March 29, 2016 @ 03:53 PM

Preview: Honda S660 – Honda really DO have a sense of humour

Resourceful car enthusiasts will somehow find a way to bring in the S660. But is it worth the trouble?


Those harbouring thoughts that this little roadster is fast will have their bubbles burst in the most unceremonious way. Not only this tiny Honda S660 isn’t fast, the top speed that the rather small 660cc turbocharged engine can muster is somewhere around 135kph. Expect to be overtaken by the Axia on the highways, a humbling experience I would imagine. So if you’re after straight-line speed, then it is clear that you don't understand the concept behind the S660 and should really look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for something that’s miles different from anything on the road, then you’ve just qualified for some serious fun.
 
There’s must be an unwritten rule somewhere that all cars with optional roofs are a riot to drive. This miniature roadster is no different. It starts from the time you get into the car or try to get into the car. The first attempt is laughable, you’ll leave the markings of your sole on the door card while pulling a muscle or three. An easier time can be had with the roof deconstructed but only just. Those with generous girth will face another challenge of finding the seat belt buckle. Close the flimsy-feeling door and you’ll get the impression like you’ve just worn the S660 over your head.
 
The interior is quite spartan, offering only the basic stereo and air-conditioning as creature comforts. A tiny screen that sits on top of the dashboard displays important information like the radio station you’re in. The rev meter sits dead centre in the meter cluster, where it should be; speed displayed digitally in the middle of that meter. Two other circles flank the speedo/tacho but you won’t pay too much attention to them.
 
Fire up the 0.6-litre mill, which is where the S660 gets its name from, and the going gets really quick. Not that the turbocharged engine provides good reading — it only has 63bhp and 104Nm of torque — but it is enough to make the 850kg of the car disappear. So negligible the weight of the car is that you won’t feel the spring and dampers working hard, and feeling firm always. Weight is fairly distributed between the front and rear with everything heavy in the car (read: you, your passenger and the engine) sitting between the axles and that gives a neutrally sweet handling; something that’s hard to find in cars these days.
 
With characteristics like these, it is obvious what this thing is made for, the exploitation of all corners. The short drive around a track that’s equally short yet filled with all sorts of bends — medium-speed, high-speed, S-curves — proves just as much. Despite its small diameter, the steering feels substantial, has a very snappy response and offers plenty feedback from the front tyres. The rubbers are grippy so you can enter corners with very little need to hit the brakes; if you hit the apex squarely on the head. When you do get on the brakes, the S660 doesn’t need much distance to come to a complete halt. Yes, the advantages of a very light car…
 
As good as the S660 is, there’s a niggling sense that the chassis can take much more power although it cannot be said for certain if this kei-car can keep to its low weight. Having said that, there isn’t much point arguing about it.
 
Honda Malaysia has replied, as many times as I have asked, that they will not be importing the car to our shores. Besides stocking up parts for the 3-cylinder engine, there’s also the need to adapt the current service centres to provide care for the high-strung engines. The biggest nail hammered comes from the price. The S660 doesn’t feel like an expensive car but by the time taxes and profits are factored in, the final price might be prohibitive. Still, as the saying goes, if there’s a will…
 
For the rest of us, it is a crying shame that the S660 will give our port a miss. Too bad because this car is such a joy to drive.
 
CHRIS NG

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