Top 10 Japanese Cars

Japanese auto makers have taken over the world thanks to their ability to consistently produce reliable vehicles and great overall values. Here are some of the most iconic cars to have ever come from the Land of the Rising Sun.

10. 2002 Honda Civic Si

The Civic is in some ways the prototypical mass-market Japanese automobile. Beginning with its introduction in 1973, the Civic earned a reputation for reliability and fuel efficiency, even though it has been gradually moved upmarket, gaining more features and options and getting a bit bigger as time has worn on. The Civic remains a massively popular choice, having topped the sales charts in the United States and Canada over the past few years. While the Civic has been consistently good over the years, the 2002 Si is the choice, as it marked the return to the classic hatchback style.

9. 1993 FD Mazda RX-7

For a period of a few years in the mid-1990s, the RX-7 set the standard not only for Japanese sports cars, but for sports cars in general. The FD, as this generation of the RX-7 is known, is loved by enthusiasts for its classically sporty look and feel as well as its engineering, which features an extremely intricate intercooler system, and, of course, the rotary engine.

8. 1986 Toyota Supra Mark III

The Supra was the successor to Toyota’s 2000GT, which is considered the original Japanese sports car. The Supra had an eventful run, marked by occasional engine problems and design controversies, but its place in Japanese sports car history is undeniable. The ’86 represented a change in direction, with a super-sleek, angular look that still calls out to the eye. The Supra has been on hiatus since 2002, but rumours of a return persist.

7. 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V

The aptly-named Evolution has its roots in rally car racing, and its distinctive look is unlike anything else on the street. Although some prefer the Lancer Evolution’s archrival, the Subaru Impreza WRX, the Evo (as it’s also known) gets the nod here for greater cultural infiltration. The Evolution V in particular is widely considered the Holy Grail for the import drag racing crowd.

6. 2002 Toyota Corolla E120 LE

The Corolla has long been the most popular line of Japanese cars, and as of 1997 it is the highest selling nameplate of all time. Like the Honda Civic, the Corolla has come to represent everything that the Japanese auto industry has aspired to. The 2002 edition likewise represents everything that’s right about the clean, reliable, long-lasting, value-retaining Corolla.

5. 1970 Datsun 240Z

The Datsun 240Z (sold as the much cooler-sounding Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan) was a watershed model for the Japanese auto industry. It arrived in North America in 1970 as a competent, stylish sports car that was substantially more affordable than its European-made competition, and as such it became a big seller. Few 240Zs lasted beyond the 1980s due to rust issues, but they were good while they lasted.

4. 1990 Acura NSX

Considered the first and only true Japanese exotic, the NSX was the result of Honda’s years of involvement in Formula One racing, including design input from legendary driver Ayrton Senna. The NSX was originally intended as a competitor to the Ferrari 328, but the NSX actually surpassed its Italian inspiration in some respects, as it went on to be dubbed the world’s first “everyday supercar” that looked and felt like an exotic, but was (relatively) affordable and easy to care for. The NSX never changed much over its 15-year lifespan, so the 1990 model is a good representative.

3. 1998 Lexus LS 400

The Lexus LS 400 was another milestone for the Japanese auto industry. For the first time a Japanese manufacturer had produced a luxury sedan that could truly compete with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and at a markedly lower price point, at least at first. Following its 1990 introduction to the North American market, the LS 400 was an early and frequent award winner, and by the late 1990s it had largely caught up to the German models in the public consciousness.

2. 1997 Toyota Prius NHW10

Alright, so the Prius is well behind most of the cars on this list in terms of performance. In its favour, the Prius introduced the most significant development in the history of automotive technology since the assembly line when it went on sale in Japan in 1997: the hybrid engine. Isn’t that a little more important than horsepower? Well…

1. 1989 R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R

There is one Japanese-made car so cool its fuel consumption can be excused. Originating in 1969, the Skyline is arguably the most storied Japanese sports car, and the R32 is the pinnacle of the line. The R32′s racing performance has reached near-mythical status, as it completely dominated Japanese motor sport in its era. What really makes the R32 the best Japanese car ever, though, is its style. The distinctive round taillights, the front bumper ducts, the spoilers, the lines, and oh, those unforgettable side-view mirrors. Everything about the R32 screams “totally awesome.” Sadly, the Skyline name has been retired, at least for the time being, but the memory of this classic will surely live on.

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