The 1990s was a strange decade for auto manufacturers. The American sports cars were being laughed at as the Big Three were trying to figure out the formula for building the next best sports cars and the Europeans seemed to be in between models across the continent. This was a decade where power was not king, but instead performance and adept handing would win the battle on nearly every road, which the Japanese manufacturers had placed in their cars for many years. In fact there was no better example of answering the door when opportunity knocks than to see the menu of fun to drive Japanese sports cars that prowled the streets during the 1990s.
At a price most could easily afford in the 1990s the 240SX was a lot of fun to drive as it sent the full 155 horsepower to the rear wheels of the car. Even though the power wasn’t much on this car it didn’t need to be due to a very low curb weight of 2,700 pounds. This little beauty had everything tuner lovers wanted in a car, it handles well, its rear-wheel drive, and it’s lightweight, making it one of the cars from this decade that is still sought after today for those who are looking to build the next amazing drifter car.
With the pop up headlights, sleek style had rising lines and a dynamic wrap around built in spoiler the Eclipse showed us a car that has great looks and amazing performance to match. The Eclipse brought in only 195 horsepower from the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine but offered all-wheel drive to give the most precise handing and balanced power on the road. Driving this little beauty around gave you a sense it was looking for the canyon run to take on every curve the road could throw at it as this swift driving sports car handled every road challenge and spit them out like they were nothing at all.
Acura Integra Type-R
As one of the best front-wheel drive performance cars of the decade the Integra was a pioneer in the premium sports car world. This little car made 195 horsepower churn out of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that gave it more than enough power at the very light weight of 2,600 pounds. The Integra Type-R is still one of the most sought after cars for those who love to enjoy the performance of a car that sticks every corner at top speeds which is where many heavier and less performance laden cars lose their grip.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Even the first generation of the Miata was a lot of fun. This car was built to look like a throwback British roadster but without all the problems that usually was included on these older models. With only 140 horsepower this small 2,100 pound car could take off with the lightest touch of the accelerator and was the perfect car for those who missed the two-seater fun they had decades before. The Miata quickly became one of the most popular cars on the market and eventually was the poster child of the mantra from Mazda of “zoom zoom”
In the 1990s Mitsubishi experience a great deal of success with cars that were fun to drive and some that offered decent power. Thus far in this list we have not had one car break the 200 horsepower make, but the 3000Gt did so in the 1990s with a 320 horsepower and 315 lb.-ft. of torque engine that also offers exceptional handling and performance. This awesome car weighed in at only 3,800 pounds, which was heavy at the time, but the added power and awesome road grip made up for the weight as we say many 3000GT models crossing finish lines ahead of the rest of the pack.
This was the sports car so many budget conscience drivers chose. This beauty gave you the power you wanted which was 200horsepower and the amazing handling that can only be found in a Toyota model. This was the answer for anyone who wanted the NSX or Ferrari style drive but couldn’t afford it. The MR-2 found it was to being fun, attractive and quick. The MR-2 was and still is a favorite of the tuner crowd with its size, style and flexibility.
Nissan had been known for a long time for making the premier Z cars, especially when Datsun was no longer in any market. The 300Zx was larger and sexier than previous versions of any Z car from Nissan. The 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 engine brought us 300 horsepower and 283 lb.-ft. of torque to make the output very close to the Mitsubishi 3000GT but the advantage for the 300ZX was the difference in weight at it 3,300 pounds. With excellent handling and a suspension that kept the car planted on the road the 300ZX was fun to drive and offered one of the premiere affordable sports cars during the decade.
Even though this car was only around for a few years in the third generation, the RX-7 was the sports car from Mazda that many wanted. It had the look the feel, the style and enough power to make it sexy, spectacular, and seductive. The 1.3-liter rotary engine brought in 255 horsepower and 217 lb.-ft. of torque and weighed in at only 2,800 pounds. The balance of the engine and amazing performance parts made this car one of the most fun to drive, but the high price and poor fuel mileage ended up spelling certain doom for this great little car.
As one of the few exotic sports cars to come out of Japan, the NSX of the 1990s certainly gave you a car that could be taken to the track as well as handle the challenges of daily driving. The NSX of the 1990s was powered by a 3.0-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine that made 270 horsepower at the beginning of the decade and eventually as much as 290 before the end of the decade. This was another car that was not just a power player, but was perfectly built to handle any and all road features to be fun to drive and offer exceptional performance.
The Supra was the car that made a lot of noise on and off the trace as one of the top performers. This car had more than just a little power; it brought the heat with a full 320 horsepower and 315 lb.-ft. of torque. This came out of the large 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine that was positioned perfectly to offer the best balance and enhance the overall driving experience. As a car that took corners like they didn’t exist and found its way to the front of many races, the Supra was a car that was only around a short while, but is still found to be one of the favorites of street racing crowds.
Japanese automakers certainly took advantage of the lull in the 1990s and started showing us a way to enjoy driving like we never had. Unlike the straight line drag races of previous decades these sports cars were built to show off their performance on a corner, through a long turn, or show the quickness of a radius turn that brings the car screaming back to the start-finish line with grand speed, gorgeous style and amazing handling at every point in the race.