Honda S660 roadster launches in Japan this week

In an age when the United States is, at long last and after much pining, receiving some of Europe and Asia’s best performance vehicles – the brand new Focus RS springs immediately to mind – consistently being denied fun Hondas seems like an injustice that will never, ever be set right. As if not getting the bonkers Civic Type R wasn’t punishment enough, this week Japan (and Japan only) will see the launch of the S660, the company’s spiritual successor to the iconic Beat, as well of a long line of tiny roadsters dating all the way back to the S800 of the sixties.

What are we missing? Quite simply, the very injection of enthusiasm that Honda’s US range so desperately needs: a 660cc turbocharged three-cylinder mounted amidships, mated to the buyer’s choice of either a conventional six-speed manual or a seven-speed CVT, in a package that weighs well shy of 2,000 lbs. Output is exactly what you’d expect for a kei car at 63 hp, but rumor has it the company is planning a more powerful version, fitted with a 1-liter mill developing nearly 130 hp. If the S660 is eventually released outside of Japan, this is most likely the version we’d see.

Honda is commemorating the roadster’s launch this Thursday with a “concept edition” limited to 660 units, all finished in Premium Star White Pearl paint with a Bordeaux red top and two-tone leather wrapped seats on the inside, as well as the company’s space-age water-repellent body coating.

When the S660 was unveiled for the first time at the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show, American Honda CEO Tetsuo Iwamura told MotorTrend “he would personally fight for it” if the American market demanded the car. Well, the day is here and we are demanding. You know how the old saying goes, boss: if you build it, they will come.

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Honda to Begin Sales of All-New S660 Open-top Sports-type Mini-vehicle

TOKYO, Japan, March 30, 2015 – Honda Motor Co., Ltd. will begin sales of the all-new Honda S660, a 2-seater open-top sports car, on April 2, 2015, at dealerships across Japan. In addition, on the same day Honda will begin sales, in a limited quantity, of the S660 CONCEPT EDITION, a special model that commemorates the market launch of the S660. Only 660 units of this special edition will be sold in Japan.

Under the keyword of “Heart Beat Sport,” the development team pursued a full-fledged sports car that offers excitement and a heart-throbbing experience in everything about this vehicle and strived to realize the joy of driving that only Honda can create.

The S660 adopts the mid-ship engine/rear-wheel drive (MR) layout and realizes a low center-of-gravity as well as the optimal 45-55 front-rear weight balance, in order to realize excellent cornering performance, which the development team emphasized to maximize the fun of turning. Moreover, the S660 features an open-top body that achieves both high rigidity and lightweight at the same time. This body developed exclusively for the S660 creates an open-air cabin space that enables the occupants to feel the wind, see the sky and enjoy an extraordinary experience while also enjoying a cabin space that enables the occupants to feel enveloped and being used with the vehicle.

Furthermore, with a passion to create a vehicle that provides casual access to the joy of driving for anyone, the development team adopted an exclusively-designed turbo charger for the engine, enabling dynamic driving and high-accelerator response even in the low engine rotation range. As for the transmission, the S660 comes with a newly-developed 6-speed manual transmission, making the S660 the world’s first*1 mini-vehicle equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. In addition, the S660 is also available with a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with 7-speed paddle shifter that features a sports mode. The S660 realizes both driving performance unique to a car and easy handling in people’s everyday life.

*1
Internal research by Honda (as of March 2015)

< Key features of the S660 >

•Fun of making turns

  • With the adoption of the mid-ship engine/rear-wheel drive layout, the optimal 45-55 front-rear weight balance was realized to minimize the moment of inertia and improve traction performance.
  • Paying close attention to the posture of the vehicle while rolling, the height of both the roll center and the center of gravity was optimized to suppress the roll during a turn and realize stable driving.
  • For a first for a mini-vehicle*2, the Agile Handing Assist electronic control system was adopted for the S660. The Agile Handing Assist system uses brake torque to apply control in accordance with the movement of the vehicle body, which makes it easier to trace target line during a turn and realize smooth vehicle behavior with minimum handling operations.
*2
Internal research by Honda (as of March 2015)

•Fun of driving

  • Based on the in-line 3-cylinder DOHC Turbo engine, whose dynamic performance has been well recognized with the N Series, a newly-designed turbo charger was adopted to realize engine response appropriate for a micro-sized sports car.
  • Exclusively for this model, the first 6-speed transmission for a mini-vehicle was developed with a wide range and cross ratio setting that enables it to utilize engine power to the maximum extent. Moreover, the S660 is also available with a CVT with 7-speed paddle shifter that can shift the vehicle into sports mode which the driver can use to enjoy driving with more direct response to accelerator operations. This transmission lineup will enable a broader range of customers to enjoy the fun of driving with the S660.
  • Powerful engine sound unique only to a sports car was realized by applying Honda’s original sound tuning techniques to the breathing and exhaust sounds of the engine, the operating sound of the turbo charger, the sound of the blow-off valve that lets go of boost pressure, etc.
  • An easy-to-operate, lightweight and detachable soft-top called a “roll-top” was adopted so that more customers can enjoy the fun of driving while feeling the wind in a more casual manner.

•Fun of maneuvering

  • The driver’s seating posture, hip point and the location of the accelerator and brake pedals are optimized to realize a driving position that gives the driver a feeling of driving a go-kart. A sense of unity between the driver and the vehicle was thoroughly pursued.
  • The S660 features a steering wheel with a 350mm diameter, the smallest diameter among all Honda mass-market models, enabling the driver to enjoy brisk driving.
  • To ensure comfortable driving in all seasons, the S660 features a fully automatic air-conditioning unit with the “mid-mode” for which new air outlets were added to blow the air to the thigh to waist-high areas. The rear center glass that goes up and down was also featured to realize a comfortable cabin space even when the top is open.

•Exterior and interior design

  • Under the exterior design concept of “energetic bullet,” the body was made low and wide and tires hold to the ground solidly in all four corners. The design team thoroughly pursued an exterior look that lets people anticipate the high level of dynamic performance this vehicle will provide.
  • As for interior design, the team thoroughly pursued operability that realizes intuitive operations of a space designed especially for driving. Moreover, the overall visual and tactile interior quality was enhanced by striving to realize high quality appropriate for a full-fledged sports-type model.

•Safety

  • In order to realize a highly-rigid, high-strength and lightweight open-top body, the framework of the body consists of straight lines and smooth curved lines that achieve outstanding collision safety performance. Moreover, for countermeasures against a rollover accident, Honda studied laws and regulations in North America and set its own internal standards. Based on these standards, reinforcement members were used for the front and center pillars to realize enhanced occupant protection performance in case of a rollover accident.
  • In addition to the driver’s i-SRS airbag system and front passenger’s i-SRS airbag system, an i-side airbag system, which absorbs the impact of a lateral collision, is a standard equipment of the S660.
  • The passenger’s i-SRS airbag system installed to the S660 adopts the world’s first*3 “internal pressure holding airbag system, ” which can hold internal pressure for a longer period of time compare to a conventional airbag system, enabling further improved occupant protection performance.
  • In the area of active safety – efforts to prevent accidents before they occur – the S660 features Vehicle Stability Assist and Hill Start Assist as well as the Emergency Stop Signal system which warns vehicles to the rear of a sudden stop, all as standard equipment for all types.
  • The City-Brake Active System which provides automatic braking assistance at speeds less than 30km/h to prevent a collision with the vehicle in front is available as an option for some types.
*3
Internal research by Honda (as of March 2015)

< S660 CONCEPT EDITION – a special edition that commemorates the market launch of S660 >

In order to commemorate the market launch of the S660, Honda will sell a total 660 units of the S600 Concept Edition. This special edition was developed based on the S660 CONCEPT, a concept car Honda unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2013, and features an enhanced sense of high quality.

[ Key features of S660 CONCEPT EDITION ]

< Exterior >

  • Bordeaux red roll-top, 2-tone side mirrors, exhaust pile finisher with exclusive coating
  • Water-repellent body coating “Ultra Glass Coating NEO”
  • Door glass with water-repellent glass coating

< Interior >

  • Red stitches exclusive to this model are used for the sports leather seat with unsymmetric colors (driver’s seat), genuine leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift boot,
    [6MT version only] genuine leather-wrapped MT shift knob (shift pattern is engraved in red)
  • Aluminum plate with serial number (1 through 660)
  • Center display (compatible with the internavi POCKET link up)

< Safety >

  • City Brake Active System (Collision Mitigation Brakes in low-speed range + False Start Prevention function*4)
*4
Available only for CVT version

Chris Chin

Editor-In-Chief of egmCarTech Freelance Automotive Journalist / Editor / Photographer

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