If you’re a ’90s kid, you will probably remember that the focus of your automotive attention and interests was not luxury SUVs or sublimely fast hot hatches. In the mid-’90s, hot hatches were almost extinct thanks to whopping insurance rates, and luxury SUVs weren’t even a thing. In those days, every school kid was lusting after one of the exciting but affordable two-door coupés. Cars such as the BMW E36 Coupé, Opel/Vauxhall Calibra or Honda Prelude were the perfect blend of sporty appearance, dependable everyday mechanics, and a reasonable price. Car crazy kids of the day would dream of owning one of these snazzy numbers.
Today, however, we are not planning to tell you about the popular and desirable 90’s cars. Instead, we will remind you of the vehicles you probably completely forgot about and that fall in the same category of affordable but exciting ’90s coupés.
Introduced in 1991, the SVX was an ambitious project and Subaru’s first popular sports car. It had futuristic styling, unique side window construction which looked like a concept car, and reliable mechanics. However, it had two fatal flaws. Yes, it possessed a powerful 3.3-litre boxer engine with 231 HP. It also came with Subaru’s signature all-wheel-drive as standard, but this wasn’t enough. For some reason, Subaru decided that the only available transmission should be a slow-shifting 4-speed automatic, which offended the purists. Another factor was that a car filled with so much technology was doomed to be heavy, which significantly impacted the driving dynamics. When production halted in 1996, Subaru had sold just 24,000 cars, of which only 2,450 were in Europe.
The Fiat Coupé is clear proof that Fiat is capable of doing much more than just producing ordinary compact cars. Often referred to as the poor man’s Ferrari,” the Coupé was designed by Chris Bangle (of BMW fame) while working for Pininfarina. Its power came from the same engine (2.0-litre, four-cylinder) that went into the Lancia Delta HF Integrale. With such unique and memorable styling and a range of engines including a 5-cylinder, 2.0-litre with 220 HP at the top of the range, the Fiat Coupé was incredibly fast. The most powerful version claimed a 0 to 60 mph time of just 6.3 seconds, which is still respectable today. However, as with all Italian cars of the era, the quality wasn’t fantastic, so surviving examples are rare.
Ambitiously referred to as the “Ford Capri for the next millennium,” the Ford Cougar was introduced in 1998 and built on a Mondeo platform. It featured Ford’s signature “New Edge” styling language of the period. A choice of two petrol engines – the 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 2.5-litre V6 was available. Although it was a comfortable and spacious Coupé with a decent design and stable performance, it was just “too little, too late.”. The Cougar desperately lacked the image of the Capri, exciting details, or above-average performance to attract the attention of buyers. Ford did attempt an aggressive marketing campaign using the legendary Steppenwolf’s song “Born To Be Wild”. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough, so the Cougar was quietly discontinued in 2002.
Manufactured for just five years between 1991 and 1996, the Porsche 968 was a strange and forgotten model from Stuttgart. It’s positioning in the market was somewhere between the ’80s legend, the Porsche 944, and the ’90s icon, the Porsche Boxster. This does not mean that it was a bad car. Quite the opposite, it was very capable, fast, had excellent handling, and great overall performance. Its unusual transaxle layout was perfect for weight distribution. A powerful 3.0-litre engine powered this beast, and the front-end design came from the famous Porsche 928. During its production, Porsche made just 12,700 cars, which is why you should buy one today if you have the chance.
The first MX6 model was introduced in 1987, but we are now more interested in the second generation unveiled in 1991. This good-looking Coupé was based on the 626 Sedan but with a much sleeker and sportier body, two doors, and more powerful engines. Mechanically, it was a twin brother to the Ford Probe (remember that car?), which meant it was cheap to maintain but still enjoyable to drive. The second generation had even more extensive engine choices, and you could order it with a 2.5-litre V6 with 200 HP, which led the field for ’90s standards and guaranteed lively performance.
Remember the old Audi 80 from the early ’90s? The range Audi used for compact sedans before it started calling them the A4? Neither do we. However, we do remember the exciting Audi S2, the coupé version of the ordinary family saloon, and the first “S” car in Audi’s history. The spiritual successor to the famous Audi Quattro Rally cars of the ’80s, the S2 was a competent but pretty understated Coupé. It had a popular, five-cylinder turbo engine that delivered 220 to 230 HP, a Quattro all-wheel-drive system and performance, which could surpass the Porsche 911 of the era. The 0 to 60 mph sprint took just 5.9 seconds and its top speed was limited to 150 mph but despite all this, the S2 was never sold in huge numbers making it a future classic if you can find one.