There are many legendary JDM cars out there, Wagons, Supras, Miatas, Skylines, Chasers, and many, many more. But people tend to overlook some amazing JDM cars, many of which are the predecessor to cars that we cherish and love. I will bring light to some underrated and underappreciated JDM cars that still do deserve praise. Many of these cars are unique and deliver a fantastic driver’s experience. Here are the 9 most underrated JDM cars in our opinion.
The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are often overlooked by the more powerful Toyota Supra and Subaru WRX STi. People seem to forget just how good this car actually is. The 86 has its roots tied to the legendary AE86, and you can see the recipe mostly remains as the Toyota 86 is about 200 lbs lighter than a Supra. In terms of handling and cornering the 86 is clearly superior to the Toyota Supra.
For a modern-day sports car with various comfort features the 86 is surprisingly affordable with a base price of about $28,000. For that, you get a rear-wheel-drive sports car with about 230 hp and a 6-speed manual transmission. When you compare that to the Supra which starts at about $43,500 it is clear that the 86 provides some great value for the money.
The first-generation Honda Prelude in 1978 was nothing to brag about, it was basically a two-door Accord and had a hard time fitting the description of a “sportscar”. But the Prelude has been nothing short of an amazing driver’s car ever since the second generation. It received a complete chassis and suspension remake, as well as higher power output while remaining extremely lightweight.
While often very overlooked, the Honda Prelude was way ahead of its time. In 1988 the Honda Prelude received Four-Wheel-Steering! Yes, that’s right – in freaking 1988! Combined with double wishbone suspension and a high-revving engine the Prelude had the right recipe for a great sports car. In 1992 the fourth generation Prelude received the infamous VTEC engine which could rocket the Prelude from zero to 60 in 7.8 seconds, which was really impressive for a small coupe in the 90s.
The MK2 Supra often stands in the shadow of its bigger brothers the MK3 & MK4 Supra. And who wouldn’t really, the MK4 is probably one of the most famous cars ever produced. But that doesn’t mean the MK2 was bad, on the contrary, the MK2 was an amazing little sportscar.
The Supra MK2 met the world in 1981 and received a 2.8-liter 12-valve Inline 6 producing 145 hp (108KW, 147 PS) mated together with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. In 1984 the engine output increased to 180 hp whilst the US got the shorter straw, only getting a 16 hp boost to 161hp. This was enough to accelerate the MK2 from zero to 60 in 9.8 seconds. While it is not the fastest on this list, the MK2 was a true grand tourer combining decent performance with luxury and comfort. It also holds a lot of heritage since it is the successor to some of the most popular cars in the world to come!
Back in the days, the Galant was considered a four-door family saloon. But with the introduction of the VR-4, that changed. The VR4 was produced in order to comply with the new Group A regulations for the World Rally Championship. One could say that the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 is the father of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. The VR-4 came with the infamous 4G63T turbo-four engine together with Four-Wheel steering and AWD.
The MK1 VR-4 was produced from 1987 up until 2002. Alike many other Japanese carmakers at the time of production, the VR-4’s technology was far ahead of its US and European counterparts. Even the first generation has been recorded completing zero to 60 in less than 6,5 seconds! That is fast even for today’s standards, let alone in 1987.
The Subaru Brat “Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter” was sold as a light-duty four-wheel-drive coupe utility between 1978 and 1994. It came with either a 1.6- or 1.8-liter boxer engine producing between 67 to 73hp – or if you were lucky enough to live in Australia, you could receive a 1.8-liter turbocharged model producing an incredible 95hp, a complete powerhouse! While you won’t set any lap records, the BRAT was very affordable and practical.
The popularity of the BRAT is steadily increasing – and so is the price. Enthusiasts today could pay anywhere between $4,000-$30,000 depending on the mileage, condition, service history, etc. And rightfully so, the BRAT is becoming a collector’s vehicle and prices are likely to continue increasing as the demand increases whereas the supply is shrinking.
I’d bet the Honda Beat doesn’t come to mind when thinking about a high-revving, lightweight, mid-engine, RWD car. But that is exactly what the Honda Beat is but in miniature form, also known as a Kei car… The Beat weighs in at just 1675 lbs. (760kg) and is powered with a 656cc Inline-3 through a 5-speed manual transmission.
While the zero to 60 is quite irrelevant, the handling is not. Thanks to the extremely low weight the Beat is one of the best handling cars out there, probably even better than the infamous Mazda Miata. It also got the Miata beat on the sound, the Beat redlines at 8500 RPM but can power through until 9000 RPM, the Inline-3 also creates a surprisingly cool sound as well, take a look below!
When talking about legendary rotary-powered sports cars, most people would agree that Mazda’s RX-Series takes the crown. But the RX series is not the only legendary rotary-powered car that Mazda made. There was the Mazda Eunos Cosmo, the most powerful production rotary-powered car ever produced. Its 20B Rotary engine produced an incredible 220kW and 403Nm which allowed it through its four-speed auto to catapult it from zero to 60 in less than six seconds!
The Eunos Cosmo was not only extremely fast, but it was also very luxurious – The Eunos was packed with leather, a color touchscreen, as well as one of the first GPS navigation systems fitted to a car.
The Eunos was just incredible, it was good-looking, fast, luxurious, and sounded badass – the only issue is its rarity. It is extremely hard to come by, and if you do, it’ll cost ya. But one can appreciate a car without having to own it!
People praise the Mitsubishi 3000GT as the one great, underrated car from Mitsubishi – I disagree. Sure, the 3000GT had cool styling, a powerful engine, and AWD – but it was really unreliable, and parts are costly. But what if you could have the same amazing setup, but also be reliable. Let me present you the Mitsubishi Starion.
Power ranged from 150-197 hp and was powered by either a 2.0-liter turbo I4 or a 2.6-liter turbo I4. And while not as powerful as the 3000GT, the Starion was a lot lighter, making up for that lost power. The styling cues remind more of a proper JDM car, unlike the 3000GT which was designed more towards the European and US markets. The Starion also holds quite an impressive Rally and Circuit racing result – Placing 1st in several races.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the legendary Nissan Skyline R32 – but perhaps not so familiar with the Cefiro A31. The Cefiro A31 was introduced in 1988 and was a four-door saloon. What made it so special was that it shared the RB20/RB25 engine and rear suspension with the R32 Skyline. So… basically a family saloon with a fire-breathing I6 for a powertrain.
I’d love an R32 GTR, but the truth is almost everyone knows what it is, and when a car guy sees an R32 they all expect a 500WHP+ flame-shooting rocket ship. While the majority of them have no clue what an A31 Cefiro is, and what it is powered by. It is unique, you could almost say it is the Toyota Chaser of the Skyline family (even though there were 4-door Skylines). People will not expect some Nissan saloon to be powered by the same legendary RB engine, which just makes the Cefiro A31 so damn cool.
Revving engines, flamboyant style, and a rebellious spirit - that's what defines Japan's bosozoku subculture.…
There's something about the Honda Civic EK9 Type R that just screams performance, sleek lines,…
The Mitsubishi 1600 GSR is a car that has left a lasting legacy in the…
The S2000 was introduced at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show and went on sale in…
The Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno, also known as the Hachiroku is one of the most…
The Honda NSX-R is Honda's answer to supercar makers such as Lamborghini and Ferrari. But…