People Think These Japanese Classic Cars Are Awesome… They Aren’t

Japan produced some of the most iconic cars of the 1980s and 1990s. By the 21st century, Japanese automakers had already established a reputation for producing affordable and virtually indestructible sports cars, often outperforming their European and American brands on the market. Today, JDM are among the most sought-after cars in the world, with top hits like the Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra, Mazda Miata, Honda NSX, and more.

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But like every other automaker, Japanese automakers are not immune to mistakes. The Land of the Rising Sun also produced a few duds. Most of the cars on this list aren’t worth buying – while some were significantly damaged by reliability and mechanical issues, others were fitted with poor engines that didn’t match their sporty image.

Following a steady stream of near-perfection in the JDM market, people think these classic Japanese cars are great, but they’re not.

ten Mitsubishi Eclipse

The Mitsubishi Eclipse was designed as a true driver’s car, defined by its excellent performance and ergonomic design. These characteristics were passed on to subsequent generations of the car and even inspired the production of the Eclipse Cross SUV.

Overall, the Eclipse was a good car, but it had chronic reliability issues that ultimately made it less desirable than its contemporary rivals. It was recalled several times during its life due to mechanical issues such as ABS unit corrosion, faulty brake booster, fuel leak, transfer case sticking, bearing failure stopper, etc.

9 Toyota MR2 Turbo

The Toyota MR2 was the brand’s first rear mid-engine production sports car introduced in 1984. Although still an iconic classic car today, the MR2 was designed as a sporty and economical small car. It was partially lacking in power as the inline-four engine produced 112 hp.

Elsewhere it was infamous for its quick oversteer – the ridiculously short wheelbase and mid-engine setup made the rear end susceptible to mid-corner slip. Even in its revised suspension state in 1992, the MR2 was a deadly car for drivers who like to test a car’s limits.

8 Mazda RX-8

Produced between 2002 and 2012, the RX-8 found itself with a huge void to fill following the success of the RX-7. While they were both powered by a rotary engine, the RX-8 was underpowered, as it lost the sequential turbochargers that made the RX-7 a favorite among gearheads.

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And despite all its flaws, the troublesome reliability issues made it one of the worst cars produced by Mazda. The engine was prone to excessive fuel and oil consumption due to leaking apex seals, which eventually led to engine failure. The RX-8 was discontinued in 2012 due to declining sales.

seven Toyota Celica T230

Production of the seventh generation Celica began in 1999. It featured an exterior design closely resembling the XYR concept except for the rear spoiler and front bumper. Unlike previous generations, the T230 was only available in a lift-up body style.

The Celica T230 was powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produced either 140 hp or 192 hp, depending on the market version. Besides the Celica’s lackluster performance, the car’s reputation was ruined by oil pump and filter problems that ultimately contributed to its downfall.

6 Honda CRX Del So

The Honda CRX was produced from 1983 to 1991, based on a Civic platform, hence the Civic badge. Other than that, the CRX was a whole different car. In what was meant to be a direct rival to hot-hatches, the CRX completely redefined the pocket rocket segment. Although an engineering marvel, it breaks down frequently and is extremely expensive to repair or restore to working order.

The CRX was also characterized by excessive body roll and a jerky ride, especially on rough roads. And in an attempt to make the car economical, Honda implanted a 160hp 1.6-litre engine which was then detuned to 15hp.


5 Toyota Supra A60

The Celica Supra and the entire Celica line were completely redesigned for the 1982 model year. While the Supra was still based on the Celica platform, some notable key differences included the retractable pop-up headlights and front-end design.

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Another significant difference was the 2.8-liter straight-six engine, which underperformed in every way, producing only 148 hp and 155 lb-ft of torque. Even though power was increased slightly to 161 bhp in 1985, there was no significant performance improvement as the Supra took 8.4 seconds to accelerate from 0-60 mph.

4 Mazda Cosmo Series I

Mazda Cosmo was built as a halo car at a time when the Japanese automaker was looking to improve its image and market share in the automotive world. Mazda didn’t have its own design heritage and looked to American and European styles when designing its new showpiece, referred to as one of Japan’s finest cars.

The result was an Italianate exterior, which turned heads in every way, but not when it came to the performance of the car. Under the hood, Mazda stuffed a twin-rotor Wankel rotary engine that could only produce 110bhp, rocketing the Cosmo Series I from standstill to 60mph in a slow 8.2 seconds.

3 Subaru SVX

The SVX is a unique and exotic marvel produced over a single generation from 1991 to 1996. It stands out from other JDM icons with its wedge-shaped design and window-in-window styling, further proof that the Japanese automaker never never spent a dime in the car’s design department.

The SVX was Subaru’s first dab in the luxury and performance segment, but it never made a breakthrough. Earlier models had transmission problems due to a faulty torque converter clutch. Subaru ended production of the SVX following poor sales and suffered a $75 million loss on the project, becoming one of the biggest automotive flops in history.

2 Datsun 280ZX

The 280ZX was Nissan’s second generation Z-series car. Following the success of the 240Z, the Japanese manufacturer made a less attractive version in the 280ZX – it was heavier and slower as the designers sacrificed performance for better fuel economy.

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Earlier 1979 280ZX models that produced 135 hp (14 horsepower less than the 280Z) were slower than the 240Z. It wasn’t until 1981 that a turbo was added to the 2.8-liter straight-six engine to produce a respectable 180 hp. In keeping with the luxury nature of the car, the ride quality was sumptuous; not the best for rushing around a circuit due to severe understeer, failing to excite the real gears.

1 Mazda MX-3

While the MX-3 arrived as the world faced an economic recession, it also faced fierce competition from fierce competitors like the Nissan NX. It featured a sporty exterior with flush headlights and a lowered front spoiler which enhanced the image of the car.

In the rear were a slanted curved glass and a small wing to complete the sporty look of the MX-3. However, the biggest surprise was under the hood. Along with the entry-level 1.6-liter inline-four, Mazda featured a 1.8-liter V6 engine – the world’s smallest V6 that produced 130 hp. It took the MX-3 8.4 seconds from a standstill at 60 mph before reaching a top speed of 126 mph.