12 Best & Worst Honda PRELUDE Years (We Checked)

The Honda Prelude, a beloved sports coupe produced from 1978 to 2001, experienced both peaks and valleys in its storied history.

As a competitor to the Toyota Celica and Mitsubishi Eclipse, the Prelude offered drivers a stylish and sporty option in the Japanese automobile market.

This article dives into the best and worst years of the Honda Prelude.

Best Year for Honda Prelude (With Few Issues)

The 1999 Honda Prelude Type SH stood out as the best version of this iconic sport compact car. This year, Honda gave the Prelude a light refresh, which included a new exhaust header and revised valve timing. These updates bumped the output of the 2.2-liter H22A4 four-cylinder engine up from 195 to 200 horsepower.

This increase in performance not only made the 1999 Prelude more enjoyable to drive, but it also cemented its reputation as a highly agile and responsive front-wheel-drive vehicle.

Furthermore, the Type SH variant was equipped with Honda’s unique ATTS (Active Torque Transfer System), which selectively distributed torque to the tires with more grip, helping the car maintain its stability and control during high-speed cornering.

The 1999 Prelude also stood out in the design department, showing off a mature and refined aesthetic.

The slightly curvier lines and thoughtful details, such as the contemporary headlights and taillights, gave it a distinctive look that was well-received by fans and enthusiasts alike.

In addition to performance and design, the 1999 Prelude offered drivers a comfortable and well-equipped cabin. Amenities like a power moonroof, cruise control, and a premium sound system provided an enjoyable experience for both driver and passengers.

The combination of performance, design, and comfort made the 1999 Honda Prelude Type SH an exceptional vehicle in its time, and it continues to be a highly sought-after model among enthusiasts and collectors to this day.

The 2nd Best Year

1993 was a remarkable year for the Honda Prelude.

Known for its reliability, this model year stands out in the long line of Preludes that was produced from 1978 to 2001. Various enhancements made the 1993 model an ideal choice for consumers seeking a front-drive sports coupe.

The 1993 Prelude showcased improved handling and a sleek design. At the heart of its performance were the advanced suspension systems and the vehicle’s upgraded chassis. These improvements significantly contributed to the car’s excellent cornering abilities and overall stability.

Furthermore, the 1993 model featured various engine options, including the 2.2-liter VTEC engine that produced 190 horsepower.

This powerful engine provided drivers with an exhilarating driving experience and impressive power. Additionally, the vehicle was available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, allowing drivers to choose the optimal setup for their driving preferences.

One other notable feature of the 1993 Prelude was its design.

The low-slung body style, combined with stylish curves, gave the vehicle a distinct and attractive appearance. The interior, too, was tastefully designed, offering a comfortable and pleasant environment for both drivers and passengers alike.

In conclusion, the 1993 Honda Prelude stood out as an exceptional model year in the brand’s history. With its combination of striking design, powerful engine options, and improved handling, it managed to win the hearts of many drivers and earn its place as the second-best year for the iconic sports coupe.

Other Good Years

In addition to the well-known top years for the Honda Prelude, there are several other years which are worth noting for their unique features and admirable performance.

These years stood out for a variety of reasons, contributing to the Prelude’s reputation for being a reliable and enjoyable sports coupe.

  • 1983: This was the year when Honda introduced the 2nd generation of the Prelude. The new design was sleeker and more aerodynamic, which helped improve both performance and fuel efficiency. Additionally, the 1983 model featured revised suspension components that improved handling and ride comfort.
  • 1985: These two years marked the arrival of the third-generation Honda Prelude, with a more refined and aggressive design. The 1985 model introduced fuel injection, while the 1986 version saw the introduction of the upgraded 2.0 Si model. Performance and driving dynamics were significantly improved, making these years some of the most popular in terms of sales.
  • 1991: With the introduction of the fourth generation, Honda took the Prelude to new heights of performance and technology. The 1991 model debuted with the groundbreaking 4-wheel steering system, which provided unparalleled handling and cornering capabilities. This feature, combined with an upgraded engine, made the 1991 Prelude a thrilling ride for enthusiasts.
  • 1993-1995: This period saw the integration of Honda’s revolutionary variable valve timing technology, VTEC, into the Prelude. The powerful H22A1 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine offered in the VTEC model delivered impressive performance and helped establish the Prelude as a force to be reckoned with in the sports coupe market.

Overall, these additional good years of the Honda Prelude showcase the consistent evolution and improvement that accompanied the coupe during its production run.

Each of these years contributed to the legacy of the Honda Prelude, offering enthusiasts a range of engaging and thrilling driving experiences.

The Worst Year for Honda Prelude

The 1988 Honda Prelude was not as well-received as other model years.

Despite featuring innovative technology like four-wheel steering, this third-generation Prelude had certain issues that made it less popular among car enthusiasts. For instance, the 2.0-liter engine in the base model was not as powerful as many drivers would have hoped.

With only 104 horsepower, the car struggled to provide the thrilling performance that its competitors offered.

Another aspect that hampered the 1988 Prelude’s reputation was its outdated exterior design.

While it retained the signature wedge shape from previous generations, it was not as sleek as other sports coupes available at the time, such as the Toyota Celica and the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

This left some potential buyers opting for these rivals over the Prelude.

The interior of the 1988 Prelude also faced a few issues.

Its tight cabin space, especially in the rear seats, limited the vehicle’s practicality. Taller passengers often found it uncomfortable. Furthermore, the dashboard layout wasn’t as driver-focused as one might expect from a sports coupe, and some drivers found it difficult to locate controls quickly.

Despite these shortcomings, it is crucial to remember that the 1988 Honda Prelude was still a well-built vehicle with an innovative four-wheel steering system. This technology provided excellent handling and agility which were appreciated by some drivers. Ultimately, the car’s issues were not enough to overshadow its positive characteristics completely, but it certainly wasn’t the best year for the Honda Prelude.

Other Bad Years

  • 1986: This year faced high dealer mark-ups, especially on the 2.0 Si models, which led to customer dissatisfaction. The demand for the Prelude was high, making it difficult for enthusiasts to find a good deal on their desired model. Although the car was popular, this issue with mark-ups was a notable downside during this time.
  • 1987: Although this year boasted more than 72,000 Preludes sold in the U.S. alone, making it the model’s third-best sales year after 1986 and 1985, there were some concerns among car enthusiasts. As with the previous year, dealer mark-ups continued to plague potential buyers, causing hesitance among those looking to purchase a Prelude.
  • 1996: As the fifth generation of the Honda Prelude debuted, there were mixed opinions on the revamped design and technological advancements. Some critics voiced concerns that the new Prelude strayed too far from its beloved predecessors while others argued that it didn’t adequately stand out from the competition. The year 1996 marked a turning point for the Prelude line, as initial excitement waned and people began to question the car’s future direction.

In these years, the Honda Prelude faced various challenges, including dealer mark-ups, customer dissatisfaction, and mixed reviews with regard to new designs and innovations.

However, it’s important to remember that the car still had many fans and enthusiasts who appreciated its strengths, even during these less-than-ideal times.

Common Problems to Look for in a Honda Prelude

When considering purchasing a Honda Prelude, it’s important to be aware of some of the common issues that have been reported with various models. Keep in mind that some years may have more problems than others, and individual experiences may vary.

One of the most common issues that Honda Prelude owners have reported is problems with the oxygen sensor heater fault. This issue can cause the check engine light to come on and could lead to potential problems with emissions or fuel efficiency if not addressed.

Another issue that has been reported by Prelude owners is the balance seal falling out.

There is a retaining device available to fix this issue, so it’s something to consider checking if the car had that work done.

Oil leaks are another common problem with Honda Preludes, particularly from the top of the engine. These leaks can lead to a burning oil smell under the hood and a visible oil leak from the engine. In some instances, there can also be a grinding noise coming from the engine.

Steering joints can weaken in some Prelude models, which can lead to more serious problems if not addressed.

Be sure to double-check if any recalls have been issued for the model you’re considering and if the necessary work has been carried out.

While these issues do not represent every problem you might encounter with a Honda Prelude, they’re some of the most common ones that have been reported. Keep these in mind as you shop for your ideal Prelude, and consider having a trusted mechanic give the car a thorough inspection before making your purchase.


Back to overviews: Best & Worst Years Per Honda Model.

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.