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The 25 Strangest Automotive Interiors Of The 1990s

Cameron Eittreim September 10, 2021

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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