“… The S660 is supremely manoeuvrable and exhibits its lightness with instant and precise direction changes”
What’s this sweet little thing?
It’s the Honda S660. If you’re salivating over a resplendently yellow S2000 replacement, then calm yourself.
The clue is in the name: while the S2000 used a 2.0-litre engine, the car you see here makes do with just a three-cylinder 660cc sitting amidships and powering its skinny rear wheels. Honda has form here, the Beat of the early 1990s following a very similar recipe.
That’s a smaller engine than a base Fiesta.
It is, and it churns out a mere 63bhp. But the S660 is truly miniature. It’s what’s known as a Kei car: the end result of a gamut of Japanese regulations that provide the driver with tax levies, and a car that’s nicely wieldy in Tokyo’s notoriously jammed traffic.
The rules demand an engine no more muscular than 660cc and 63bhp, and a car which sits within a 3.40m by 1.48m footprint. The S660 does the clever thing of being even smaller than the dimensions allow, weighing just 830kg in the process, while boasting as much power as is permitted.
Can it possibly feel fast?
Expect 0-97kph the wrong side of ten seconds and a top speed comfortably stuck in double figures. Yet using the S660 to navigate (often quite badly) around the streets of Japan’s bustling capital, it never felt underendowed, that turbocharged engine delivering its modest power effortlessly.
And it’s fun, too: the little three-pot’s redline is at 7,700rpm, and it’ll thrum to that point keenly before you change gear via a supremely sweet, short throw manual gearbox. There’s even a stubbly little gear knob not unlike the ones you’ll find in Honda’s much more raucous Type-R products.
Does it drive like them, too?
There’s a clever torque vectoring system across the rear axle, while its mid-engine, rear-drive layout is, of course, just like you’ll find in the best Ferraris and McLarens. But this is no rip-snorter of a sports car. Tokyo streets are hardly the place to explore the outer reaches of a car’s balance, but the fact we couldn’t even elicit a chirrup from the rear tyres while pulling assertively out of junctions suggests this is no drift machine.
But the S660 is supremely manoeuvrable and exhibits its lightness with instant and precise direction changes, while the dinky little steering wheel looks cool and is the focal point of a low, snug driving position.
Isn’t ‘snug’ a polite word for tiny?
You’ve caught us out. Six-footers will be feeling very cosy in the S660, while luggage is deemed an unnecessary luxury. If you’ve got a passenger – hopefully someone you know well enough to share such close quarters – storage space is limited to a tiny box under the front bonnet.
Said tiny box will be filled with roof if you’ve rolled up the proudly manual, Lotus Elise-esque fabric targa top and plan to take it with you to repel thieves or rain. Dare leave it at home and the scant void you’re left with gets rather hot, too, so any food shopping will be cooked by the time you’re back.
What if I don’t need much room?
You’re left with a refreshingly unpretentious way to travel: a car inoffensively small, delightfully wieldy and simply fun to be around.
At TG we chastise cars that pretend to be something they’re not, but the fact this little beastie can match its Micro-Machine-McLaren looks with some genuine charm deserves credit.
And in Japan it costs a smidge over £10,000. If you want to traverse a bustling city above ground, there are no cars that better combine ease of use with a sense of humour.
Sounds perfect for London…
Here, sadly, is the sucker punch. You can’t buy one in the UK. It’s Japan-only, the country responsible for the S660 boasting exclusive access to it.
But online rumours suggest Honda can be swayed. That there could even be a more potent, 1-litre turbo version for markets outside of the Far East. We’d call it a potential Mazda MX-5 rival if we were feeling particularly mischievous.
If ever there were a time to knock up some placards and make haste to your local Civic-purveyor, this is it…
- Stephen Dobie