At the end of March Honda launched their mid engine S660 for sale in Japan in April. Although it only puts out 66 horsepower and really lacks speed this new baby roadster is proving popular according to initial reports. Honda themselves are making no claims as to the car’s speed or innovative technologies.
Instead their marketing revolves around the experience of driving the car; in response to the car’s exterior Honda refer to it as an “energetic bullet” and they use the phrase “Heart Beat Sport”. Honda paid special attention to the driver’s seating position and gave the ergonomics of the vehicle controls a go-kart feel to create the car’s sporty theme. There’s not a lot of power but when the S660 does gear up it makes a raspy noise. Honda say that they tuned the intake, exhaust, turbocharger and blow off valve for a sports car. Their intention was to develop “a full-fledged sports car” with “excitement and a heart-throbbing experience” that strives “to realize the joy of driving.”
The Honda S660 is certainly a fun looking compact car and we can well imagine it would be great driving around the city with top down and some great sounds on the stereo. Although you do have to manually take the top down! It’s a typical kei car; in fact it has the same three cylinder turbo charged engine the N-Box kei car has. But it's too early to say if it will beat the Suzuki Wagon R which is the best selling kei car in Japan since 2003.
Inevitably, comparisons will be made to the tiny Beat roadster of the 1990’s as the S660 also has a mid engine layout with a 660 cc three cylinder turbo engine. The S660 was born out of an in-house competition that started in 2011 when 400 young engineers submitted ideas for new cars. A concept car was developed in 2013 and the S660 is derived from that. Honda specifically developed a mid engine, rear wheel drive chassis for the S660 and this chassis is designed to take much more power.
The car has a rigid and lightweight body. According to people who have test driven the car you can feel the rigidity when taking high speed corners and when braking heavily. A deeper oil pan helps the car to cope with higher G forces during cornering and braking. The implementation of a new Agile Handling Assist electronic control system uses brake torque to make the most of handling.
What puts the S660 above other kei cars are the specially developed 16 inch Yokohama Advan Neova tyres which provide traction levels not previously used in kei cars. The genre of kei cars is so specialised in Japan that they aren’t usually seen as being profitable as exports. However, the success of Smart cars may buck this trend and make kei cars more palatable outside Japan. Rumours are circulating that Honda may introduce the S660 into Europe and America with a 127 hp 1.0 litre turbo triple. We can’t wait to see this mini marvel on our shores.