General

10 Cheap JDM Cars That Look Great…But Best Avoided

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 High-Performance Sedan

Japanese cars became extremely popular in the 1980s when people realized how much more reliable they were than the competition. 40 years later, many of those cars turned out to have the theory right. However, there are a few exceptions. Not only that, but some of Japan’s so-called performance cars meet the spec sheet but fall flat in the real world.



The famous reliability and tunability of JDMcars eventually gave rise to the tuner car culture, where unlocking a lot of power was cheap and relatively easy. Unfortunately, despite their cool designs, several Japanese performance cars fail to live up to this reputation, leaving their owners disappointed with both their reliability and performance.

10 Nissan Sylvia

While the 240SX (above) is more or less identical to this JDM special, the 240SX didn’t get the powerful 2.0-liter turbos.

Unfortunately parts for this are in short supply pretty much everywhere outside of Japan, and handling was never that great in the beginning, so simply adding more horsepower doesn’t necessarily make it a better car.


9 Toyota Supra MkIV

The Supra Mk4 has become something of a poster child for the JDM world, picking up six figures from auctions today.

However, that’s only if the famous 2JZ GTE engine is fitted, one of the best inline-6 ​​engines ever made. Technically, the rest of the car is ’90s junk, with a plastic interior, poor handling, and more often than not automatic transmissions.

Related: What It Costs to Live Every Day With a Mark IV Toyota Supra

8 Nissan 350Z

If you can’t afford a GT-R, this is usually what you would buy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even fit the GT-R.

It should be an affordable sports car, but frankly, it’s not that affordable at all. It also has average handling for a rear-wheel drive car and the power is mediocre.

7 Subaru WRX ST

Over the years, there have been some truly spectacular STI models that have blown the competition out of the water and competed with more expensive high-performance cars.

Unfortunately, the newest is certainly not the best. It lags behind almost all the competition without adjusting the price, and it was no surprise when Subaru finally did.

Related: 10 Reasons Subaru Is Dropping The WRX STI


6 Mitsubishi GT3000

After losing sales to all other major Japanese brands, Mitsubishi came out swinging with the technically heavy GT3000.

On paper it should have been world famous, but a weak chassis let it down and all that technology couldn’t translate into real performance or reliability. Today it is just a hodgepodge of wiring problems.

5 Mazda RX-7

You have to give Mazda credit for sticking with the rotary engine for so long. Not only did they stick with it, but in the early ’90s they put it in their flagship RX-7 sports car.

The twin-turbo B13 is a technological marvel, but like any high-performance engine it is very tense and very easy to maintain. Even if you pay attention, you still have to rebuild the engine and replace the apex seals every 30-50,000 miles.

Related: 10 Reasons Gearheads Prefer the FD Mazda RX-7 Over the RX-8

4 Mazda RX-8

Mazda had squeezed as much out of the old B13 as they could and they knew they wouldn’t be able to get it through the tighter emissions standards in the early 00s, so they were pleased that the time was now right for the rotary.

However, not everyone was ready to say goodbye, so a team of engineers secretly developed the Renesis engine, an engine that met those emissions targets. Unfortunately the high compression was (relatively speaking) rotary even more maintenance heavy and the resulting RX-8 can only be considered a project car.


3 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X

After having had incredible success in the 90’s with both their Dakar and WRC teams cleaning up, they slowly began to retire from motorsport.

All the incredible Evo models have been developed with the help of real motorsport engineers, not the Evo X, it leans on old technology all stuffed into a new body. The result is mediocre performance, and for the price, there really are better options out there.

Related: 9 Reasons We Love the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9

2 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R

Of all the authentic JDM imports, this R32 generation Skyline may seem the most alluring, with the right tweaks you can get some incredible performance out of it.

Unfortunately, the entrance fee is pretty steep, and once you spent the money on those necessary tweaks, you’d probably have spent Porsche money on something a Porsche can’t keep up with.

1 Mitsubishi Eclipse

No car embodies the term “ricer” quite as well as the Eclipse. While there are a few powerful models, they are expensive and probably not worth the price.

The more affordable options are all front-wheel-drive automatic economy cars, all dressed up as if they just came off the set of a Fast & Furious movie.