Honda S2000 (1999 – 2009) Review

Honda S2000 (1999 – 2009) At A Glance


+Powerful, very high revving engine. Big digital speedo. Rear drive. Only one known engine failure.

-Early S2000s lack steering feedback.

Honda took nearly 30 years to replace its S800 sports car – but we reckon the S2000 was well worth the wait. With 240bhp available from its 2.0-litre engine and a 9000rpm redline, this rear-wheel drive two-seater was not for the feint-hearted.

There’s a bit of debate about where the name comes from. Some say it reflects the model year, but we reckon that – like the S800 – it’s (unimaginatively) named after its (rounded up) 1997cc engine capacity.

It was yet another example of Honda trying to ditch its beige image – sensible, shrewd, and sober. Which presumably why they said they’d only build the 1995 SSM concept if they sold enough (about 20,000 units a year) to make a profit.

Just another example of good ol’ reckless Honda: ignoring the bean-counters and throwing caution to the wind in an effort to please petrolheads. After five years of dragging the concept car from show to show, Honda finally delivered the goods.

Honda consistently tweaked the S2000 throughout its lifetime, with revisions to the chassis and the addition of stability control in 2006. Essentially, the younger the car is, the less twitchy it is. Don’t let that put you off, though – the tweaks were all about set-up rather than replacing components.

During its ten years on sale, it never did quite make its sales targets (only 110,000 were made) – but it did find its fans. The normally-aspirated high-revving VTEC isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but if you love a no-torque rev-the-nuts-off-it driving experience then you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll also be thankful that the manual gearbox is one of the best ever made (handy, because you’ll be up and down it a lot). It’s typical of the S2000’s controls, which are all beautifully weighted. As is the car itself, with the engine tucked right back behind the front axle for perfect 50:50 weight distribution.

It is a short-wheelbase rear-wheel drive sports car, though, so if you run out of talent you won’t be able to defy the laws of physics. Living in fear of being bitten isn’t a bad thing though as it encourages you to keep the car in its sweet spot with minimal inputs – rather than throwing it around and sawing at the wheel.

Consequently, buying a used S2000 does require you to be sensible. Sure, the engines are hard-working but they’re reliable – if they’ve been serviced correctly. Low oil pressure will limit the revs, timing chains can tick, and you’ll also want to check for accident damage. Honda also skimped on rust prevention so make sure you get the car on a ramp.

Ask Honest John

Do you know of any insurers that offer cover for 6 months at a time?

"I want to insure my Honda S2000, currently under a SORN, for short periods (4 - 6 months) annually. Are you able to advise me on any specialist insurers?"
There are insurers out there, but it's just as cheap to keep it insured over a 12 month period most of the time. That way you have it insured whilst stored as well. Most short term insurance is one day to one month. It's much easier to get a 12-month policy, cancel when you don't need it, pay the admin fee and get a rebate.
Answered by Tim Kelly

Could you suggest a relatively easy to maintain and economic to fix modern classic?

"Having sold my two classic Triumphs, I'm at the age where I'm having difficulty in doing full maintenance jobs but still appreciate driving and owning a classic car as my hobby. Is there a car that I could purchase that gives me the thrill of a "classic car feel" and turns heads but is (relatively) easy to maintain whilst, if needed, incur low(er) garage costs for those jobs I am unable to tackle? I have a car for everyday travel and not too keen on a Morgan due to its harsh ride, so could you another two-seater soft top? I have about £40,000 to spend."
It's going to be tricky to tick all these boxes. If you want something that turns heads, that normally means a premium model such as a Porsche. In which case, you'd be expected to have anything but the most basic oil and filter it serviced at a specialist. Plus, if you're after mod cons like power steering, air-con, decent stereo (and soundproofing) then you're looking at cars that are a bit more complicated. If you're after something that's easy to get in and out of and doesn't have harsh ride, then you may have to think outside the box. You could go for something traditional such as a Triumph Stag (assuming you want to keep it Triumph), which is still very much a classic two-seater with a great engine. Alternatively, look at 911 ownership for a bit of wow-factor, and a decent compromise between mod cons and specialist servicing... and don't discount the later Jaguar XJ-S. We know plenty of people who own Honda S2000s and are terrifically happy with them - stunning performance and reliability (see also Nissan 350Z). Sightly left of centre coupe options to consider - BMW 8-Series and Mazda RX-7 or RX-8 if you're feeling brave, Toyota Supra. We'd also have a look at hot hatches - cars like the Mk1 Golf GTi and Peugeot 205 GTI are excellent to drive, have reasonably mod cons, and can be maintained at home... they also have plenty of wow-factor. Perhaps something like a TVR Griffith would also suit you.
Answered by Keith Moody
More Questions

What does a Honda S2000 (1999 – 2009) cost?