Honda S660


Debut: 2015
Maker: Honda
Predecessor: Beat



 Published on 28 Apr 2015 All rights reserved. 


Although the market shift from affordable sports cars to crossovers is not going to be reversed anytime soon, Japanese manufacturers, backed by fresh profits generated from favourable exchange rate, are resurrecting their interests in affordable sports cars. Toyota and Subaru introduced the GT-86 / BRZ duo first, followed by the new generation Mazda MX-5 and a pair of sports cars in Kei-car category, i.e. Honda S660 and Daihatsu Copen. The world of affordable sports cars is once again dominated by the Japanese.

Readers old enough should remember Honda Beat, which was also a mid-engined small sports car designed to the Kei-car rules. That thing was incredibly small and lightweight, whereas its 660 c.c. naturally aspirated triple could spin crazily to more than 8000 rpm. However, the Beat was slow due to the lack of torque, and its chassis could be described as fragile by today’s standards. The new S660 is very different. It feels a lot more substantial, not just because the current Kei-car dimensions are larger (3.4 m long x 1.48 m wide versus 3.3 m x 1.4 m) but also it takes crash safety more seriously. More than 60 percent of the chassis is made of high-strength steel. Moreover, the car is now a Targa rather than a convertible, with full-width rollover protection structure built upon the rear bulkhead. No wonder it feels rigid. In fact, it is more rigid than the last sports car built by Honda, the S2000.



On the downside, the car weighs 830-850 kg depending on transmission. That's not only 70 kg more than Beat but also the same as Honda's production K-car, N-WGN, which seats 4.

Styling must be the highlight of the little roadster, otherwise it can’t sell. Honda does not disappoint. The S660 is eye-catching and distinctive, especially at the back. Unlike its predecessor, it looks very mid-engined thus there is quite a sense of mini-supercar – tuners would be glad to work further on that direction for sure. It shares no common exterior parts with other Honda K-cars, including the fast windscreen. Inside, its dashboard, console and door panels bear little resemblance to other Hondas, too. A few detailed designs are a little gimmicky though, such as the fake air vents behind the front fenders and the pseudo diffusers. Don’t be silly to assume a car with 87 mph top speed needed those aero aids! Nevertheless, they did please boy racers or anyone pursuing looks over speed. Extra styling kits are available as options, as shown in the pictured white car.



The small roof is made of fabric. You can detach it manually, roll it into a bundle and store in the smallish front boot. It’s not as convenient as the manual soft top of MX-5, let alone the electric folding roof of Copen, because it takes many steps and you need to get out of the car to do the job. As shown in a video on Honda's website, opening or closing the roof takes a skillful driver at least 1 and a half minute. It goes without saying the roof is a compromise with costs and weight.

The cabin is better. Thanks to narrow transmission tunnel and slim door panels, it offers enough space for 6-foot-2 or 3 guys. The unusually small steering wheel also frees up knee room and allows easy access to the driver seat. You sit low as in a true mid-engined sports car. The high waist lines cocoon you. In addition to the presence of prominent roll bar, the environment feels more supercar than roadster. On the downside, the cheap plastics all over the cabin are purely K-car grade. The instruments and buttons are not much better. An optional infotainment display can be added to the dash top. It offers smartphone integration, through which you can run an App to play artificial exhaust sound from one of the 3 choices – the four-cylinder Civic Type R, six-cylinder NSX-R and even the V10 of McLaren-Honda MP4/5! Crazy!


The engine breaths through air intakes incorporated at the B-pillars. Codenamed S07A, the 658 c.c. three-cylinder turbo is basically the same unit as you can find in the turbocharged N-Box, N-WGN and N-One. Its maximum output is capped at 64 ps as per the regulation of K-cars, of course, and the peak torque is also unchanged at 77 lbft @ 2600 rpm. However, thanks to a smaller turbine the engine is a tad more responsive at low rev. Mind you, it still needs to be revved hard to extract reasonable performance. It works best from 5000 rpm to 7700 rpm redline (for manual gearbox, whereas CVT is limited to 7000 rpm), when it produces a sporty scream. Unfortunately, at no time the S660 feels fast, just as you would expect from any cars with only 64 horsepower. It is expected to do 0-60 mph sprint in 11 seconds or so. Apparently, that's not quick enough for export markets, no wonder Honda is rumored to be working on a 1-liter turbo engine for that task.

Fortunately, the 6-speed manual gearbox saves the game. It’s a bespoke development for the S660 as all other Honda K-cars employ CVT. The gearshift is slick and short-throw, supported with a smooth and well-weighted clutch. It’s a joy to use!



Handling is good, too. The mid-engined machine has a good balance of 45:55 front to rear. Its chassis is stiff, and the suspensions are well tuned. The front axle employs conventional MacPherson struts, while the dedicated rear dual-link struts are mounted on an aluminum subframe. To enhance traction and match weight distribution, the Yokohama tires at the rear wheels are larger in diameter and considerably wider than the fronts. To enhance braking, this K-car unusually adopts all-round disc brakes. Last but not least, it has added torque vectoring by brakes to tame under and oversteer. On the road, the S660 is not only nimble but also remarkably stable in corners. It maneuvers in a neutral manner. Power slide is definitely not in the scope, as the level of traction and grip is well beyond the capability of its engine power to break. Perhaps too much. Its chassis begs for more power to exploit its true talent. Only by then we could see if it is worth the same admiration as the great Toyota MR2 Mk1 or Mazda MX-5 Mk1.

As it is, the S660 can still be admired for its head-turning styling and good packaging. However, it certainly needs more power and a more convenient roof to shine, especially at the prices it asks for. In Japan, the Honda starts at 2 million yen, which seems expensive compared with the 1.8 million yen Daihatsu Copen which has standard electric folding roof. For another 0.5 million yen you can buy a new Mazda MX-5, which is so much faster, more fun to drive and sensible to own. Honda sold just 34,000 units of Beat over its entire life cycle. Its predecessors S500 / S600 / S800 managed 26,000 copies. I suspect the S660 could repeat history once its initial popularity cools down.

Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout
Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
S660
2015
Mid-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3395 / 1475 / 1180 mm
2285 mm
Inline-3
658 cc
DOHC 12 valves, VVT
Turbo
-
64 hp / 6000 rpm
77 lbft / 2600 rpm
6-speed manual (CVT)
All struts
-
F: 165/55VR15
R: 195/45WR16
830 kg (850 kg)
87 mph (limited)
11 (est)
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