of a car that is quintessential ’90s, the 968 is it. The design was very close to Porsche models of the previous decade. The performance was derived from a powerful engine, but the design was dated.
The interior of the 968 was cramped inside and the materials were not up to par in terms of quality. The 968 was a disappointment in terms of what the sports car could have been and what it was. Other models were very close in terms of design and offered more features.
The Isuzu brand wasn’t known for developing sports cars into the ’90s. But at the start of the decade, there was one. If it looks familiar, that’s because the Impulse shared its sheet metal with the Storm. The overall design of the Impulse was very dated, even at the time of its release. There was a hatchback version of the Impulse that was also worth noting, although it didn’t offer a lot in terms of features.
The Impulse could have been a success for the Isuzu brand. But at the time of release, the company was shifting gears toward developing sport utility vehicles. Had the Impulse had a better design and a more powerful engine, it might have made it into the next generation of sports cars.
GM was so determined to break into the import market during the ’90s that they thought the Storm was the best route to take. The car was a sheer clone of the Isuzu Impulse in every sense of the term. What made things even worse was the fact that there was no difference other than the badging on each vehicle. In terms of performance, the Storm wasn’t anything that was much more fun to drive.
The Geo Storm lasted longer than the Impulse, but buyers who were looking for cheap fun were disappointed. The car had the potential to be a fun little bargain-basement sports car. But instead, GM went the cheap route and just chose to rebadge an existing model.
When you think about impressive feats, the Subaru brand has come a long way. The company has a lot of longevity, and the Impreza is one of the most popular cars around. But there was a time when the brand had another sports car on the market. The Subaru SVX was an odd-looking sports car that utilized the same turbocharged engine you’d find in the Impreza.
There were a lot of benefits that made the SVX a great sports car. But other elements of the design just made it fall short. The car could have been a real success for the Subaru brand. But when you think about it, the car fell short. The awkwardly-designed SVX will go down in history for having a rather unique design that’s hard to forget.