Honda has announced that production of the S660 is coming to a close. A spiritual successor to the Beat and tribute to the S-series roadsters, the mid-engined kei sports car will end its run in March 2022. Honda is sending off the S660 with a final edition called the Modulo X Version Z, a homage to the last special edition Honda Beat.
Shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, the S660 prototype debuted with great fanfare. Honda says they decided to build the car based on the strong response. It was launched in 2015, built on a bespoke chassis that hearkened back to the heyday when kei sports cars like the Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino, and Mazda Autozam AZ-1 made entry-level driving fun accessible to just about anyone living in Japan. But by the time the S660 came out it wasn’t just the last remaining kei sports car, it was among the last sports cars in the Japanese market, period.
With a naming convention that evoked the S500, S600, S800 and S2000, it was clear Honda was serious about bringing driving enjoyment to the masses, but its true spiritual predecessor was the 1991 Beat, the midship kei roadster that was considered Soichiro Honda’s swan song.
During its lifespan the Beat spawned three special versions with special trim and colors. The last one was called Version Z, and came in Blade Silver Metallic (above, left) or Everglade Green Metallic. The final S660 will also be called the Version Z, offered in white and an exclusive color called Sonic Gray Pearl.
Built upon the top-spec Modulo X grade, whose features include a more aggressive front and rear fascia and 8-spoke wheels, the Version Z will have tinted badging, black wheels, and carbon fiber pattern interior trim.
According to Response, Honda is ending S660 production because of increasing regulations, such as the requirement to have automatic braking. They said adding the sensors and equipment to comply would have negatively affected the S660’s identity. Whether that means added cost or the fact the manual transmission would have to go away was not clear.
Honda says that while the end date is a year from now, orders may close before that. So if Japanese customers want a specific color or option combo they can’t wait until the last minute. On the other hand, if orders exceed the planned run by next March due to this announcement, the final order period will be extended. It will still be possible to buy an S660 after orders end, but selection will be limited to what’s on dealer lots.
By the time the S660 finished its run, it will have been on the market for eight years, a longer run than the Beat, which was sold from 1991-96. So why does the S660’s end feel so ominous?
Because, perhaps, there doesn’t seem to be a successor in sight, and every time a sports car disappears it feels like an extinction, not a hiatus. Hopefully, we’re wrong and the S660 and some other car will return to carry on the S-series badge.
Since launch Honda has sold 30,000 S660s, a strong number considering it was a niche car never sold outside of Japan. Its development lead, Ryo Himoto, was only 26 at the time he took charge of the project, making him the youngest chief engineer in Honda history.
When the announcement to halt production was made, Himoto gave a statement that said, in part (via translation) “I often hear people say that they bought a sports car for the first time in a long time, or the younger generation say that their first car was the S660. Thank you to all the S660 owners for choosing it as their car. On behalf of the development team, I would like to thank you.”
Images courtesy of Honda.