Used 1996 Honda Prelude VTEC Review




what's new

This is the last year for the current-generation Prelude.

vehicle overview

Usually, when a carmaker introduces a model with unusual styling, we assume that the styling will grow on us, becoming attractive as the rest of the carmakers introduce models with similar styling themes. Since we first laid eyes on the Prelude in the fall of 1991, only two cars have dared tread where Honda designers did when creating the current-generation Prelude. The new Supra's roofline and greenhouse share the Prelude's proportions, and the Lincoln Mark VIII sports an interior as radical as that found in the Prelude. Needless to say, we still haven't grown accustomed to, or very fond of, this Honda's looks, inside or out.

Underneath the questionably attractive sheetmetal is where the Prelude shines, at least in Si and Si VTEC form. The Si gets a 160-horsepower 2.3-liter twin-cam engine; the Si VTEC a 2.2-liter twin-cammer good for 190-horsepower. The VTEC motor is sweet, with a high redline and rev-me-red personality, but it costs an extra $3,000 and reduces the Prelude's acceleration times by a scant half a second over the Si. We don't think it's worth it.

A deeply slotted dashboard greets the front passengers, running the length of the cowl and housing a combination of digital and analog gauges. At either end is a speaker housing and chintzy-looking speaker grille. The design provides an ample amount of interior room for the front passengers, but compared to Honda's previously-brilliant interior layouts, this one is cheesy and ineffective.

The frontal styling is downright ugly, and the alloy wheels look as though they were heisted from a Saturn SL2. The Prelude is a fun car, with reliability that is nearly matchless. However, we think Honda blew it with this version. The 1988-1991 Prelude was nicer to look at, more user-friendly, and less expensive. No wonder they hold their value so well.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.