• Honda S660 Will Get Type R and S1000 Versions

Honda’s new S660 kei-sports car is many different things. It’s the spiritual successor to the mid-engine Honda Beat kei-car. It shares its naming convention with Honda’s first car, the 1963 S500. According to reports from the other side of the world, it’s also every bit the fun-size sports car you hoped it would be, but unfortunately for the rest of the world, it’s not available outside of Japan.

But, that could change, thanks to a more powerful S1000 variant, proposed for export markets, and a faster S660 Type R for Japan. According to Australia’s Motoring, the S1000 will be powered by a new 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder VTEC, and will have a fixed roof, complete with snorkel-style engine air intake, and a 200mm increase in width to accommodate wider tires. The S660 Type R, meanwhile, will also get a hardtop and a more potent version of the 660cc engine. Both cars are expected to have in excess of 100 horsepower, which has some fairly large implications for the future of Japan’s kei-car segment.

Continue reading to learn more about the future versions of the Honda S660.

Why it matters

While it might not sound like a heck of a lot, 100 horsepower can be pretty potent when it has just 1,830 pounds to propel, which is what the current S660 weighs. A sub-ton Honda sports car could be niche hit here in the U.S., but whether or not that happens depends on what Honda means when it purportedly calls the S1000 an “export version.”

Back home in Japan, that kind of power is way over the agreed-upon kei-car limit of 62 horsepower for 660cc engines, set way back in 1990. But thanks to huge leaps in engine technology, especially turbochargers, companies are having difficulty keeping kei-car engines under the obsolete, self-imposed limit. Furthermore, advancement in turbo technology means the more powerful engines would have little-to-no impact on fuel economy or CO2 emissions, which was why the limits were imposed in the first place.

If reports of more powerful kei-car engines are accurate, they seem to suggest that Honda is anticipating a change in kei-car power limits. “These three-cylinder turbos are so hi-tech now that without even trying they pump out roughly 60kW. But for the Type R, Honda wants a three-figure number – yes 100 horsepower (about 75kW). And we’ve got that,” a source within Honda told Motoring. Hazarding a guess, that means the 1.0-liter engine in the S1000 could produce as much as 150 horsepower.

There are external political forces at work too. Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations could include a provision that opens up the kei-car market (which accounts for 40 percent of cars sold in Japan), to foreign competition, and the U.S. is thought to be applying pressure to have the power limit removed. Only time will tell if this means the S660, or any of the variants discussed here, will be sold in the U.S., but the TPP should be finalized by mid-2016.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, that also happens to when Fukihiko Ike is expected to step down from his position as chairman of Japan Automobile Manufacturers’ Associations. Ike is also chairman at Honda, and because of his company’s loss of face over the Takata airbag recalls, he doesn’t see himself as being in a position to make broad, sweeping decisions about Japan’s car industry, which is pretty typical of Japan’s more restrained, collectivist business culture.

It’s weird how internal politics and international business negotiations can have an impact on a pocket-sized sports car and vice-versa, but there you have it. I just hope it all means we’ll be getting a small, fun to drive Honda sports car in the U.S. soon.

Honda S660

2016 Honda S660
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Read our full review here.

Source: Motoring

James Wolfcale
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