From Ford to Honda to Toyota, let's dive into history and see what Americans were buying 25 years ago, back when CNET first started.
Emme HallFormer editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
A lot has happened in the past 25 years. We've seen four presidents, we barely survived Y2K, Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of meat, and for a hot second we all did the Harlem Shake. Turns out, CNET has been around for 25 years, too, and to mark the occasion, we here at Roadshow thought we'd reminisce about the best-selling cars,
of 1995. Join us on a road trip down Memory Lane.
No surprise here -- the Ford F-Series was the best-selling truck in 1995, just as it's been for the past 43 years. Not only that, it was America's best-selling vehicle of any kind. 1995 was part of the F-Series' ninth generation, and just like the Ford trucks of today, this pickup family was available with a ton of engine options. The smallest was a 4.9-liter I6 pushing out just 150 horsepower, or folks could go big with a 7.3-liter turbodiesel V8 with 425 pound-feet of torque.
However, the most memorable Ford truck from that year was arguably the SVT Lightning. Think of it as the street-oriented equivalent of the current Raptor. It had a 5.8-liter V8 pushing out 240 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque -- big power for its day. Thick antiroll bars front and rear and a limited-slip differential made the SVT Lightning the truck for speed demons.
As for features, the F-Series trucks were available with a power-adjustable driver's seat, remote keyless entry, a CD player and -- get this -- an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The truck started at right around $13,000 (about $22,000 in today's dollars). The current
can be had with a great adaptive cruise-control system and a Wi-Fi connection. It starts at closer to $29,000. My, how times have changed.
Chevrolet C/K: 513,081 units
Then as now, we loved our trucks in 1995, with Chevrolet following right behind Ford with its own pick-em-up. General Motors' C/K trucks were first available in 1960, and Chevrolet didn't start with today's Silverado line of trucks until 1999. Regardless, 1995 represents the tail end of the 4th generation of the Bowtie's full-size trucks.
Like the F-Series, the C/K was available with a variety of engine options. A 4.0-liter V6 pushed out 160 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque, while the largest gas engine was a 5.7-liter V8 good for 200 horses and 310 lb.-ft. of twist. On the diesel side, buyers could opt for a 7.4-liter V8 with 230 horses and 385 lb.-ft. of torque. Just for comparison, the company's current 3.0-liter diesel pushes out 277 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. Things have gotten mighty efficient, y'all.
The 1995 C/K models featured a revised interior with a driver's-side airbag, new seats and a redesigned dashboard with improved ergonomics. The range started at around $13,400 ($22,500 in today's dollars). Today's Chevrolet Silverado starts at $28,500 or so and can include up to 15 cameras to help with towing.
Ford Explorer: 395,227 units
1995 was when the SUV craze really took off, with about 20 percent of all sales going toward these rugged, mostly body-on-frame family haulers. Available with only a 4.0-liter V6 with 160 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft. of torque, the Ford Explorer was as much about image as it was about serious work. In fact, the press release for that year says, "Owners tell us that an Explorer in their driveway can convey as much, or more, prestige among their circle of friends and neighbors as a luxury car costing many thousands of dollars more. That may relate partly to the notion that it makes a statement about their lifestyle, not just their affluence."
Today we may scoff at a special edition car inspired by a clothing retailer -- remember the Fiat 500 Gucci? However, at the time the Eddie Bauer Edition was pretty hot -- well, you know.
1995 saw a whole host of improvements added to the Explorer, including standard dual airbags, a revised suspension for a smoother ride, and even the segment's first rack-and-pinion steering system. The new ControlTrac four-wheel-drive system could automatically send torque from front to rear as needed.
The 1995 Explorer started at $19,470 for the two-door or $20,870 ($32,700 and $35,000, respectively, in today's dollars) for the four-door. The current Explorer starts closer to $33,000 and is available in the hot ST trim, which may actually impress your neighbors for real.
Ford Taurus: 366,266 units
When I first saw that the Ford Taurus made this list, I immediately thought of the old "Taurus...for us!" commercial. Yes, it's from 1986, but if I have to suffer, so you do.
At any rate, 1995 was the last year of the second-generation Taurus. With a four-speed automatic transmission standard, drivers got a 3.0-liter V6 engine good for 140 horsepower and 165 lb.-ft. of torque. Interestingly, the wagon version -- yes, there was a wagon-- got a larger 3.8-liter V6 with 215 lb.-ft. of twist as standard. The enthusiast-oriented SHO (Super High Output) sedan got a healthy 220 horses out of its Yamaha V6. Yowza.
The 1995 Taurus started around $17,500, or about $29,400 after adjusting for inflation. After a prolonged period of slow sales, Ford finally killed the Taurus last year, deciding instead to focus on trucks and SUVs. Starting price for the 2019 model was right around $29,000.
Honda Accord: 341,384 units
The 1995 Honda Accord was the second year of the car's fifth generation. It was offered in sedan, coupe and wagon forms. The sedan was graced with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 130 horsepower and 139 lb.-ft. of torque, while the highest trim added VTEC for a boost of 15 hp and 8 lb.-ft., respectively. The coupe and wagon had an available 2.7-liter V6 with 170 horsepower and 165 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with a four-speed automatic optional.
While not as fuel efficient as its smaller
brother, the Accord didn't do too badly, delivering 29 to 31 miles per gallon highway depending on engine choice. The wagon, however, dipped down to 27 mpg on the highway.
The 1995 Honda Accord started at right around $15,000 (about $25,000 in today's dollars) while today's Accord, offered as a sedan only, is closer to $24,000 and is available with conveniences like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and it gets 32 to 28 mpg highway depending on engine choice and a whopping 47 mpg highway with the hybrid.
Toyota Camry: 328,600 units
Ah, yes, the Toyota Camry. You know, the one that is "grounded to the ground." Well, in 1995, it was on its third generation. Like Honda's Accord, it was available in sedan, coupe and wagon forms, with a five-speed manual standard and a four-speed automatic as an option. A 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine produced 125 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque, while a 3.0-liter V6 was also available, pushing out 190 horsepower and 203 lb.-ft. of torque. Take that, Accord!
1995 saw a facelift with revised front and rear end styling, and you could option up to a four-speaker AM/FM cassette stereo with a CD player.
The 1995 Toyota Camry started at just a smidge over $16,000 (just under $27,000 today). For 2020, today's base Camry gets 203 horsepower, starts at right around $24,400 and comes with Toyota Safety Sense P, the company's suite of advanced driver's aids.
Ford Ranger: 309,085 units
The 1995 Ranger was part of the truck's second generation, starting in 1993. Compared to today's Ranger, this truck was pretty tiny and packed a tiny little punch with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine good for 112 horsepower and 135 lb.-ft. of torque. Drivers could also choose a 3.0-liter V6 with 145 horses and 165 lb.-ft. or a 4.0-liter V6 with 160 horses and 225 lb.-ft. of torque. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the same engine that was on tap in the 1995 Ford Explorer.
For 1995, the compact Ranger was treated to quite a few updates, including a driver-side airbag and available four-wheel antilock brakes. The interior was completely redesigned and featured a new 12-volt outlet(!). Options included a six-way power driver's seat and a six-disc CD changer. Fancy.
In 1995, the Ford Ranger started at just over $10,000 (just under $17,000 of today's money). That's a starting price that I can't believe existed in my lifetime, seeing as the current Ranger starts at about $24,400. It's also interesting to note that today's 2.3-liter engine now makes 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. All hail the turbocharger.
Honda Civic: 289,435 units
If you were looking for a lightweight, fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient car in 1995, you likely zeroed in on the Honda Civic. 1995 represented the last of the fifth-generation sedan, coupe and hatch models. Offered with a five-speed manual standard or an optional four-speed automatic, the sedan and coupe were powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 102 horsepower and 98 lb.-ft. of torque. Top trim EX models got a 1.6-liter, increasing power by 22 hp and 8 lb.-ft., respectively.
While the sedan and coupe could get up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway, it was the hatchback that was Honda's fuel-economy star. The CX hatch was powered by a tiny 1.5-liter engine with 70 horsepower and 91 lb.-ft. of torque. It earned 42 mpg city, 46 mpg on the highway. The DX got 102 horses and 98 lb.-ft. out of its 1.5-liter, resulting in 34 mpg city, 40 highway. But it was the VX that went big, with 92 horsepower and 97 lb.-ft., earning 48 mpg city and 55 mpg highway.
These numbers were accomplished with VTEC-E. No, that's not a hybrid powertrain, just a super-efficient version of Honda's famous VTEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control) engine that allowed for great performance at high rpms and great efficiency at lower rpms.
The Honda Civic started at less than $10,000 in 1995 (about $16,600 today). The current Civic is about $20,000 to start and the best fuel economy can be found with the hatchback at 31 mpg in the city, 40 mpg highway.
Saturn S-Series: 285,674 units
While GM created Saturn back in the early 1980s, it took until 1991 before consumers were ever offered a car, the S-Series family. 1995 was the last year of this first generation, and in coupe, sedan or wagon form, the S-Series' most noteworthy feature were its plastic, rust-free exterior body panels. A 1.9-liter four-cylinder pushed out an even 100 horsepower, but drivers could upgrade to a tuned 1.9-liter with 124 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was available.
For 1995, the S-Series got a new interior with a redesigned dashboard and a new steering wheel. The company also added a passenger-side airbag and nixed those awful automatic seatbelts in favor of your standard three-point version.
Saturn's famous no-haggle pricing meant that consumers paid a starting MSRP of $9,999 (about $16,800 after adjusting for inflation), but in the end, things didn't work out. The brand was dissolved when GM restructured in 2008.
Ford Escort: 285,570 units
This is the last year of the second-generation Ford Escort, sold in hatchback, sedan and wagon configurations. This was also the last year of the Blue Oval's"one price" selling strategy, where all trims cost the same regardless of body style. The standard-issue engine was a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine with 88 horsepower and 108 lb.-ft. of torque. Upper trims could be had with a Mazda-sourced 1.8-liter with 127 horsepower and 114 lb.-ft. of torque. Available transmissions included a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
New for 1995 was a passenger-side airbag and a redesigned interior with a new dash and an illuminated ignition so driver's could easily see where to insert their key. It's the little things, y'all.
The 1995 Escort started at about $9,600 (just over $16,000 in today's dollars) and was discontinued at the end of 2002. The Escort was replaced by the more sophisticated Focus, a vehicle range that was itself recently discontinued in North America.