Sporty/performance car; Built in Japan
  • 2-door coupe
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,800 – $5,800*

1998 Honda Prelude SH

1997 Honda Prelude SH

1997 Honda Prelude interior

1997 Honda Prelude interior

1997 Honda Prelude

  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Steering/handling
  • Cargo room
  • Rear-seat room

New styling gave this Prelude an airier cabin than before, and the base model has been better equipped than its predecessor. Workmanship is pleasing, but the interior decor is closer to economy-car basic than to suave sports machine. Still, energetic performance on the road can help make a Prelude appealing.


Honda redesigned its sport coupe for 1997. Again front-wheel drive with a 4-cylinder engine, Prelude rode a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase than before, and measured 3.2 inches longer overall. Curb weight rose by 145 pounds. Interior dimensions changed only slightly, but trunk space expanded by nearly one cubic foot. Basic 2-door notchback styling continued from the 1992-96 generation, but traditional analog gauges replaced vacuum-fluorescent instruments. Only base and SH editions went on sale, each equipped with a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder that employed Honda’s variable-valve-timing technology. Running on premium fuel, the engine developed 195 horsepower with 5-speed manual shift, but only 190 horses when equipped with an automatic transmission. Offered only on base Preludes, the automatic transmission gained a new manual-shift feature, called Sequential SportShift. The gear selector lever could be left in Drive for regular automatic shifting, or tipped forward or backward to permit manual gear selection.The SH model went on sale first, equipped with a new Honda-developed system designed to combat the tendency of front-drive cars to plow, or understeer, when accelerating through a turn. Called the Active Torque Transfer System, it automatically distributed more of the engine’s power to outside front wheels when accelerating in a turn. That forced the outside front wheel to rotate up to 15 percent faster than the inside front wheel. The system could direct up to 80 percent of engine torque to a single wheel. Dual airbags and four-wheel disc brakes were standard on both models, incorporating antilocking. Each model rode 16-inch tires.

Yearly Updates

1998 Prelude
New paint colors were the only change for 1998.
1999 Prelude
More new colors became available, but only one interior hue: black. The Prelude’s engine gained 5 horsepower, and did not require a tune-up until 100,00 miles. Remote locking now was a standard feature.
2000 Prelude
Preludes entered the 2000 model year without change.
2001 Prelude
Standard floormats, rear child-seat tethers, an emergency trunk release were the main changes for 2001. Prelude would not continue for 2002.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

A dual-overhead-cam 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine went under all Prelude hoods, producing 195 horsepower (190 with automatic). The horsepower rating later grew to 200. Base Preludes could have either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed SportShift automatic, but only manual shift went into the SH model.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/132
Engine HP 190-200
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 156
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

This Prelude rides more softly and muffles the VTEC engine better than the old one did, so it doesn’t feel–or sound–as sporty this time around. On the other hand, the new Prelude drives more securely through turns and over lumpy surfaces. There’s also a satisfying exhaust note when the engine revs high–which it definitely likes to do. The ride is reasonably supple for a sports coupe, though uneven surfaces induce notable jiggle. Engine, wind, and road noise are low while cruising, but “tire slap” might be heard even in around-town driving.

Acceleration is lively with either transmission. Our test Preludes accelerated from 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds with SportShift, and a swifter-yet 7.6 seconds with the 5-speed manual gearbox in an SH. While the you-do-it SportShift gear changes are crisp and immediate, high-rpm downshifts usually occur with a jerky lunge. On the plus side, SportShift’s manual-shift capability gives the driver helpful control over engine speeds. Prelude’s 5-speed is a slick-shifting, sheer delight, mating masterfully to smooth and easy clutch action. An SH averaged only 19.4 mpg, though a base car with automatic got a more appealing 23.2 mpg. Premium fuel is mandatory either way.

The current Prelude is not usefully bigger in size. A longer wheelbase adds some rear foot room, but no more functional backseat space than in prior Preludes. Therefore, the rear seat is again best used to carry children or parcels–though it’s no worse than most rivals. Visibility is uncluttered all around. The new dashboard features simple, logically grouped analog gauges.


Model Tested: 1998 Honda Prelude SH w/5-speed

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 7
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 8
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 6
Room/Comfort Front - 4
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 6

Total: 45


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.8 178.0 69.0 51.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
8.7 15.9 4-5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.9 35.3 43.0 28.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Prelude 2-door coupe


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 151
Injury 108
Theft 161

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: The malfunction indicator light comes on because the transmission-control module is damaged by electrical spikes from the ignition switch. (1997)
Dashboard lights
Description: The active torque transfer system (ATTS) light may come on and the system will shut down. A revised control unit is available to replace the original one. (1997)
Manual transmission
Description: Because of a manufacturing defect in the shift fork, the transmission may grind going into fifth gear. (1997)
Oil leak
Description: Sudden oil loss and resultant severe engine damage could be the result of front balance shaft oil plug popping out. (1997)
Vehicle noise
Description: The rear corners of the headliner rub against the rear window causing a rattle, especially on rough roads. (1997)
Vehicle noise
Description: Rattles or buzzing from under the car may result from the heat shield being too close to the active torque transfer system (ATTS). (1997)
Description: The button on the seatbelt that prevents the male half of the buckle breaks, and the buckle slides down to the floor. (1997-98)
Transmission problems
Description: Failure of manual and automatic transmissions may be covered under extended warranty up to 7/100,000. (2000-03)

Recall History

Description: Ignition-switch interlock may not function properly, making it possible to turn key to “off” position and remove it, without shifting transmission to “Park.”
Description: Certain ball joints can wear out prematurely and, in worst case, would separate, causing front suspension to collapse.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.