You will have no doubt heard of the Japanese Kei-car, a category of small vehicles that, to make them more affordable and attract lower taxes, can have engines no bigger than 660cc. The European versions of the Suzuki Wagon R and the Daihatsu Copen came from that stable. Well, now there’s a new one.
Honda will sell the S660 mini-roadster (pictured) only in Japan, at least for now. The diminutive two-seat sports model is mid-engined with a three-cylinder 660cc turbocharged motor banging out some 63bhp. Honda say they plan to compensate for the low power output with by giving the car sporty handling through an all-new performance platform and chassis. The engine is the only component shared with other vehicles.
The rest of the Honda S660 performance kit, including front and rear discs and a rear aluminium subframe is all new and most of the body is high-tensile steel, with, they say, excellent rigidity. This good looking little car has its ancestry based on the iconic Beat mini-car of the 1990’s. The Kei-car dates back to a post-war government drive to motorisation and the Beat led the Kei-car phenomenon with its low and wide stance, open cockpit and side air intakes. Just like the new model, in fact.
Like the Beat, the S660 is designed to meet the stringent size and engine-displacement rules of Japan’s unique tiny vehicle segment. These cars account for about forty percent of the domestic market, thanks largely to tax advantages over bigger cars. The S660 engine is mated to either a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters.
We want it here although, sadly, this is unlikely to happen. It has always been previously thought that these cars would simply not appeal to a jaded European market but that of course takes no account of the ever more stringent euro-rules which have made small, frugal cars considerably more popular than before. It may be that, as currently built, they may not meet our crash test and other import regulations. For obvious economic reasons the Japanese government would prefer that the car manufacturers built vehicles that can be exported. Wouldn’t it be good if they made the S660 fully compatible with euro-regs and put it on sale here? Hairdressers would be mad for it.