Its that time
of the year again, so
while youre changing
your plate why not
try something sportier
than usual. How about
Hondas revised S2000
two-seater sports car?
TRADITIONALLY MARCH IS THE PEAK SALES MONTH for UK new car registrations, accounting for around 20 per cent of annual sales. Last year, for example, saw close to 450,000 new cars purchased. Conseq-uently, most manufacturers are busy launching new models in readiness for the expected surge in sales. For the record: in 2007 Honda new car sales in the UK broke the 100,000 mark for the first time, with a growth of 8.5 per cent against the industry average of 3 per cent. And Honda's European sales showed the largest growth of any motor manufacturer up 21.5 per cent over 2006.
Of course, Honda are not just about cars. They are the world's largest engine manufacturer, producing 24.5 million engines of all types each year everything from power units to garden tools such as strimmers and mowers, to motorcycles and scooters, Pilots and Quad recreational vehicles, passenger cars and even aircraft jet engines. Currently, they build 12.6 million motorcycles, 3.55 million cars and 6.4 million power tools. And by 2010 they expect to have 30 million customers a year buying 18 million motorcycles, 4.5 million cars and 7 million power tools.
Additionally, 2008 will see more good news for Honda. First, in May, Honda celebrates its 60th anniversary. Honda car customers will also want to know about other notable dates for Honda's car ranges.
These start in February, which is the on-sale date for the revised S2000 two-seater sports car. In June, the Honda FCX Clarity the world's first zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell car goes on sale in the US. Also in June, the new Honda Accord saloon, with sportier and sharper styling, goes on sale in the UK with engine options that will include a new i-DTEC diesel engine which offers increased power but lower emissions. The Honda Tourer estate joins the line-up in Sep-tember, ready for the '85'-registration plate month. September also sees the unveiling of the new Honda Jazz.
Keen drivers with a yen for great engineering will, most of all, be interested not so much in the sales figures but more in the perfor-mance figures of the revised S2000 sportster.
Launched in 1999, the rear-wheel drive S2000 two-seater sports car has always been a spirited but edgy machine; well suited for experien-ced drivers for fast road or track day use. The fine, high-revving
two-litre petrol engine has been highly praised although the handling, especially in wet conditions, has been unpredictable and raw. The latest version, says Honda UK, has new suspension settings to make
it more communicative, predictable and exhilarating to drive.
The S2000's handling and performance characteristics have been enhanced by a change to the suspension identical to that fitted to
its Japanese market counterpart the S2000 Type-S.
Re-tuned dampers, uprated springs and thicker anti-roll bars improve the car's stability, vastly improve the agile handling and make it more predictable and trustworthy. The steering has also been tuned to give better feedback to the driver. The new suspension in no way harms the ability to absorb the rough road surfaces we have here in the UK and ride comfort is firm, but not harsh.
The S2000 retains its well-loved 237bhp all-aluminium, 4-cylinder, DOHC 2.0-litre variable-valve timed petrol engine and slick six-speed manual transmission. If you're not familiar with it, know that it revs happily to 9,000rpm, serving up 237bhp at 8,300rpm and 153lb ft of torque at 7,500rpm.
Top speed is 150mph, 0-62mph takes 6.2 seconds and the average
fuel consumption is 28.2mpg. CO2 emissions are 236g/km, so unfor-tunately it incurs the top Vehicle Excise Duty rating Band G which currently costs £300, but as from April 2008 this will increase to £400. Two points: expect to pay top whack for insurance (the S2000 is classed in group 20), and servicing intervals at every 9,000 miles are hadly conducive to low running costs.
Also featuring on the latest Honda S2000 are a new design of 17-inch alloy road wheels, a new and additional exterior body colour (Synchro Silver) and three new leather interior colours. The headrest frame has also been re-shaped to offer better roll-over protection.
Honda says the S2000 averages around one thousand sales in the UK each year, but they hope this will increase to about 1,200 units now the car has more refinement. The model is priced from £28,050 for the Roadster; and £28,600 for the GT model which comes with an electrically-operated folding roof.
Having driven the latest S2000 briefly over some dry and twisty Cots-wold roads, the first and last impressions are that the car is now what it should have been in the first place. The edginess is still there, but the handling and performance of the suspension hasn't been refined so much as to remove the character from the car.
The free-revving engine both loves and needs to be worked hard to get the best from it but, importantly thanks to the variable-valve timing it remains user-friendly at lower speeds in traffic.
The car still suffers from lack of interior space and it is a bit snug if you are six feet tall. The boot, too, is pretty small (143 litres) so plan on travelling light. Otherwise, it's a great car and very well equipped, but then it needs to be because it has to compete against the Mazda MX5 which is much cheaper and still handles much better; the 2.0-litre BMW Z4 which is also cheaper and a thoroughbred sports car; the Porsche Boxster which is more expensive but has bigger and more powerful engines; the Nissan 350Z Roadster which is roughly the same price; and the soon-to-be-released new Mercedes SLK Roadster the benchmark model for this segment.
Just two things might nudge you in the direction of the S2000's rivals' showrooms: the lack of interior space and also the fact that it's not cheap compared to the competition in this sector. Helping you to keep the faith is the S2000's engineering quality, the superb free-revving engine, good looks, a high specification and better handling than before. Worth a thought? We'd say so! David Miles
Honda S2000 2.0 i-VTEC GT | £28,600
Maximum speed: 150mph | 0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 28.2mpg | Power: 237bhp | Torque: 153lb ft
CO2 236g/km | VED Band G £300 | Insurance group 20
Visit Honda's website