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10 Japanese Sports Cars That Aren’t Actually As Good As People Think

ae86 drift

For Japanese manufacturers, the 80s was, in fact, their golden age. They produced some of the best sports cars and product quality was at an all-time high.


In a market flooded with research and development money and brimming with innovation, everyone developed at least one flagship sports car. However, with innovation comes risk, and to complicate matters further, the economy slowed. So, after being burned one by one, these manufacturers stopped making exotic sports cars.

Just because a car looks sporty doesn’t mean it’s a sports car, and just because it’s “JDM certified” doesn’t mean it’s good.

Related: The 1988 Honda Prelude Is The Cheap JDM Legend You Need In Your Collection

10/10 Nissan Silvia

The only discernible difference between the S14 Silvia and the 240SX is the 2.0-litre turbo engine that can be found under the hood of most Silvias.

Getting the more powerful engine will only serve to exacerbate the already obvious handling issues, which can be great for drifting, but not much else (one of these cars pictured is a 240SX and the other is the Silvia, not many difference).

9/10 Toyota Supra

All the Mk4 Supra really has to offer is that lovely 2JZ inline-6. Today, that engine can be bought cheaply and easily online, and there’s no need to even go to the scrap yard for it, let alone get a whole car for it.

The rest of the car is substandard. It came with a cheap typical 90s interior, lifeless handling and the vast majority came with a powerful slush box. It was always a GT car, and for a start it wasn’t really a sports car, because it was quite heavy and came with more luxury-oriented features.

8/10 Nissan Fairlady Z

As much as the Fairlady, or 350Z to everyone, is a great nod to affordable sports cars, that’s all it is, a nod. It’s not that affordable and not that good either.

Power figures will always be mediocre, but that VG30 will go on forever. Power isn’t really the biggest issue though, it’s the cheap chintzy interior that just doesn’t belong in a relatively modern car.

Related: Why the new Nissan Z is a throwback to the old Fairlady’s?

7/10 Toyota Celica Supra

In fact, the only people who will buy one of these are misinformed JDM enthusiasts who believe the Supra name meant something back in the ’80s.

This generation of Celica competed with sporty looking cars like the Iron Duke Camaro. That’s why power was never central, and apparently it isn’t. It was and still is terrible.

6/10 Mazda RX-7

While the venerable Wankel has so much to offer, it still seems destined to crush any manufacturer who puts any faith in its design.

In the early 1990s, this was an advanced car with sequential turbos, contemporary design and all the features you would have wanted on your early 1990s sports car. Nowadays all that electronics only serves to strengthen the already maintenance-heavy rotary engine. However, it is not the least reliable Japanese car, that honor belongs to its replacement.

5/10 Mazda RX-8

While there is no official title (why should there be?), the RX-8 is widely regarded as the least reliable car to ever come out of Japan.

It is now one of the few affordable JDM cars and regularly fools enthusiasts into buying what they think is the bargain of the century, to find out firsthand why these cars have such a reputation. But even though we know we shouldn’t, just like a moth flies in the light, we still want one…

4/10 Datsun 280ZX

Back then, Datsun or Nissan thought they were making the car everyone wanted. It was less powerful, slightly larger, but still more economical, and largely equipped with an automatic transmission.

In hindsight, 140 hp is rather weak. Anyone who knows Nissans and Datsuns knows that these cars are terrible. Unfortunately, many enthusiasts confuse them with the 240/260Z cars that came before and end up with a sad pile of disappointment.

Related: 5 Car Mods That Prove You’re A Ricer (5 Modifications Everyone Should Do To Their Car)

3/10 Mitsubishi Eclipse

The Eclipse showcases just about everything that was wrong with the ’90s. The quality was low, the wiring was plentiful, and there were many failures.

At best, they were affordable sports cars. Unfortunately, thanks to their guest appearances in one of the most famous movie franchises, they are no longer affordable and have become popular “ricers.”

2/10 Mazda MX-5

For years there was simply no better two-door sports car for sale, because there were no other two-door sports cars.

A lot has changed, and the latest MX-5 has a lower power-to-weight ratio than most hatchbacks, and relies heavily on its reputation for sales, with a notable lack of innovation.

1/10 Toyota Corolla AE86

After decades of being virtually anonymous, some old videos began to circulate of these cars sliding on Japanese roads, and suddenly they became part of the folklore.

It’s the original drift car, not the first car to get drifty, but the first car that could be tuned cheaply and go sideways without much effort. Unfortunately, beyond that, there really isn’t much to it and doesn’t justify its price tag today. For the same money, you can get a used four-wheel drive Focus RS, a much better performance car unless JDM is life.