Despite the fact that the Honda Prelude never got the kind of recognition that other Honda and Acura models did, the car was a genuine performance coupe worth loving. Honda sold a good number of these over the course of the model’s fairly long life, totaling about 826,000 from the late 1970s to the early 2000s worldwide.

Fifth Generation Honda Prelude Type SH

There were five generations of Prelude and any year is a good car, but the model was often overshadowed by bigger names from Honda and other automakers. The Honda Accord Coupe was often chosen over the Prelude, and there were numerous other options during the time that the car was sold. This led to poorer sales than the car deserved and that was the main contributing factor to its eventual death. This doesn’t mean the car was bad. In fact, the last generation Prelude was an excellent car.

What Was It?

Honda Prelude Type SH

The fifth generation Prelude was a front-engined, front-wheel drive car. It had independent suspension and good 48/52 front-to-rear weight distribution for great balance. The best version of the car in the States for the fifth gen was the Prelude Type SH, which had a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine that made 195 hp. This would shoot the car from 0-60 in 6.7 seconds and gave the car a top speed of 140 mph. The Type SH also came with suspension upgrades over the base model and a torque-transfer system designed to eliminate understeer.

Honda Prelude VTEC engine

All fifth-gen Preludes offered solid performance. They had a smooth but still sporty ride and near-luxury-car refinement on the road. The interior of the car was also nearly worthy of the luxury car market at that time. You could get the car with either a manual or automatic transmission. While the manual is the choice for any true enthusiast, the automatic was well-regarded for its time.

fifth generation Honda Prelude interior

From a styling standpoint, the fifth-gen car was a return to the boxier shape that the Prelude had in the early generations. The fourth-generation car's curvier body was eschewed for a more angular design that we really loved, despite the fact that it probably made the car a bit more anonymous against the likes of the BMW 3-Series coupe and the Toyota Supra. 

Why We Miss It

Fifth Generation Honda Prelude rear view

We miss the Prelude because it was genuinely a great car in terms of design and performance. Earlier generations offered some impressive equipment including ABS and the first implementation of mechanical four-wheel steering. This feature was not offered in the States on the fifth-gen car. The fifth-gen car was a sports car with attractive styling that wasn’t too obnoxious. Many sporty coupes have styling that’s too over the top. The Prelude didn’t. It was an attractive, well-mannered and well-appointed coupe that was also fast and great to drive.

We miss it these days because outside of the Civic Coupe there aren’t any traditional sporty front-wheel drive coupes on the market. They’ve all disappeared. Part of us thinks the Prelude would stand a chance now that the Accord Coupe is no more, but with buyers trending further and further away from small coupes, we doubt the vehicle would do well in today’s market. Still, we miss it, and we’ll be combing through the used car listings looking for one that hasn’t been modified to hell or rusted to bits.

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