It’s a crying shame that the kei car never took off in the UK. With eye-watering petrol prices and sky-high tax, it seems barmy that crossovers and SUVs (cars endowed with the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick) prevail as the sole focus for some manufacturers. Couple that with the often tiny roads we have in the UK - and the fact that cars are getting wider - and I’d argue that a kei car revolution is just what the country needs.
Of course, for that to happen, we’d need to bash the stereotype that kei cars are just mini versions of other boring cars with gutless 660cc engines. A quick look at the current kei car market in Japan suggests it is booming, and most of them won’t have you on the floor in fits of laughter. The Toyota Copen GR Sport has an attitude of a car twice its size, while the Suzuki Alto Works does its best to give you hot hatch hilarity without breaching a 30mph limit. But if any car were to convince you that we’re missing out on Japan’s special keis, it’d be the Honda S660.
Launched in 2015, the S660 saw Honda turn its attention back to affordable, tiny sporty cars for the first time since the Beat in the 1990s. Granted, it still had to conform to Japan’s kei cars regulations, which curtailed its performance somewhat. Like the Beat, Honda managed to cram the S660’s turbocharged three-cylinder behind the cabin – not exactly difficult at 658cc – where it produces 64hp at a 6,000rpm. That’s a good 2,000rpm lower down the rev range than the Beat, which, for better or worse, means you won’t need to be on the limiter to pick up some pace. In stock form it’ll hit 62mph from a standstill in a leisurely 11 seconds, but who cares when you can skid about at walking pace?
Factor in an ultra-light 830kg kerbweight and you’ve got the building blocks for a Micromachine-sized track car. Apparently, the owner of this example thought the same, with the ad listing an extensive number of performance parts. For instance, the stock suspension has been replaced with parts from Japanese aftermarket firm RS-R, not to mention a Greddy intercooler and an uprated air filter. It also has an HKS dump valve if you’re into that sort of thing.
The cosmetic changes are noteworthy, too. A Google search suggests that the full Mugen body kit costs nearly a third of the price of the car, and those 16-inch 5Zigen Pro Racer wheels won’t come cheap, either. With the S660 already perfectly suited to those looking to scratch a JDM rarity itch, the extra frills will likely come as a bonus. If not, you can probably get good money for them on eBay.
Obviously it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s far from a Halford’s special. And, hopefully, that’ll make the asking price a little easier to swallow. At £26,995, there are certainly more powerful and more exotic cars available. Larger cars, too. But with such a tiny footprint, both on the road and in the environmental sense, and the fact that it’s tailored made to deliver its thrills at lower speeds means it’ll probably be a hoot to drive the moment you hit the start button. Unless, of course, you’re over six feet tall.
SPECIFICATION | HONDA S660
Engine: 658cc three-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 64@6,000rpm (standard car)
Torque (lb ft): 77@2,600rpm (standard car)
MPG: 59.9 (Japan 08)
CO2: 109g/km (Japan 08)
Year registered: 2015
Recorded mileage: 7,800
Price new: est. £11,000 (Japan)
Yours for: £26,995
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