QOTD: Terrible Nineties Sports Car Design From Japan?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today marks the final entry in our Question of the Day series discussing bad sporty car design from the Nineties. So far we’ve covered America and Europe, and we now finish up with poor sports car designs from Japan.


Our rules today are the same as they have been in previous editions; let’s have a look.

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from a Japanese manufacturer, even if sourced from an import.
  3. Any body style is eligible as long as it’s sporty.

Japanese offerings from the Nineties have become relative design classics in the decades since, so today’s example took a little bit more consideration from yours truly. Perhaps you’ll have an easier time thinking of a bad design, but here’s mine:

It’s the first generation of the Acura CL coupe, introduced for the 1997 model year. It was only the second coupe in the brand’s lineup, succeeding a Legend coupe which failed to catch on. The Legend’s sales suffered due to its overall cost and front-wheel-drive architecture, burdens not placed upon its direct competition, the Lexus SC 300.

The CL employed four- and six-cylinder engines. Appropriately for the decade, manual or automatic transmissions were on offer. The styling of the first-gen CL is best described as derpy. Awkward shapes combine with a general look that doesn’t really relate to other cars in Acura’s lineup. Given its age and its tendency to experience Honda wheel arch rust, you don’t see many around today. In 2001 the CL was replaced by a superior looking second generation version, to the delight of anybody with eyes.

Let’s hear your selections for bad Nineties styling from Japan.

[Images: Acura]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Oct 23, 2019

    I have a weak spot for the Mitsu 3000GT, AWD. It was the awkward kid at the party, trying too hard next to the sexy Supra or the modern 300ZX Turbo. The Chrysler-Dodge versions were even more confusing.

  • My nomination in this series discussing bad sporty car design from the Nineties is the 1995-1998 Nissan 200SX SE-R. Between 1995 and 1998, Nissan retailed the JDM Nissan Lucino coupe as the 200SX in the United States and Canada. At best design was incredibly bland, at worst just awkwardly styled and proportioned. It was based off the phoned in 1995 - 1998 Nissan Sentra (Sunny). Even though it was based off an economy car, the SE-R had sportyish hardware like a 140 hp engine and the 95-97 even had a viscous limited-slip differential (VLSD).

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    • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Oct 24, 2019

      "Even though it was based off an economy car, the SE-R had sportyish hardware like a 140 hp engine and the 95-97 even had a viscous limited-slip differential (VLSD)." So it was a discount G20 then?

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Another Hyunkia'sis? 🙈
  • SCE to AUX "Hyundai told us that perhaps he or she is a performance enthusiast who is EV hesitant."I'm not so sure. If you're 'EV hesitant', you're not going to jump into a $66k performance car for your first EV experience, especially with its compromised range. Unless this car is purchased as a weekend toy, which perhaps Hyundai is describing.Quite the opposite, I think this car is for a 2nd-time EV buyer (like me*) who understands what they're getting into. Even the Model 3 Performance is a less overt track star.*But since I have no interest in owning a performance car, this one wouldn't be for me. A heavily-discounted standard Ioniq 5 (or 6) would be fine.Tim - When you say the car is longer and wider, is that achieved with cladding changes, or metal (like the Raptor)?
  • JMII I doubt Hyundai would spend the development costs without having some idea of a target buyer.As an occasional track rat myself I can't imagine such a buyer exists. Nearly $70k nets you a really good track toy especially on the used market. This seems like a bunch of gimmicks applied to a decent hot hatch EV that isn't going to impression anyone given its badge. Normally I'd cheer such a thing but it seems silly. Its almost like they made this just for fun. That is awesome and I appreciate it but given the small niche I gotta think the development time, money and effort should have been focused elsewhere. Something more mainstream? Or is this Hyundai's attempt at some kind of halo sports car?Also seems Hyundai never reviles sales targets so its hard to judge successful products in their line up. I wonder how brutal depreciation will be on these things. In two years at $40k this would a total hoot.So no active dampers on this model?
  • Analoggrotto Colorado baby!
  • Rob Woytuck Weight is also a factor for ferries which for instance in British Columbia, Canada are part of the highway system.
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