Now that the un-appreciated Honda Prelude has depreciated to its lowest level and is still NOT on the JDM radar in Malaysia, it might be a good time to consider buying one.
Honda’s first four-wheel-steering production car was a lively and elegant sports coupe, which deserved more attention than it got. It arrived to compete with the Nissan 180SX and Toyota Celica but today it does not carry the valuation of its rivals.
In 1987 a mildly face-lifted Honda Prelude went on sale. Despite having been around for four years the shape was still fresh and with the grille now below the bumper, this coupe looked even sleeker. The wheelbase was longer and the bonnet line was lower. But the big news was on the boot-lid on some versions, which bore a 4WS badge.
Honda had become the first manufacturer in the world to launch a production car with four-wheel-steering (it also used the system on its sedan sibling, the Honda Accord). There has been no rush since then to embrace this technology; at the top end of the market, from which innovations usually filter down, Mercedes, BMW all get by perfectly well steering with the front wheels only.
The Prelude’s 4WS arrangement is fairly straightforward, works well and generally gives little trouble when maintained. Many cars developed a knocking noise in the rear steering early in life and this is easily fixed.
Repairing the steering rack itself can be somewhat expensive for new parts however with dozens of junkyards carrying many half-cut Prelude’s this would be no problem. If you hit a curb hard at the wrong angle with a rear wheel when parking it is possible to inflict damage that carries a four- figure repair bill. So care is needed when pulling out of tight spaces on full lock as you could curb with the nearside rear wheel.
The Prelude was a good car made even better to drive, with crisper handling and a better turning circle. Some lady owners found the steering a little too heavy, despite the standard power assistance.
For tight maneuvering the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the front pair but at a fraction of the angle; for high-speed cornering they turn (fractionally again) in the same direction for sharper response.
About the only quibble with ride and handling is that the front end can thump heavily over bad bumps, a sign that Honda did not engineer sufficient suspension travel into its Prelude (or most other models) to cope with the worst of our local roads.
The multi-valve 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine works better with the five-speed manual transmission rather than the four-speed automatic, which mutes a significant amount of the performance. Elegant, lively, comfortable and well-equipped with central locking, electric windows and mirrors, cruise control and electric sunroof.
There have been occasional problems with the automatic transmission and the bill here can run to RM2,000 at the most (according to current owners). The manual gearbox does not usually give any trouble and the clutch seems to last well, however a manual is very hard to find.
The engine itself is very durable, but like all modern engines it demands regular oil and filter changes. This Honda Prelude is a stylish, quiet, comfortable and economical sports car with sprightly performance from the 135 horsepower engine and it is a good handling machine under normal driving conditions.
There are many used examples for sale and we managed to locate a 2.0 4WS unit with an original manual gearbox with 204,000 kilometers run in (service records available) asking for RM26,800.
The cloth interior looked as good as can be and all the electrics worked well. The car doors were sagging, it needed new CV joints and the suspension struts were worn. It had changed hands 7 times over the years. Brief negotiations with the owner brought the price down to RM23,500.
Take note that it is always better to fix the problems in your car just before selling to get the best price for your car. If you’re unsure of how much it’s worth, you could always use Mudah Auto’s Price Checker feature.