The 90s produced both gems and duds when it came to automobiles. With the 70s oil crisis over, and its lingering effects also being absorbed by the 80s cars – the 90s was all about the fresh appeal. While many muscle cars and SUVs flourished in the 90s with consumer preference heading to bigger cars and engines; sedans tended to be at their worst at this time.
Most car companies were concentrating on the best truck and pickup they could produce, so 90s was the time that the worst of sedans were produced. Here are our picks of the top 5 sickest cars the 90s gave us, and 5 cars we would rather not remember!
10 90s Dud: Ford Explorer
Technically, there was nothing wrong with the Ford Explorer, and the nameplate is alive and well since 1991. So why is this on our dud list? When Ford was deciding to figure what tires would suit the Explorer the best, a bright big brain suggested Firestone.
After some 240 deaths and 3000 injuries, and that bright big brain losing his or her job (we presume), Ford blamed Firestone for faulty tires – ending their 90-year-old partnership. Firestone blamed Ford for a faulty vehicle but NHTSA found nothing wrong with the Explorer. So for no fault of Ford, the Explorer became the 90s dud, with over 13 million tire recalls that had to be borne by Ford.
9 90s Gem: GMC Syclone
The GMC Syclone makes both best and worst lists as a pickup truck of the 90s and there’s a certain logic behind that. The body was boxy enough if on the smaller side for a pickup, but it seemed to work for the Syclone pretty well. The engine was a 4.3-liter turbocharged V6 that pulsed 240 horses and 350 ft-lb torque and took it 0-60mph in a flat 4.3 seconds.
A quarter-mile was completed in 13.5 seconds and while this pickup truck did everything but carrying loads – it made for a bad pickup but an amazing drag racer. The Syclone is the stuff legends are made of, considering it could beat a Ferrari!
8 90s Dud: Suzuki X-90
We don’t know what transition period Suzuki was going through to take out a car this bad. You had to look hard at it to figure out whether it was coming or going because its front looked almost the same as its behind – and it was all ugly.
It may look like a nano-compact SUV since sub-compact doesn’t work here, but with a 1.6-liter inline-six that coughed up 94 horsepower – it lacked, speed, power, and even the desire to be even respectably fast. Then, for some insane reason, there was a spoiler! Top Gear was being too kind when they placed in 13th on their list of the Worlds Worst Vehicles in the Last 20 Years.
7 90s Gem: Toyota Supra MK IV
While the sedans at home were suffering from a deficit of interest, Japan was minting the best and the most fun-to-drive sedans by the dozen with Toyota, Nissan, Honda leading the rat race. And while Paul Walker may have done the world a huge favor by reigniting an interest in JDM, the Toyota Supra MK IV would have emerged into the spotlight simply because it was awesome.
The fourth-generation Supra looked like a serious high-performance car with two engine options: a 220-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six with 210 ft-lb torque; and the same engine but twin-turbocharged that gave out 320 horsepower and 315 ft-lb torque. The speed was limited to 155mph but could go as high as 177, with a quarter-mile sprint of 13.1 seconds.
6 90s Dud: Fiat Multipla
The Fiat Multipla landed on the car bazaar towards the end of the 90s, just when consumers finally thought their stroke of bad luck with bad cars had ended. One look at the Multipla and one could be forgiven for thinking that the designer of this was hatching a dastardly plot to destroy Fiat. Or maybe he just sneezed whilst sketching the fascia and the hood.
The point is, somebody in Fiat must have seen the prototype – so why didn’t they just stop production and redesign what has to be the world’s ugliest car? Sitting in this toon-duck shaped car must have been mentally disturbing for not all can absorb the jibes and sneers from passers-by.
5 90s Gem: Dodge Viper
1992 is when Team Viper finally had fruition and released the Dodge Viper on an unsuspecting public. The first Viper had no air con or traction control and came bearing a canvas roof and zippered vinyl windows. This on a car that carried an 8.0-liter V10 and jetted out 400 horsepower and 465 ft-lb torque.
The second generation was also released in 1996, and this was a hardtop with sliding glass windows and came with airbags, aircon as well as other conventional sporty stuff. Thankfully, it had better brakes. The first two Vipers were good, and the whole slew that came after was even better. The Viper legacy was born in this era, and we have to thank the 90s for it.
4 90s Dud: Ford Aspire
Thing is, there was nothing aspirational about the Ford Aspire – so this was a misnomer true to boot. Technically, this was the Ford Festiva – a collaboration between Ford and Kia, with 1.3 and 1.5-liter Mazda inline-fours power mills under the hood.
This one could not accelerate to save its life, with horsepower ranging from 65-90, and a torque range of 75-100 ft-lb. It had dual airbags as a saving grace, put in perhaps to convince consumers that they could survive a crash in this strange and weak egg-shaped contraption. Sales were dismal, and performance even more so. It was finally discontinued in 1997 after a brief four-year sale period.
3 90s Gem: Mercedes-Benz G-Class
So once upon a time, and this is no fairytale, the King of Iran was a major shareholder in Mercedes-Benz. He got Merc to develop what the Hummer was to America, a military jeep that came to be known as the “Wolf”. The name G-Class formally came in 1994 and underwent many revisions before it became a favored ride of the rich and the famous.
That said; the G-Wagon is a serious all-weather vehicle and in the 90s, came equipped with a plethora of engines. Petrol engines ranged from 5.0-liter V8, 5.4-liter supercharged V8, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, and a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12. There was also the 2.9-liter V6 and the 4.0-liter V8 diesel engines.
2 90s Dud: 1992-1998 Pontiac Grand Am
From the makers of the Firebird TransAm and the legendary KITT came a dud, the Pontiac Grand Am. The only thing grand about it was that it was dismal in a grand way. Everything leaked from day one – like the coolant, the intake manifold and sometimes, even the fuel tank that tended to rust. Then the interior was like a 70s disco with lights and blowers coming on and off as if they were tripping.
The engine would sometimes decide not to start at all, or once it started, refuse to turn off – leaving you stuck with an idling car in the parking lot. The seats were back pain-inducing and interiors looked like they had been designed by Fisher-Price. Just a grand 90s disaster.
1 90s Gem: Mazda Miata MX-5
No 90s list can skip the Mazda Miata, known at home as the MX-5. Many tried to beat this nifty little roadster at its game but failed for this was the ultimate in convertible experience. The biggest failure as a rival had to be the Plymouth Prowler that went nowhere, very slow.
The Miata with its 1.6-liter DOHC inline-four engine jetted out 115 horsepower and 100 ft-lb torque which may not sound like much – but was enough to make this less than 1000kg car fly 0-60mph at 8.3 seconds. It stood for what the 90s was all about – freedom, experimenting, power and a ton of fun.