Overview & Reviews
Introduced in 1979, the Honda Prelude was the company's first attempt at building an exciting car that still held true to the core Honda values of intelligent design and reliability. Over the next two decades, the two-door sport coupe would become the primary performance car in the Honda lineup. Although it was outfitted with relatively powerful engines in later generations, the Prelude was not a muscle car. It was built around handling and drivability, while providing enough power to remain competitive.
Over its life, several new technologies for Honda were pioneered on the Prelude, such as fuel injection, four-wheel steering and Honda's Active Torque Transfer System. The Prelude was also the first Honda model to get VTEC, the company's variable valve timing engine technology.
Though the Honda Prelude was very popular throughout the '80s, consumer interest waned in the '90s. Eventually, the Prelude was trapped in an under-$30,000 no-man's land. For a sporty front-wheel-drive coupe, it was just too pricey, and it didn't have sports car looks or a sufficiently premium feel. By the turn of the millennium, the sport coupe market was a shadow of its former self. Honda dropped the Prelude without a replacement after the 2001 model year. As a pre-owned option, however, the rewarding and reliable Prelude merits serious consideration from driving enthusiasts on a budget.
Most Recent Honda Prelude
If you're searching for a used Honda Prelude, you'll likely be encountering the fifth and final generation, which was sold from 1997-2001. It was larger and heavier than any of the previous models. It was also the most dynamic. There were two trim levels: base and Type SH. Both got a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with VTEC and a standard five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic was available as an option on the base model. Initially, the engine put out 195 horsepower, but in 1999, Honda bumped maximum power up to 200 hp in the manual-transmission models.
Both trims were equipped with a generous array of standard features that included 16-inch alloy wheels, ABS, cruise control, a sunroof, air-conditioning and full power accessories. The main difference between the base model and the Type SH was the addition of Honda's Active Torque Transfer System, an electronic system that distributed torque to the outside drive wheel in cornering situations. Its purpose was to minimize understeer and thus mimic rear-wheel-drive cornering characteristics.
In road and comparison tests, our editors found the Honda Prelude Type SH to be one of the best-handling cars in its class -- truly a driver's car. It was nimble and well balanced, while also maintaining a decent amount of ride comfort. There was just enough engine performance to be sporty, with the VTEC four performing a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation in feel and sound above 5,200 rpm. Zero-to-60 times were in the low 7s. In 1999, the Prelude won Edmunds.com's Editors' Most Wanted award for Best Sport Coupe ($10,000-$25,000). In 2000, it won again for Best Sport Coupe.
Despite being a great-performing car, the Honda Prelude was lacking in other areas. The interior boasted high-quality materials and construction, but it lacked the visual pizzazz buyers had come to expect from a car with a $26,000 price tag. Honda maintained a conservative approach here, filling the cabin with a monochromatic color scheme and Accord-like gauges and controls. The front seats, though comfortable, weren't available in leather and had limited adjustability. The rear seats had minimal legroom. The fifth-generation Prelude has aged well, however, as that restrained interior design now seems classier and less dated than brash designs like the contemporary Toyota Celica.
Past Honda Preludes
The other Honda Prelude one should consider is the fourth-generation model, which was sold for the 1992-'96 model years. A complete overhaul of the previous model, this Prelude was slightly shorter, much wider and a far better-handling car. The S trim featured a 135-hp 2.2-liter SOHC four-cylinder. The Si had a 160-hp 2.3-liter DOHC four-cylinder with a healthy 156 pound-feet of torque. From 1993 on, the fourth-generation Prelude could also be had in range-topping Si VTEC trim, which brought a 2.2-liter 190-hp DOHC four equipped with Honda's electronic variable valve timing (VTEC) system. A four-wheel-steering system was available in 1992-'93, though only on the Si model.
In general, the fourth-generation Prelude earned favorable commentary in reviews at the time. It offered excellent handling, and nearly all who drove it liked the power of the VTEC-equipped engine. Criticisms were mostly directed at the car's odd interior design. A sweeping blacked-out instrument cluster extended across the entire dash, and few found the mix of analog and digital gauges appealing.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 428.00
great car bad to fix - 1997 Honda Prelude
By chris - January 10 - 1:38 pm
Ive had this car for 3 years, a 97 with some rust picked it up for $1900 bucks. No Honda is worth more than that in my opinion. Im the second owner and got it at 206000 km. reliable yes, horrible to fix, the motor mounts for it are garbage and your flex pipe rips. everything is tight. sporty and fun to drive, my friends love it and are surprised with its performance. Just make sure you buy one that has had the timing belt and clutch replaced. dont get an sh they are more of a problem especially with that bulky ATTS. i love the car its clean quick makes me happy and pisses me off.... Watch out for electrical issues with the driver side door speaker and heated seat. Over the years the car turns into a money pit no matter what so take care of it. Hard to find jdm car and i wouldnt recommend getting one unless you pay the right amount of coin. cheers.
Very clean and fun car hard to find si jdm - 1990 Honda Prelude
By Ricky - January 17 - 9:25 am
love at first ride - 1997 Honda Prelude
By dillon - January 7 - 8:25 pm
If you can find one manual and in good shape , buy it . You wont regret it . Bought with 130k now at 156k and abused the mess out of it all the time and all Ive had to replace was a shifter cable (800). Love everything about it besides back seats but hey its a coupe.
2001 Electron Blue Prelude - 2001 Honda Prelude
By Jon - September 24 - 10:43 pm
I have had my Honda prelude for just about a week now and I am just in love with it. I love having the rare blue color, as well as the already "hard to find" car. The V-tec is awesome and addicting! The seats are quite comfortable, but I wouldnt bring it on long trips with more than two people. It does take 93 octane, but it dosent cost to much to fill it up. You get average gas mileage, so dont expect it to be in the 30-40mpg range because it is about 27mpg. I have always wanted one of these cars and now I finally got one and it is a fantastic car! I got lucky and only paid $4000 bucks for mine with 134k on it, (usually theyre around 5 or 6). I highly recommend buying a prelude, I get looks everywhere I go. All the reliability of a Honda in a cool, fun, affordable sports car.
First car - 1992 Honda Prelude
By chrisl426 - December 2 - 9:54 am
My first car, drove it from 149K to 180k Miles, commuting to college daily. Was a blast to drive it. It was quick and stylish for a 1992 car. Wish Honda still made them. If you took care of the car, it takes care of you. It never failed me. The back seats were tight. Took corners and handled like a race car. I can only Imagine what the 4WS version drove like. No one could ever believe it was a 92, Good job with the impressive styling by Honda. Had the Original clutch at 180k Miles when I sold it still running strong.
Japanese Interpretation of Italian Sports Car - 2001 Honda Prelude
By silver02m5 - May 1 - 2:14 pm
If you are looking for something that follows the "typical Honda" model, then you should look elsewhere. Pretty much everything about this car, from the low roofline, to the seating position, to the engine character screams Italian. All Hondas need to be revved up to make power, but this one is even more extreme. Even the design of the valvetrain, with the valves set into "buckets" in the head is identical to that of an Alfa Romeo. The seats are comfortable and supportive , but be prepared to extend your arms while your legs straddle the wheel if you are over 6 foot. The build quality is excellent, but the low production numbers show in only average reliability (not Honda-typical).
honest 1998 honda prelude review - 1998 Honda Prelude
By wuhantang - March 10 - 10:57 am
ive owned the car for 2 years, bought it at 200,000km and drove it till 280,000km. as with all cars with high mileage, you must look at what the previous owners did for maintence. in the case of my prelude, EVERYTHING started to break down from leaking raditors to starter problems. My cost of ownership was high, BEWARE its hard to find a prelude that is in good condition.
Fun car! - 2001 Honda Prelude
By tedrox - September 23 - 2:01 pm
I owned this car with the auto/man transmission. The car was great I had it lowered on springs. The car was really fun and sounded great with a small 12in sub. It was definitely one of the best cars Ive owned. The only complaint was the transmission. They dont last very long.
95 lude - 1995 Honda Prelude
By isaiah2 - September 14 - 6:00 pm
Bought mine a year ago with 180k miles, now at 190k. A fun car to drive, not especially fast but good in the corners, better than most 4wd cars Ive driven. Get compliments and questions about it anywhere I go, definitely has some curb appeal. MPGs arent as good as I expected, but 25 city/highway isnt bad. Reliability is Honda... some wheel well rust, but according to the service records only minor repairs til 150-200k miles, then you have to replace shocks, hoses, etc...
Rethink Your Decision - 1993 Honda Prelude
By lukewagner002 - December 26 - 11:29 am
I had purchased this car in Jan of 2012. It has 193k on the odometer. After being a Honda Mechanic for a few years, I was confident in the vehicle, but had seen very few of these. I had nothing but problems when owning mine. Within a few weeks, my timing belt had broke, and left me stranded. After rebuilding the entire top end of the engine, I drove it for two weeks when the clutch master cylinder and slave cylinder went out. Two days after that it was the TPS sensor. After repair almost everything, I thought it was safe to drive, and drove it for 4 hours and it would not start again, which is where I gave up. I suggest going to a VERY well maintained one, or finding another vehicle.