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1996 Honda Prelude Overview
It's no secret that the market for sport coupes has been shrinking. The combination of high insurance costs and America's dizzying love affair with sport-utility vehicles has taken the starch out of sporty car sales, and a number of manufacturers are re-examining their product priorities relative to this once-healthy segment. Honda is one such manufacturer, and the Honda Prelude is the car that's imperiled as a result. Originally introduced in 1979, the Prelude has gone through five evolutions, the most recent--and dramatic--coming along in 1991 for the 1992 model year. The latest redesign transformed the Prelude from a pleasant, but rather tepid, compact that was easily outperformed by Honda's smaller CRX-Si, to one of the stars of its class. The Prelude's handling set new standards for front-drive cars in its price/size category, and when the 190-hp VTEC version came along for 1993, it offered performance that rivalled the Nissan 300ZX. To see how the latest Prelude was holding up versus competing makes that have undergone more recent makeovers--the Eagle Talon/Mitsubishi Eclipse twins, for example--we checked out a '96 Prelude Si, which falls in the middle of the model range.