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Reader test: Honda S2000

2009-09-16 13:37

Tomi Kulcsár, Cape Town

The S2000 is not a popular car. It should be, but it isn’t. Despite the car costing R200K less than a Porsche Boxster and having similar performance dynamics, there are fewer S2000s on the road in South Africa. I attribute this to two things: no vehicle stability control (until 2006) and a perception that Honda makes boring cars.

My 2004 S2000 has no stability control, no adjustable suspension and no other driver aids. This makes it anything but boring.

Having owned the car for more than two years and driven on a variety of roads from the sweeping bends of Tradouw Pass to slippery dirt roads in Riebeek Kasteel, I can attest that it is not every man’s car.

With 177 kW from a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre engine and a limited-slip differential keeping the rear in check (mostly), the car is better suited to the track than around town.

A redline close to 9 000 r/min and a power band that kicks in at a dizzying 6 000 r/min means the little engine needs to be thrashed to be appreciated. This is easily done as revs rise quickly and the sound from the double exhausts is subtle enough to enjoy all day.

The car serves me well on my daily commute (60km) and I often arrive at the office with a stupid grin on my face.

On the track (and I urge everyone to attend a track day once), the car comes alive and even the standard tyres (215s up front and 245s at the back) won’t let go easily.
When you tire of going straight, a little extra power in a corner will get the rear sliding - but watch out, those Bridgestone Potenzas are expensive!

The brakes handle well enough and the short-shift gearbox is super smooth at speed. The car is generally bomb-proof, with its only weakness being a clutch that doesn’t appreciate 5 000 r/min launches. But then, which car does?  

On the flipside, there is more than enough torque to cruise around Camps Bay with the top down at 40 km/h and you won’t be out of place with the car’s beautiful styling. And should the heavens open without warning, you don’t have to wait long for the roof to close - it does so in about six seconds.

Space is always a premium for any sports car, and the S2000 is no exception. The interior is tight, with the 90s-style dashboard dominated by the digital rev counter and big red start button. I love it for its simplicity - no unnecessary dials, buttons or computer screens to distract you from the joys of driving.

The boot has an odd shape, but can just fit enough stuff for a week-long road trip. Older folk (with associated bad knees and back) would struggle to get in and out and the bumpy ride requires a strong core - even with fantastic lateral support from the leather seats. The roof creaks a little over bumps, but importantly the body remains very rigid.

With late model S2000s selling for under R250000, it’s the most fun that kind of money can buy. And you’ll be one of the lucky few who will be able to enjoy the pure driving experience a genuine sports car offers. As time goes by, the lucky few will get less and less - the last S2000 comes off the production line sometime this year.

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