There are a plethora of car choices these days whether you're looking for an SUV, or an SUV or maybe an alternative fuel electric SUV. The car market has many sizes (and shapes) of SUV's but somehow the conversation still comes up about the cool cars that are no longer made. While some fit in the wildly popular category of SUV, there are many that don't. In particular, Japanese manufacturers have put out some memorable ones that stick in our memories or clutter junkyards alike. These vehicles were the unsung "classics" of the Japenese import market.
The Acura Integra aka Honda Accord was a big hit in the 1990s for being a well made, reliable fun car that had both styling and performance. While not a "real" sports car, it certainly held its own on the road. The manual 5-speed transmission pushed out 160 hp and made this model quick drivers favorite. Combine that with a gas-sipping mpg in the mid 20's and you'll quickly take a trip down memory lane and start looking for this car on the used car lists.
The Honda Element! What else could be said about this boxy, yet handsome can't kill it Honda cross-over besides it should still be made! If I hear 1 more owner ask me why they stopped making it I'll have to petition Honda themselves! It was a 4 cylinder, AWD 5 seater that was ready to work Monday through Friday and play on the weekends. While not a brawny vehicle, the Element struck a balance between SUV and sedan having the handling of its sedan siblings like the civic but the utility of its other more truck-like family. With seats that folded up in the rear and a wide-mouthed rear cargo hatch, owners (many who still have them with nearly 300k miles on the clock) were able to fit oblong pieces of furniture or appliances with no problem at all! Plastic body panels were used to deter rust and rot but also added a unique and rather distinctive look to the box on wheels.
Honda produced this compact 2-door car to be a sporty yet efficient 2 passenger hatch. While its specs are more humble with a 4 cylinder 1.5 L 62 hp engine, this didn't stop this compact coupe from driving its way into the hearts of thousands of owners. As typical for Japanese carmakers of this time (and even now) it was the Timex of small cars. It was the little car that could. What it lacked in interior space it made up for in many other ways! MPG were in the high 20's to low 30's, and reliability was second to none. Well, maybe Toyota but I'll leave that for later down the list.
The sporty 4 cylinder hatch was a crown jewel of yesteryear cars. There was an amazing balance of performance, reliability, and style that we just don't see anymore. Front engine and rear-wheel drive "S" platform made this sleek hatch a fun to drive economical choice. In production from 1989 to 1999 this car is still popular in drifting circles and can also be seen in video games such as Forza Motorsport! This continued popularity has pushed resale prices surprisingly high for such an old car!
At a time when both Toyota and Honda were the kings of the Japanese import road into America, Mitsubishi also held its own in this category. While there were a lot more choices from this automaker than today, the Eclipse stands out as one the most memorable. This 2 door 4 seater while compact could also pack a punch. it offers a 4 cylinder 2.4 L engine and 154 hp. They even offered a spyder edition that was the most sporty in a convertible edition!
The Celica was a great 4cylinder 4 passenger affordable sports car option. while other manufacturers offered fun 4 passengers, Toyota got it right and became an instant hit. Creating 7 generations of this car before calling it quits, the Celica (from the Latin word meaning heavenly) certainly didn't disappoint.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
When Toyota decided to reintroduce the FJ series many fans were excited to see it back! While this new rendition of the classic FJ-40 was wider and taller it still maintained many of the original's styling cues. The rounded headlights and oval grill to name a couple. Why this was discontinued by Toyota remains a numbers game. They simply weren't selling "enough" to justify its slightly lower sales.
Mitsubishi 3000 GT
This car is one of those inspirational cars that made the list because it can only be driven in your dreams! It was such a cool sports car that had accents of an exotic sports car while not requiring an exotic bank account! The twin to the Dodge Stealth, this 3000 GT made more heads turn by epitomizing one word: presents! You couldn' go anywhere without being noticed.
The RX-7 is not only a Mazda classic but an all-around collectible. When Japanese cars were still relatively new on the scene and for the most part poorly styled, the RX-7 made you want to own it. Its low riding 2 door coupe with its sloped hood turned all the gear heads.
Last but not least the MR-2 is a sports car for the ages! A hot collectible in many circles it's one of the rare cars on this list that has a rear engine. The MR-2 was designed to be a sporty affordable yet still fun to drive 2 seater. In fact, the name means "mid-engine rear-wheel drive 2 seater. This model had both front and rear independent suspension and 4 wheel disc brakes! What I think makes this model so special is that there is nothing like this even remotely available from Toyota or any other manufacturer for that matter. (I know the Supra is close but its not an affordable option.)