Regrets: Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC

90s cars General Bunk Honda Regrets

So here I am, once again regretting the sale of a car. This time, it’s a 1994 Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC, purchased just nine months ago.

Back then I was looking for a sporty coupé because, after seven years of driving big saloons, I fancied something lighter and a little more fun to drive. I would have loved to find a nice, unmolested Volkswagen Corrado VR6, but the few sold in Spain are either a) modified in the worst possible way, or b) original and well cared for but rather expensive. The second option was a fourth generation Prelude, with the 2.2 VTEC and 185hp engine. These were difficult to find in original condition, too, but a lot more affordable, so when I found a good one I didn’t think twice.

I’ve always had a fondness for the fourth-generation Prelude. After delivering a string of conservative and not too exciting midsize coupés, with the 1992-1996 Prelude, Honda gave us a rather more ambitious car: lower, shorter but wider (exceeding some Japanese car regulations about car width) and, with electronic four-wheel steer and VTEC engines, rather more sophistication.

Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC

In Japan you could even buy a Prelude with traction control, an advanced eight-speaker stereo system with subwoofer, heated seats and power-folding door mirrors. The styling was more daring, too, with that low front-end thanks to Honda's typical double wishbone suspension, along with hints of the Jaguar XJS at the rear. Or is that just me?

Inside, the dashboard was a lot more sophisticated, with a futuristic feel and ‘hidden’ electroluminescent instruments. The materials Honda used in the interior may appear a little low-rent at first (the cheap-cheap PVC roof lining is the main offender), until you realise every piece of plastic and cloth still looks like it did when the car left the Saitama factory, some 20 years ago. What's more, after 120,000 miles you can't hear a single rattle or squeak. The Japanese certainly knew how to build a car. Shame the rear seats are next-to-useless.

Interior of left-hand drive Honda Prelude

Driving the Prelude was always a delight. In city traffic, I especially revelled in the soft steering and pedals, precise gear-change, and, despite having a very revvy engine, a terrific level of response at low revs. Thanks to short gearing, third gear was much like putting the lever in ‘D’ in an automatic transmission car. But when you led the car to a country road and started pushing it a bit, the Prelude transformed. It seemed alive.

Maintaining revs above 5,200 rpm, where the ‘VTEC zone' kicks in, became addictive. It demanded concentration to keep the engine in the right zone and this was fantastic. A great gear-change was your best ally and the steering, whilst lacking in outright feel, was very precise. Suddenly, every drive seemed like a rally stage. I'm so used to big, fat, powerful but lazy saloons, so driving the Prelude was a revelation. Best of all, as we have a lot of speed cameras on our roads, you don't need to travel at very high speeds to enjoy this car.

Rear of Honda Prelude in Spain

Even fuel consumption is good. Yeah, if you are ‘VTEC kickin'-in yo’-ing' every time you drive the car, you can't expect TDI-like figures, but drive more sedately and 40mpg is easily obtainable.

So, why did I sell it? Well, I only use my cars at weekends, and more often than not I need four seats when my sister and niece come to Seville to visit the family. The Prelude was reserved for those rare Sunday early morning blasts and I started to think that owning two cars - the Prelude and the Volvo 850R - was a tad frivolous. In nine months I only travelled about 4,000 kilometres in it.

I sold the Prelude to a friend for the same amount of money it cost me nine months ago. A couple of months before the sale I put in it new tyres and did the timing belt service, so it hasn't exactly been a wise economic move. But that's life, and besides this is the first time I have lost money on a car.

Honda Prelude 2.2 VTEC engine

The good thing is “my” Prelude is going to be well cared for and will share a garage with another 14 interesting cars I would love to own, including four or five classic Saab 900s, a pair of 9000 Aeros, a Citroën CX Prestige, plus a rare and lovely Volvo 740 Turbo 16v. I’ll have the chance to purchase the Prelude again, perhaps in a year or two. Knowing my friend, in that period of time the car will have covered about 2,000 kilometres and it will be mechanically faultless.

So farewell, Prelude, your stay with me was short but remembered. And now I have money in my pocket again, does anybody know if the rear seats in the Corrado VR6 are more or less usable than a Prelude? Perhaps it could be a good 850 substitute…