By on June 5, 2019

Today’s Question of the Day is a continuation of the styling theme we’ve had of late. The discussion centers around cars of the 1990s that aged poorly. First, we accepted submissions from America, followed up last week by Europe.

Today, we head east and consider Asia.

Our rules for aged Asian aesthetics are the same as our other entries:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from an Asian manufacturer, even if sourced from an import.
  3. Any body style is eligible except for trucks.

The Nineties and Japan get along well together, as long as the subject is not the economy. Nevertheless, not all designs that emerged from the region were winners. To wit:

A bit obscure here, though neighbors to the north will be more familiar with it than American audiences — the Nissan Axxess. This ripe for Rare Rides MPV was sold in North America as a follow-up to the relatively unsuccessful Stanza Wagon, which Canadians called the Prairie. Axxess in America was a stop gap measure, as the new Nissan Villager Quest was ready, and was the van which Americans and Jill Wagner really wanted.

As usual, Canadians were more into MPVs, and the Axxess lasted there through 1995. With front- and all-wheel drive capability, plus manual and automatic transmissions, the Axxess was versatile and very interesting (and I like it). But did it age well? Certainly not. The Eighties are written all over it.

Off to you for submissions. Don’t think too hard about the Toyota Cavalier up there.

[Images: Toyota, Nissan]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

52 Comments on “QOTD: Terribly Aged Nineties Vehicles From Asia?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    1990 Nissan Pulsar with it’s revolving headlights and snap together wedgey body parts it just screams 90s Transformer movie

    http://zombdrive.com/images1600_/1990-nissan-pulsar-6.jpg

    https://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.2374111.1443189014!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_750/1987-nissan-pulsar.jpg

    Snap together wagon
    https://www.generationhighoutput.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/nissan-pulsar-sportbak-side.jpg

  • avatar
    gtem

    1994 Celica, 2000 Tiburon (yes missed it by one year) both for their weird insectoid front ends.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    Pretty much everything from Infiniti during this time period.

    • 0 avatar

      The G20 and I30 were both good looking. As was the QX4!

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        I’ll give you the G20 – they still look good today. Very clean design that has aged well. Ditto the J30. I still wish I saw more on the streets today, but so few were sold, I’m guessing most have returned to the scrapheap in the sky.
        The I30 and QX4…mmmm. I still see a rebadged cash grab from Nissan trying to quickly fill a gap in a lineup. No more, no less. Throwing an Infiniti clock, a Bose stereo, and some soft leather in a Pathfinder doesn’t make a luxury vehicle.
        The mid-to-late 90s was when Infiniti seemed to lose the plot with wrecking the Q45 and slapping a badge on Nissans and calling it a day. I think it took the G35 being a huge success before they righted the ship.

      • 0 avatar
        notapreppie

        Philistine.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    All Nissan Sentras except the cool B12 SE-R.
    2nd gen Nissan Altima 98-99
    95-96 Maxima, facelifted 97-99 much improved.

    Toyota Paseo
    All Corollas

    94-97 Accord

    All Korean cars, they were awful from that era.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Minor correction, you’re thinking of the B13. And what makes them ugly? I think they are cleanly styled, generic at worst. Okay, the hubcaps were ugly. Accord?! Corollas?! Again, hardly ugly I’d argue.

      Gosh, compared to the flame-surfaced rolling dumpster fires of today, take me back to the 90s!!!

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Sentra SE-R started with the B13 series, the understated rounded-box look which was arguably the pinnacle for BMW-esque Nissans. The style aged well.

      The previous B12 was Volvo 740-boxy, and the subsequent B14 was just plain ugly… so ungainly from every angle as to make you feel sorry for the brochure photographer.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      Agree with 95 Maxima and 94 Accord – I had problems with those designs when they first came out.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Three pop in my head right away – there might be more later!:

    Late 1990s Suzuki Esteem. Ultra generic, somewhat blob shaped sedan whose forgettable look and name have you scratching your head right now and wondering, “Huh?” Or watch a rerun of “Better Call Saul.”

    1991 Toyota Previa. What inspired it? A lozenge? A suppository? The GM Dustbuster vans, only rounded off to the point where a straight line was found only on the roof. A very weak 4-cylinder engine lugging around 4,000+ lbs of van, people, and cargo was going to have limited appeal in America and the very odd (and hasn’t aged well) styling didn’t help.

    1998 Mazda 626. Styling-wise, in the 1990s, Mazda was on a roll. Their cars stood out, had a unique look, and drove like a real 4DSC, or a real sports car with the RX-7 and Miata. And then they laid this egg. Bloated, bland, and forgettable. It was like Mazda just forgot what made them special over the past decade. You still see a few of them on the road today, and it still makes me wonder what they were thinking with that very uninspired design. It’s like they got the Suzuki Esteem designers on the payroll and asked them to ruin the 626!

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Have you ever driven a Previa? They’re hardly gutless. Sure, it was no Ferrari, but it could keep up. It had enough low-end grunt, and the supercharged S/C 2TZ-FZE engine improved them greatly. Plus they’re insanely long-lived (like an early Lexus LS), so 300,000 or 400,000 isn’t out of the ordinary. The mid-engine design makes for 50/50 weight distribution and great handling, and the third seat splits and folds up against the sides like a Land Cruiser or Lexus LX.

      They’ve got a cult-like following, and the thing that really limited their appear in America was the high price, not the design.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        I agree that the supercharger installed in the last few model years improved things a lot. We were looking at them when they first came out and found that with everyone on board, the small 4-cyl was really underpowered. Same with Corey’s Axxess wagon up top (another option we were looking at) – it took the Japanese a few more years after that to finally install V6 engines in vans.
        The high price was a deal killer, and the design screams early 1990s aero. The interior was quite nice (like a lot of Toyotas of that era) but these eyes just can’t get over the shape!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        The non-supercharged Previa wasn’t just a dog – it was a lazy, 15-year-old dog with bad knees. But they did run forever. My ex-in-laws had one for about 15 years.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I think part of the secret is that the underpowered drivetrain keeps stress on various other components remarkably low (transmission, brakes) but yes the Previas are from peak-Toyota years and are absolute brick-sh*thouses: freakishly long-lived cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “It had enough low-end grunt”

        Low-end grunt is the “MySpace Angle” for cars.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I sold those turds back in the day. They were expensive, slow and not totally well thought out, IMO. I got a bigger spiff for selling a Previa than I did selling a Land Cruiser, and the LC was a lot more expensive than a Previa. They were nailed to the sales floor.

      If we’re honest, minivans typically have a pretty rotten life, few people wanted to spend nearly $35K in 1991 dollars to have the kids and dogs puke on the carpet and render the van a rolling biohazard. Besides, just about everyone else’s minivan had a V6 so you could at least merge on the highway before 1992.

      I never liked the unlatch and attach (to the side of the interior) rear most seats. I was on a test drive with a customer once where someone (not me) had improperly stowed the rear seats. The test drive took place in traffic, we had to do a panic stop and the seats came flying forward. Luckily we weren’t going very quickly, so there wasn’t a lot of force. Needless to say, I didn’t sell that van…

      It’s a good thing that the drivetrain is so long lived, as it’s not fun to service. Our guys in the shop didn’t particularly want to work on them and I don’t blame them. Everything took a bit longer on those than other vehicles, guys who are working on the book don’t like having to take the extra time. Gauging by the success of FWD based minivans, this was an evolutionary dead end.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        All valid criticisms, but is calling something that outlived every single one of its contemporaries truly befitting of the term “turd?” Some retrospective respect is in order me-thinks.

        My brother saved a customer’s dust-buster Old Silhouette from the junkyard (mostly for kicks and channel content), mercifully equipped with the 3800+4spd. To its credit it has been nursed along to 200k miles before a misfire and slow transmission sealed its fate with the original owner, but boy is it miles away from a Previa in quality and durability.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “mercifully equipped with the 3800+4spd. To its credit it has been nursed along to 200k miles before a misfire and slow transmission sealed its fate with the original owner”

          The L27 is tough and dead simple, so unless it was way overheated or had a grenade dropped inside it, it’s fine. The misfire is almost certainly a bad coil or a worn plug boot. Fix that, clean up the MAF & IAC, maybe an O2 sensor, and I bet the engine is good to go for a long time.

          A sleepy transmission is worse and the seals might be f*cked. I’ve brought some 4T60s back to life with 2-3 fluid & filter exchanges and playing around with the underhood cables (although the last time I did it would be nearly 6 years ago, time flies), but he still might have to tear into it or replace it to fix it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Yep the misfire was just a coil! He’s done a trans drain/fill, it goes into gear after a minute or two of warming up, and will lose first occasionally leaving a light before popping back in. Rest of the van is so-son, leather(!) interior is pretty trashed and it’s missing all of the rear seats. Always feels bad to junk a car when it still has a healthy heart of gold. I was going to buy an old Lesabre off one of his other customers last year for $250, a rusty but trusty 200k+ ’92 with welded in angle for rocker panels. Sadly the subframe mounts let go and off to the junkyard it went, with a strong motor and transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        > I never liked the unlatch and attach (to the side of the interior) rear most seats.

        Don’t forget that other vans back then did not yet have *any* sort of fold-away mechanism for the rear seats; if you wanted a flat floor for cargo, you removed the (often heavy, one-piece) 3rd row seat, and hoped you had someplace to put it. I lived in an apartment that required parking a fair distance away and walking up stairs to get there; I wasn’t about to carry heavy seats each time I needed to carry something that wouldn’t fit behind 3 upright rows of seats.

        The Previa setup was great for its day.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    All the Asian mini-SUVs of the 90s, as much as I love their tippy fun they just didn’t make it into the 2000s

    1990 Tracker
    https://consumerguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/91125041990216.jpg

    1990 Isuzu Amigo
    https://consumerguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/94805051990105.jpg

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    +1000 for the Toyota Cavalier pic. Gotta get me one of those Toyota emblems in the GM parts bag. I’ve only seen pictures.

  • avatar
    notinuse

    Yep, even the article slamming poorly aged Asian cars has to get another dig at GM cars. Typical for this site.

  • avatar
    TheDutchGun

    Toyota previa

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Honda Civic Del Sol – the ’92 Civic was better than the ’88 – lighter, more aerodynamic, built for both D and B engines – so the CRX based off of that Civic should’ve been a classic. Unfortunately they built this instead.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Suzuki X90
    :-(

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mazda MX-3. Great engine trapped in an ugly car.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The Isuzu Impulse (Geo Storm, Asuna Sunfire, et al…) was one that was a pretty decent little car upon arrival, but they seemed to fade like crepe paper in the rain. A sweet little 1.6 DOHC motor, suspension tuned by Lotus and a nice hatchback shape. Also, no rust resistance and apparently little resale value. Still it was enough of a threat to Toyota’s Paseo to keep them concerned…

  • avatar
    don1967

    I sold Nissan Axxesses back in the day, mostly to lesbian couples who were into hiking and camping and canoeing.

    Styled after a rubber eraser, the Axxess was loud and boomy and handled just as sloppily as a larger minivan. But as a compact hauler it was quite practical, with the dual-sliding doors (a rarity in those days) and the gaping hatchback. It also had an enormous greenhouse for giving sightseeing tours to visiting relatives, and an optional third-row seat for their legless children.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I nominate the Mitsubishi Mirage, specifically the coupe. It looks almost exactly like a Cavalier but without the Cavaliers few merits, like easily accessible and cheap parts.

    Otherwise in no order:

    1. Late 90’s Corolla, largely for its Chevy Prizm inspired tailights.
    2. The Nissan Maxima that came after the 4DSC, doesnt help that most examples are either rusty or the bumpers look a bit off.
    3. late 90’s Lexus GS, for copying a Mercedes design that didnt age well either itself. Though, Lexus did do the tailights better.
    4. Acura VIGOR, and its weird tiny front grille.
    5. Acura RL, a sad Lexus/Mercedes wannabe that lacks the finesse of the Legend, and the cool name.
    6. Infiniti Q45, went from being a sleek luxury sedan to a mediocre Mercedes knock-off, with Volvo tailights.
    7. Infiniti I30, specifically the generation that had two grilles and a half, and none of these grilles synergized with one another.

    • 0 avatar
      MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

      What exactly is wrong with late 90s Prizm taillights? At least they have proper amber turn signals, not lazy “all red” like so many American vehicles did at the time.

  • avatar
    onyxtape

    Tie between the Acura SLX (rebadged Isuzu) and the Infiniti QX4. Not so much for the design but for the cynical rebadging.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The jellybean Altima? I owned a ’97 Altima with a 5-speed manual. When I (rarely) see one now, the blob shape has aged pretty poorly.

    It was an okay car – but I preferred the seats and interior in it’s predecessor, the ’87 Stanza. Some cheapening out in the Altima was obvious.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Civic del Sol. Not only is it Jelly Bean ugly but it was a very poor replacement for the great CRX Si. Looks dumb and dated now.

    Never was much of a fan of the 1992-96 Prelude. It looked weird then and hasn’t aged well. The 1998-99 Sentra also aged pretty poorly imo.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Does it count as terribly aged if it was a hot mess to begin with? I’m thinking the original Prius.

    I also seem to recall a car that had weird headlights that followed most of the way back to the windshield.

  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    Those hideous early Miatas LOL


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Art Vandelay: NX 2000 was a B13 SE-R with less weight and better brakes. I’m cool with however it looks.
  • Art Vandelay: What was the pre tariff price? This is beyond meaningless without that.
  • Michael S6: This fiasco was an attempt by Renault to force Nissan to completely merge with it by threatening an...
  • Art Vandelay: Good. Put something based on this up front for pedestrian safety and bring back my sweet 90’s low...
  • thelaine: GM’s electric car predictions have been spectacularly wrong over the years.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States