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The 25 Strangest Automotive Interiors Of The 1990s

Cameron EittreimSeptember 10, 2021

As a decade, the 1990s changed a lot for the automotive industry from the design perspective. Automakers dared to make design changes that were frowned upon before that era. Interior design also leaped functionality and comfort. Many car models in the ’90s utilized updated interiors with new technologies.

But not all of these were especially effective. Today we’ll look at 25 of the strangest car interiors that hit the industry. You may be familiar with some of these car models, and others might be a complete surprise. Check out the 25 strangest car interiors of the 1990s (via Motor Trend) below.

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25: Nissan NX2000

Nissan hit a low point in the 1990s but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few diamonds in the rough. The NX2000 changed the game for what a compact car could look like. Its sculpted design hadn’t appeared on a hatchback before the NX. In addition to the improvement in the exterior design, the interior did the job. The design was controversial to many drivers.

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But the driver-centric cockpit would be mimicked later by other automakers (via Car and Driver). The NX2000 used a small amount of interior space well. A comfortable ride quality made the car a pleasure to drive, and the cargo hatch was functional. Had Nissan not been in serious financial shape at this time, the NX2000 might have been more well-known.

Photo Credit: BAT

24: 1993-1998 Lincoln Mark VIII

The corporate clone of the Ford Thunderbird did an excellent job reinventing the car. You’d never know that the Mark VIII was a Thunderbird at first glance. The two are separate cars for the most part, and Lincoln’s interior is spacious and technologically advanced (via Motor Trend). Lincoln put an equitable amount of effort into the design. Lexus had crept up on the domestic automakers by this time, and it was an all-out war for luxury dollars.

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Sadly, the Lincoln Mark VIII would be phased out by 1998, but the final car had a new and unseen but not unpleasant interior. A flowing dashboard and plenty of options would entice buyers. A modern sound system with BOSE surrounds also added to the allure of the Mark VIII. Coupled with that was the excellent sound design that the car had from the factory.

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23: 1999-2002 Mercury Cougar

Ford invested a lot in the Mercury brand at the end of the 1990s. The Cougar was designed to appeal to female car shoppers who might otherwise look over the brand. Similarly, this Cougar was not a V8-powered car like the previous Cougar. The new design proved to be polarizing with buyers either loving it or hating it. The interior was a dice roll, as this was around the time Ford started with the “new edge” design scheme via (Motor Trend).

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The new Cougar had curves galore on the interior, especially on the dashboard. Ford’s New Edge design was carried over from the Mustang and the Focus. Some enthusiasts appreciate this design, and others avoid it. Still, the Cougar had a unique design. Unfortunately, Mercury didn’t make it into the current decade, and the brand has all but been erased from Ford marketing.

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22: 1996-1998 Suzuki X-90

In the 1990s, Suzuki was sort of the “lame duck” of the automotive industry. Generation X embraced the brand as a funky alternative, baby boomers not so much. That divide between shoppers put a dent in any success Suzuki could have. The X-90 is a hybrid of the successful Suzuki Samurai and a two-door sports car. The thinking was that a driver could have the best of both worlds. It was an idea that connected decades later with the crossover movement.

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But in the 1990s, most drivers preferred a more conventional SUV model (via Repair Pal). The X-90 was underpowered and lacking a backseat. The interior was not well put together, with both driver and passenger riding extremely close to each other. Suzuki is not the most pioneering car company in the world, and it’s no surprise that the X-90 was less than stellar.

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21: 1999-2002 Qvale Mangusta

New and interesting concept cars were a reality in the 1990s. The Qvale Mangusta is evidence of that, with its startling interior. If the interior of the car looked familiar, it is because it was completely ripped out of the Ford Mustang. Ford’s design is apparent throughout the Mangusta. The 1990s were the last great decade for the two-seater sports car.

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Car companies were all vying to have that one killer design that would stand out from the crowd. The Qvale Mangusta would lead you to believe that it is a car that was designed from scratch. That sadly isn’t the case as the Qvale Mangusta is another product of a company with had a big idea with no substance. There are other sports cars from this era that offer superior performance and bang for the buck (via Motor Week).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

20: 1991-1992 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4

Mitsubishi was still fairly new to the US market in the 1990s. Mitsubishi was ready to establish a presence on US soil. The Galant was the company’s large family sedan that competed directed with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Mitsubishi has rally car expertise and that’s where the VR-4 designation came from.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Galant VR-4 is perhaps the hidden jewel of the 1990s, being sold in very low volume. The design was polarizing, to say the least. The Galant VR-4 could be described as the ultimate sleeper car thanks to the great design. The interior had a straightforward design not every driver liked. Mitsubishi would calm the Galant’s edges as time went on, but it was still a very uniquely designed car, to say the least.

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19: 1989-1995 Lotus Elan M100

Back in the 1990s, Lotus was still a performance-based operation, and the Elan M100 was the focal point. From a design perspective, the Elan M100 is excellent. The car is straight to the point as a performance roadster, which is something that enthusiasts appreciated. The interior of the Elan M100, on the other hand, is a mess of things that you need and things you don’t.

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Surprisingly enough, though the Elan M100 served as the base for the Tesla Roadster. Elon Musk had always appreciated the unique design of the car. Lotus engineering is among the best in the world when it comes to driving characteristics. You won’t find a better driving roadster than the Lotus Elan. Today, the Elan M100 is a coveted collector’s item, but that interior just has to go according to Auto Express.

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18: 1991-1992 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442

Taking on the Chrysler K-Cars for compact Detroit dominance wasn’t an easy task. This is why GM revived the legendary Quad 442 nameplate. The car is everything that drivers needed out of an early ’90s compact. The interior is spacious, but the design is covered in awkward squares and off-color tones. We give Oldsmobile credit for trying to think outside of the box, but the extremely ’80s-esque design takes a lot to get used to.

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GM spent a reported billion dollars on the N-Body platform, and whether the company got its money’s worth is debatable. If you drove any 1990s GM sedan or coupe, you noticed the interiors were extremely boxy. Digital gauges galore and an interesting GM Delco radio deck were among the niceties drivers got (via The Truth About Cars).

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17: 1993-1997 Honda Civic del Sol

What happened when you took a Honda Civic and chopped the back off? Drivers got the Del Sol. The compact Civic-based roadster sold in the ’90s and didn’t feature any noticeable performance upgrades. But if you enjoy Honda vehicles and wanted an open-air experience, the Del Sol is how you got it. The interior does have different Honda Civic features, but all crammed into a tightly trimmed space.

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The removable Targa top was a nice touch, but it takes up a great amount of trunk space. The speaker system in the Del Sol was also not the best that you could get at the time. The Del Sol is the quintessential ’90s cruiser if there ever was one. Between the Suzuki X-90 monstrosity and the Del Sol, you couldn’t get more 1990s than these two cars. When you step into the Del Sol, it’s time to fire up the Ally McBeal and take a step down memory lane (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Acura

16: 1992-1995 Acura Vigor

The start of 1990 marked the rise of Japanese luxury cars. Gone were the days of BMW and Mercedes ruling the roost. Acura was not the staple that Toyota’s Lexus division was, but there are a few classics. The Vigor is an excellent luxury sedan, bolstering a large and imposing exterior design. Luxury met sophistication with the Vigor, but not necessarily in a way that connected with the consumer.

Photo Credit: Acura

The Vigor supplemented performance with luxury, and that carried over into the interior. Plush leather seating and a lot of dials and buttons wrapped the driver in luxury. Sadly, the dashboard and driver instrumentation were a lost sea of mismatched tech. Acura hadn’t come into its own as a luxury brand at this point. The Vigor has one of the most questionable interiors of the early Acura era (via Motor Trend).

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15: 1991-1992 Isuzu Impulse RS

Isuzu is a company that builds the Trooper SUV, but there was a time when the company sold passenger cars as well. The RS Trim is the one to have, but the interior is questionable. Isuzu is not a compact car company, and the Impulse is evidence of that. The Impulse is on the same platform as the I-Mark Sedan. Unlike the I-Mark though, the Impulse managed to achieve a fair amount of success in America. Between the sales as a Geo model for GM and the notoriety of Joe Isuzu, the car is a modest sales success.

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The Impulse is a steady and handsome-looking coupe, even by today’s standards. The reliability and performance of the DOHC engine are enough to resonate with buyers. The interior is spacious for a two-door compact but is lacking in continuity. The dials were in an odd place, and the radio controls are also mindlessly placed. An optional hatchback model is rare, but a welcomed addition for rally enthusiasts (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

14: 1993-1997 Infiniti J30

Three distinct luxury brands come from Japan: Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti. Infiniti is the Nissan-sourced brand, and the J30 is essentially the Altima. The bubble back on the J30 is a sore point with critics. Interior volume is lesser than other sedans from this same era. The five-passenger seating is tight at best and luxury features were lacking. The premium price tag for the J30 equated to low sales numbers. The interior was a melting pot of ovals and awkward shapes, and faux wood trim.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The J30 performed admirably in 0-60 performance, but the styling is a major turnoff. A lot of consumers were more comfortable with the traditional styling of the Lexus ES300 or the Acura RL. In recent years, the J30 has become highly sought after thanks to its powerplant that is shared with the Nissan 300ZX. Turbocharging a J30 is a relatively painless process and the car will perform beautifully.

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13: 1991-1994 Mercury Capri

The Mercury Capri is a definitive classic roadster. The car hit the market in 1991 as a latch ditch attempt to spring some life into the Mercury brand. Mercury’s lineup consists of rebadged Ford models, so the Capri is different. The styling of the roadster is created for the short-lived Merker brand that Ford marketed. Once the Merker brand hit the shelf, Ford went ahead and brought the Capri to the marketplace. Relative to the Mazda Miata, the Capri is a different type of car altogether.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

There is a more premium feel to the Capri, and performance is seemingly better. The interior is a jumbled mix of hard plastics and weird buttons. The design team left some R&D out in the design of the interior. The seats are hard and uncomfortable, and if the convertible top is rolled, the cargo space will be limited. Few drivers will remember the Capri as it got overshadowed by the Miata every step of the way.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

12: 1992-1996 Mazda MX-3 V6

Oddly enough, the Mazda MX-3 is similar to the Nissan NX2000 design. The automaker went ahead with the design of the car. The difference with the MX-3 V6 is that the engine was shared across multiple models. Drivers got the performance of the Mazda MX-6 with the versatility of a hatchback. The interior is cramped and cargo space is not what you’d expect. The hatch does not open high enough to load large cargo or big suitcases.

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City driving is where the MX-3 is at home. The short wheelbase coupled with the V6 engine gives the car wonderful dynamics. The V6 engine is well-suited to what Mazda buyers are looking for in a car. The dashboard is a mixture of RX-7 and Miata, all crammed into the same thing. Don’t forget the automatic seatbelts, a fixture of the 1990s car design (via Motor Trend).

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11: 1990-1992 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Volkswagen is a company that was in dire straights in 1990. The popularity of the “Bug” was far gone, and reliability ratings for the brand were questionable at best. The Fox compact sold a lot of cars, but its bad reputation caused backlash. The Corrado G60, on the other hand, came with high-performance intentions. Drivers got a Porsche 911 for a lot less, and without the prestige of the brand name recognition.

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The interior in the Corrado G60 was a mismatch of other Volkswagen models. There is a bit of Jetta, Passat, and the Golf. Hard plastics galore, and the seating is universally uncomfortable. The hatchback is not a versatile design, you don’t buy the Corrado G60 for cargo space. Recently, the Corrado is more popular than ever with used car prices skyrocketing for a clean example.

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10: 1987-1997 Mazda MX-6

The Mazda MX-6 was produced from 1987-1997 and is a traditional coupe. The early design is boxy, to say the least. The second generation of the MX-6 however is often credited as one of the most beautiful Mazda models of all time. The beautiful sleek lines on the MX-6 are reminiscent of the Lexus SC400 coupe. The interior, on the other hand, missed the mark, with hard plastics and a confusing dashboard. Traditionally, the important dials should be within reach of the driver. The MX-6 did away with the “normal” train of thought.

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The MX-6 did not offer a spacious interior; in fact, the backseat is only suitable for children. Trunk space is also limited on the MX-6, but that’s where the bad news ends. The MX-6 is stellar to drive on long voyages. A smooth suspension ensures that the car soaks up bumps like something much more expensive. Aftermarket upgrades are a dime a dozen for the MX-6 and there is an active aftermarket community for the car (via Jalopnik).

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9: 1986-1998 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible

The Saab 900 Turbo Convertible is a beautiful car with a unique style. The styling could be deemed “uniquely Saab”, as there is no other car like it. Saab would continue the styling trend for the 900 up until the brand’s demise in 2010. From the exterior, the Saab 900 Turbo is an exceptional convertible in every sense of the word.

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It’s when you got into the interior that the nuts and bolts are a bit skewed. The first thing that you notice about the Saab 900 is the key placement. The ignition switch is located in the middle of the two front seats, a Saab trademark. The 900 has the unique Nightwatch feature, where you can dim the entire dashboard, except for the garages. Weird lines and uncomfortable seating are downfalls of an otherwise quirky interior. There is truly not another car interior from this decade that looks like the Saab 900 (via Curbside Classic).

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8: 1991-1996 Buick Roadmaster

Somehow the Roadmaster always comes back around in a list. The styling of the car wasn’t so much what sold it, it was the LT1 Corvette engine under the hood. The interior of the Roadmaster is quite plush. The dashboard design of the Roadmaster was where the interior fell short. The cluster is hard to read and outdated compared to the rest of the car. The GM Delco radio deck from the 1990s could be described as cheap.

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There is a lot of interior volumes, seating for six if you opted for the bench. The Roadmaster is one of the last full-size sedans that could seat six comfortably. The design of the seating was lacking in quality. GM interior materials around this period were cheaply made. There’s a good chance that you’d end up having to have a ripped seat repaired or worse. The Buick Roadmaster tackled just about anything and did it well, especially if you opted for the station wagon model (via Bloomberg).

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7: 1991-1997 Subaru SVX

The Subaru SVX is the poster child for what a sports car shouldn’t be. The harsh styling of the SVX alienated potential buyers. The odd driver and passenger window design on the SVX resembled a supercar of the era. The rest of the interior is choppy, to say the least, aand there is harsh plastic galore. Leather seating on the upmarket model swaddled the driver in a cockpit-like setting. But none of the switches or dials were within easy reach, and the factory sound system is a joke.

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Cargo space in the SVX is non-existent, so a long road trip is questionable. Legroom is abundant in the SVX, which is a fair aspect of the design. A driver needs important switches and dials to be within reach of them. Subaru did not factor in the everyday driver who would go for the SVX. The SVX has managed to increase in value in the used car market as of lately. The hunger for a true Subaru-based sports car has helped to feed demand (via Hagerty).

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6: 1989-1996 Nissan 300ZX (Z32)

No matter what generation, the Nissan “Z” is a legend. The Z32 is the most controversial model in the Z cars heritage. Introduced as the first “modern” Z car, the Z32 had a lot of tech drivers saw for the first time. With a leather interior and a convertible top, the 300ZX is a downright beautiful car from top to bottom. But the interior luxuries aren’t what you buy the 300ZX for, it’s the twin-turbo-powered V6 engine under the hood.

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The dashboard is poorly designed in the Z32. A myriad of different dials and buttons control several features of the car. Choose the T-Tops or convertible variation of the car and the cargo space was even more limited. Electrical problems in the interior are another issue with the Z32 that plagues even a low-mileage example. Still, the Z32 is one of the most iconic examples of the Nissan Z altogether (via Car & Driver).

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5: 1987-1993 Cadillac Allanté

Cadillac tried a few different things when it came to the luxury roadster. The Allanté is considered one of the most expensive Cadillacs of all time. The styling was conventional for the timer. But as with GM tech of the time, the dashboard is a confusing mix of buttons and digital gauges. GM tried to lead the pack with digital dashboard designs. Repair costs are high, and the maintenance for this kind of system is even worse.

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The interior is full of cheap plastics and fake wood, which is a letdown considering the high price tag of the Allanté at the time. Nowadays, the Allanté is a collector’s item with values skyrocketing. Dealing with the awkward interior design is only one facet of Allanté ownership. The painfully designed V8 engine is the other drawback. Cadillac attempted to revive the Allanté a decade later with the Corvette-based XLR (via Hagerty).

Photo Credit: Nissan

4: 1995-1998 Nissan 200SX SE-R

The Nissan 200SX is a compact two-door car sold for a few years. The 200SX carried the compact banner of the Nissan brand alongside the Sentra. The awkward exterior style of the car didn’t resonate with car shoppers. A sleek elongated coupe was met with a bulldog’s nose upfront. Surprisingly enough, the 200SX had a SE-R model, which is well-positioned for cheap thrills on the track. The interior, on the other hand, is hideously designed.

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The interior shares a lot of plastic and design with the Nissan Sentra. The Sentra is a bargain-basement car, especially the 1998 model. On top of the cheap thrills that you’ll find with the interior materials, the space is also cramped. Cargo space in the trunk of the 200SX is also questionable, all of which leads up to a strange design for a sports coupe (via Motor Trend).

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3: 1998-2001 Honda Prelude

The Prelude is the last dedicated Honda sports coupe. The Prelude had a long line of options drivers wanted. The exterior design is attractive, even by today’s standards. The interior of the Prelude is different from your Accord. Honda went for a sporty look, but the end result was a bit confusing.

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The interior had a premium feeling from the leather to the dark tones. There were soft leather touches throughout the interior, and the sports car-inspired seating is a plus. The Prelude is missing that special something in the interior. Honda devoted a lot of effort to the design of the Prelude, but the last few years for the car were rough (via Car and Driver).

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2: 1996 – 1999 Ford Taurus

The third-generation Ford Taurus is a tradition of design. The overtly oval design is remembered for being panned by critics. The reliability of the Taurus is also questionable. The Taurus was offered in a sedan and wagon variation, and the interior is cramped. The dials are cheap and hard to get to, and the gauge cluster was not Ford’s best design.

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The Taurus went downhill after this generation. Consumers simply couldn’t let the new design go, and it stuck around. Toyota and Honda had dramatically changed the Camry and Accord, but the Taurus had a horrible new design (via Road and Track).

Photo Credit: GM

1: 1991 – 1993 Chevrolet Lumina APV

Finally, we have the Lumina APV, the ugly ducking of the GM minivan family, which debuted in the early 1990s. Unlike Chrysler minivans, which were massively popular, the Lumina APV was not. The Dustbuster-themed styling of the van didn’t resonate with consumers on any level. The viewing angle of the dashboard was unlike anything else you drove.

Photo Credit: GM

The interior was cheaply made, and the materials were of low-grade quality. We’re not sure what GM was expecting by designing a Dustbuster on wheels. The design was awful to look at. The dashboard is an especially weak point for this van. But worse than that was the sloping front end of the Lumina APV (via Jalopnik).

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