Introduced in 1999, the original version of the Japanese manufacturer’s two-seat roadster garnered a reputation for its strong powertrain and lively handling, but the second edition of the car was axed in 2009.
Now a third generation is said to be under development as Honda tries to reconnect with the S2000’s dedicated fan base. Representatives from Honda’s advanced engineering department are said to have attended a recent S2000 owners’ club event in the British Isles - a sign that the firm wants to listen to enthusiasts in order to help it to position the next version of the car accurately.
The new S2000 will stay true to the original’s principles of a front-mounted engine, sited behind the axle line, and rear-wheel drive. It will be pitched as a faster alternative to the MX-5, although its performance should be more of a match for that car’s stablemate, the forthcoming Fiat 124 Spider, which uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine instead of the Mazda’s naturally aspirated 1.5 and 2.0-litre units.
Honda has a number of powerplants under consideration for its roadster. More basic editions of the car could be powered by a retuned version of the firm’s forthcoming 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. The four-cylinder unit has VTEC variable valve timing and produces around 150bhp in the Japanese-market vehicles it powers. This is likely to be ramped up to around 180bhp for the most modest S2000, giving the car around 25bhp more than the most powerful MX-5 and beating the US-market 124’s 158bhp.
This would leave scope for a hotter variant that could use a detuned version of the Civic Type R’s 306bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. It would also feature more extreme suspension and chassis settings, including a rear limited-slip differential, and could give Honda a useful extension to its Type R sub-brand, as well as a rival for the more potent, Abarth-badged 124. All versions of the car would feature a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox.
The biggest obstacle in the way of the S2000 replacement is the absence of a suitable platform. Honda is committing to a new global architecture for front-wheel-drive cars, including the next generation of Civic, which is due on sale in the UK in 2017, but its opportunities to spread the costs of a rear-wheel drive chassis are more limited.
It is therefore likely to pitch the car as a more expensive rival to the MX-5 in a bid to maintain workable margins, with pricing starting north of £20,000. It could slot the model into the line-up of its premium Acura brand in the United States, where it would be a rival to BMW’s next Z4 and the Audi TT Roadster.