I bought a used 92 Prelude 2.3 L 4WS in 2005 with 172,000 km, and drove it for 8 years to 255,000 km (5,000 km per year but some extra due to job). Well, it was a 13 year old car when I bought it, and it is 21 year old this year and still running.
Due to the old age, I spent $500 - $1,200 to keep it running. Some of them are preventive maintenance, e.g. brake rotor, radiator, water pump, timing belt, air cond dryer, wheel bearing, rusted muffler, rusted exhaust pipe. All of these are standard repair for cars more than 7 yr old, so I consider it as "regular maintenance"
There are common known issue specific to Prelude:
1. Cold solder for ABS controller causing 4WS warning light on
2. Cold solder in air condition on/off board causing intermittent air cond blowing warm air (turn off cold air cond mode)
3. Cold solder in main fuel injection relay under steering wheel causing intermittent startup problem, or auto shutdown
In addition, it has common known problem to Honda cars:
1. Rear wheel well easier to get rusted after 10 years. Replacing the metal body panel (cut) still will rust after 3 years
2. hunting idle due to Fast Idle Control Valve - I just adjust the plastic cap in MSF (http://honda-tech.com/showthread.php?t=1564019)
3. power antenna failure - I just disconnect the power to it and let it always up
4. Dirty EGR port (not the valve) and trigger check engine light - clean it up
5. ABS wheel speed sensor replace every 7 yrs - for all 4 wheels
I wax it almost monthly to keep the paint intact. At 21 year old, the original paint is still shiny after wax (previous 2 owners garage keep it, so the original paint was excellent at 12 yr old when I bought it).
I love the exterior design of this car. It looks sporty and never feel the design is obsolete even at 21 yr old.
Trunk pass through is very small with flip down passenger side rear seat. Some times I really need a longer trunk, so this is a big minus for me
Fuel consumption is similar to Honda Accord. Compare to current car models (after 2004), 19 mpg in city and 28 mpg highway is consider poor. A full 54 L tank last 450 km city and 600 km highway. The max I can get is 32 mpg highway, and worst is 18 mpg. I am one of the many reviewer expecting 1992 car using less gas like 2010 2.2 L cars. Cars made after 2000 do not consume so much, and this is equivalent to a V6 engine now. I know it is not fair, but this review is to help current car buyer. Honestly speaking, back in 1992, the fuel consumption is good and same as Honda Accord. I use regular instead of premium indicated in the manual for last 8 yr without problem.
The suspension is on the firm side, and solid. Over 21 yr old, I guess the suspension/absorber parts only replaced once and some are still original. I often drive over bumps without slowing down much in last 8 yr, and nothing break/leak. Really good & reliable Japan build quality.
The only problem is the ABS wheel speed sensor which will trigger check engine light, and disable all 4 ABS. The additional problem is the wheel alignment will off a little, which annoys me.
Cold solder in ABS controller board is bothering me the most, and took me a long time to resolve it. This is because most car mechanics tell me to replace the ABS wheel speed sensors, which I'm not convince (b'cos it is intermittent). After I found in Prelude forum that this is a potential problem with the cold solder, my soldering iron is not powerful enough to melt the old solder. So it drags me another year to get an expansive soldering iron to re-solder it. This is really causing big problem as the rear wheels will move especially the tire roll over bump, track, heavy truck, or strong wind. The ABS controller suppose to disable the 4WS feature, but the control circuit is malfunction due to the cold solder, so this security measure is not effect. Anyway, it is a 1 hr job to repair it myself. All other mechanics are totally clueless about this, and does not know soldering. They are telling me to replace the whole ABS board (box) for CAD$2,000
Rear seat is tight with very little space for the legs. It is a struggle when wearing winter shoes. For the rest of the time, I kind of like it because my wife is small, as well as suitable for children. Its curvy and sporty shape improve the safety of rear passenger during collision. So it is a big plus for safety
Factory speaker is made of paper cones, even current Honda cars. So I replaced the rear speakers to improve the audio significantly, and leave front intact. It is a must have for me, or anyone who enjoy music
The rest of the mechanical parts never failed. Car always start up strong for last 8 years (12 yr - 21 yr). I re-charge the battery every 6 months, and replace it every 3 - 5 yr (standard is 5 yr for any car). There was 6 months I have to drive 800 km every week, and I never afraid it break down on the road due to its reliability (it was 19 yr old that time).
Tire is hard to find because it is a low profile tire, and current cars are using bigger and wider tire now. So it often result in back order, or limited choice of tire model. For example, Pirelli does not sell its size anymore. It is a must to install summer sport tire to enjoy the sharp cornering. It will grep the road when making 360 degree turn at 80 km/h (50 mph). My sport tires are 7 yr old, and still stick to the road wet or dry.
The most difficult thing I find about keeping this car is auto repair shop. It is near impossible to find a repair shop who familiar with it. This is a critical factor as if the mechanic has to spent time to learn and research about the diagnostic approach, I am paying them the hourly labor charge for nothing. More than often I can pick up the skill by spending the same amount of time as them, not to mention I will repair it instead of replace it with lower cost (like re-solder fuel relay, ABS controller board, air cond power switch, install speaker). More than often, mechanics do not consider an old car has more dirt that could block the hole, so simply replacing a sensor (follow the book) does not resolve the problem (e.g. EGR hold dirty not broken, rough idle is due to dirty as well)
I feel it is a comfortable car as I don't feel back pain when driving on 5 hr journey (in front seat). So I am giving 5 stars for such an old car
Performance is 5 start because considering 21 yr old, it is still as good as when it was 12. I may need to spent $1000 to service the transmission to get it like new, which does not justify
Interior design is 5 start because I love the digital instrument, and accurate + reliable analog display. I never need to replace any bulb, or loose cable in the instrument panel. Extremely reliable
Reliability is 4 star due to common Prelude problem and Honda problem. I still respect its reliability on critical mechanical components that never fail, 100% engine start, zero road side break down, 0 power window problem
Electrical reliability is top most, except the 4 known electrical components issues (ABS board, fuel relay, air cond switch, ABS wheel speed sensor). Comparing with BMW & M Benz, it has far less, and all of them are easy and cheap to repair (DIY not relies on auto mechanic though).
The part is standard price as Accord and Civic. I know this because I purchase the part myself, and sometimes online. So I can see its price and do comparison with other car models. It is standard price, not expansive at all
Occasionally, the car attract some attentions and eyes catcher.
Noise insulation is poor though. However, all the Honda cars in 1992 are about the same, so can't compare with cars after 2005 where everyone install noise isolation material
Extra 4WS allows me to park easily in tight corner. I am kind of expecting and get used to it during every day parking. So this added a start to the comfort and design rating.
It has heated seat and heated mirror, so big plus in the comfort rating
Back to 1992, I will certainly buy Prelude again, follow by RSX. Current taste is toward BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid, MB E Class BlueTec