Why You Should Buy A Honda S2000

Pretending that now, exactly now, is the right time to buy a Honda S2000 is a little bit silly. That’s because the right time to buy a rear-wheel drive two-seater sports car with a high-revving naturally aspirated engine is, well, always.

However, it could be argued that now might be the absolute best time to get your hands on Honda’s little roadster. The S2000 has transitioned into a bonafide modern classic but, although prices of the S2K have never really slumped, values haven’t started to rocket up just yet.


But, perhaps for some inexplicable reason, you’re not quite on board with the idea of an S2000. Perhaps your money is safely tucked away, earmarked for another car. Well, let me be your irresponsible guide to why you want to blow your savings on a 20-year-old four-cylinder Honda.

The first and most significant reason is its engine. In fact, it’s more like 9,000 reasons why you want an S2000. Its four-cylinder 16-valve VTEC-equipped engine, called the F20C, revs all the way to 9,000rpm, granting the humble roadster entry into an exclusive group, mostly comprised of supercars. There’s the Lexus LFA, Ferrari LaFerrari, Porsche 911 GT3 (991), as well as a diminutive little Honda, the S600.


Amazingly though, considering how integral we think the F20C is to the S2000, it wasn’t part of Honda’s initial plan. Four years before the S2000 was released, a concept was unveiled at the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show called the SSM, which stood for Sport Study Model. The shape and proportions of the concept are thoroughly S2000; it has the same silhouette and wide front wheel arches that, implausibly, reach higher than the bonnet line. But the concept’s details are totally different; the top half is entirely without embellishment. Instead, everything including the headlights is pushed close to the ground.


Under those show-car looks is where the biggest differences are. It might have been a front-mid engined car, just like the S2000 turned out to be, but the motor up front was a 20-valve five-cylinder with, by comparison, only a measly 8,000rpm limit. And even worse than that comparatively low RPM cut-off, the engine was connected to an auto ‘box.

OK, so I’d quite like to experience a fast-spinning five-cylinder with Honda’s VTEC system – I imagine it might sound like an Audi 80 on both helium and amphetamines – but not at the expense of the S2000’s precise and mechanical 6-speed manual.


In reality, the S2000’s engine doesn’t need any more cylinders than four to make it truly exotic. The idea that only exceptional, lust-worthy engines need many, many cylinders is eradicated by one sweep of the S2000’s digital rev counter. Instead of six, eight or 12 pistons, the F20C makes the absolute most of every single one of its components and every cubic centimetre of its capacity.


Thanks to an 11.7:1 compression ratio (compared to the 11:1 of that of export cars), the JDM-spec S2000 has an extra 10hp over export models. That means, from just 1,997cc, the F20C conjures up 247hp. When it was launched, that made it the naturally aspirated engine with the highest specific output ever to go into mainstream production. It was a title Honda has previously held with the 114.1hp-per-litre B16B motor in the EK9 Civic Type R. The hot hatch was then beaten by Nissan with its 123.4hp-per-litre SR16VE NEO VVL engine in the Pulsar VZR N1. Then, with its searingly high rev limit – remember power equals torque multiplied by revs – the S2000’s F20C just stole the award back with 124hp per litre.


Despite being so highly-strung, the S2000’s F20C engine is generally reliable and durable, but they do also tend to go through oil. As a result, the level does need to be checked regularly, especially as there is no warning for when the oil starts to drop, only when it’s really too low and too late. The biggest killer of the S2000’s engine is cars driven hard without a sufficient amount of oil in the sump; corner hard with just a piddling amount of lubricant in the engine and it all sloshes to one side and the pump just sucks up air.

Early cars that were driven without much sympathy for the drivetrain, where drivers side-stepped and kicked the clutch, saw crank bearing issues. Honda introduced a clutch delay valve to later cars to soften the blow to the drivetrain.


While most of the 2004 updates were meaningful (geometry alterations and cosmetic touch-ups) they weren’t momentous. American cars, however, did receive a significant change; the F20C engine was replaced by a 2.2-litre version, called the F22C1. Power from the bigger motor is still the same (240hp), but the extra capacity (160cc) from a longer stroke helps increase torque to 162lb-ft. Sadly, the 9,000rpm rev limit of the smaller engine didn’t make it to the 2.2-litre; its revs were capped at 8,200rpm. But, in all honesty, unless you’re addicted to the buzz that only 9,000rpm can give you and you want to dine-out on the cache of an engine that once held a coveted title, the higher capacity engine is just as good to drive. Even the Japanese market cars adopted the F22C1 from 2006 onwards.


Once you’ve settled down after the excitement of the S2000’s glorious engine – and no matter what size it comes in, that may never happen as it really is a wonderful motor – one or two of the car’s deficiencies start to become apparent. The S2000’s steering isn’t as natural as you might hope, and the suspension, especially at the rear of the car, doesn’t fill you with confidence. It feels as though it rolls along an axis that’s unnervingly high up, and it rolls just a little more than you feel comfortable with.


Now, that’s not to say the S2000 is a bad car to drive, it’s just not the Type R-style roadster you initially expect. It’s not really the sort of car the exceedingly sharp engine leads you to believe it might be, or what it should be. The two don’t have the same attitude; the engine is all fizz and aggression, where the chassis seems as though it wants an easy life.


Of course, the fundamental layout of the S2000 is not flawed. Its engine position (just behind the front axle), its rear-wheel drive chassis (with a limited-slip differential as standard), its small dimensions (only 15mm wider than an ND MX-5), its power-to-weight ratio (as well as grip to power ratio) all sit firmly between the parameters of ‘ideal’ and ‘perfect’. To unlock the S2000’s potential, to shift the chassis from ‘out of sync’ to match the engine’s well-honed nature, takes a suspension overhaul. Some well-chosen coilovers and a set of anti-roll bars have the potential to transform Honda’s sports car into the perfect sports car.

Will Beaumont
Instagram: will_beaumont88

Photography by The Speedhunters
Instragram: thespeedhunters



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

slam it till its useless and bolt on a YUGE spoiler, like everyone else :/


I cri evertim


I had a 2001 for a few years. Not very memorable aside from being awful in terms of practicality as a daily driver. Rear tires wore fast (even with spherical toe arms), randomly wouldn't start from an electrical issue that was never resolved, and replacement parts were insanely expensive. It's a fine track day car, I suppose.


Well no. Decent cars are not cheap (in any way). Aftermarket parts cost an arm and a leg and even though its specs look promising you can't make a good race car of it, even if you own a tuning industry yourself. Besides being a collector there is no other reason to buy a S2000 now or anytime in the future.


Evasive begs to differ.


Firstly it is 176 KW so it is 176 / 0.746 = 236 hp. the quoted 247 Hp is a slight overstatement or exaggeration. Then you quoted 124 hp/l which is more than 123.4 hp/l by SR16NEO. This is pedantic and pure academic. The difference of 0.6 hp/l is a spit in the ocean not even worth mentioning. Call it equal. I test drove it in 2013 and ended up buying a MIATA as the latter is considerably lighter and had more steering feel. It did not rev as high but torquier below 4500 rpm for sure or so it felt. Yes Honda produced this engine to show the world that it was capable of making the highest specific output - call it same as the Nissan SR16NEO - mass produced NA car but in doing so low end torque suffered.


You would not have test drove a 2013 Honda s2000; if you meant 2003, then you should have tested an AP2 - anyone who knows S2000 and owned them would option for an Ap2 which is considerably different from the Ap1 (owned both) and I much rather have the same engineer who built the legendary NSX on a car I purchase over something engineered by the same person over a 30 year span only give the public a chick car over and over.


It was NOT a 2013 model for sure. I merely wanted to highlight the car I drove 7 years ago vs its natural competitor the Miata and I liked the Miata better.


He said he test drove one IN 2013. And just because Miatas have an ignorant reputation of being "chick cars" and otherwise lame doesn't make it remotely true. I mean, even in an S2000 you're still driving around in a little convertible.



Jay Soh Tsu Chung

the JDM-spec S2000 has an extra 10hp over export models.

There is a reason it's written as "JDM-spec" and "extra 10hp over EXPORT models"

The difference of 0.6 hp/l is a spit in the ocean not even worth mentioning.

It's the same as how some manufacturers would brag about how their Nurburgring lap time is "0.5 seconds faster than our closest rival". It's all just marketing ploy.


10 hp in a car weighing about 2800 lbs is F**k all unless it has a substantial torque boost. Ducati MOTO gp bike - of course the real HP figure will never be disclosed to public - weighing 350 lbs has significant horsepower advantage over its rival and yet Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki with less power beat it numerous times.

Jay Soh Tsu Chung

You do have a point, but does buyers of the S2000 cares? No.

It's just like how people always say there are much better sports cars out there that are better than the Miata, but do Miata owners care? No.

In the end it's all down to preferences. What Will did when writing this piece is just highlighting facts.


I realize he highlighted the fact but common sense prevails. My point is 10 hp extra in a 2800 lb car makes hardly any difference. The proof is Ducati motogp bike horsepower advantage does not translate to track win. yes in the end who cares.


Clearly you do because you’re defending the honor of Nissan pretty strongly over what is an OBJECTIVE loss.


I appreciate that many love the S2000 but I remember driving one back in the mid 2000's and the redline was cool but it didn't feel that fast. I have an e92 m3 now and the 8400 rpm redline seems way more extreme than the S2000's 9000 rpm in my opinion.


A lot of people complain about the S2000 just feeling like a RWD Civic. It's still a torqueless n/a 4-banger.


the weight difference between it (+/- 2800 lbs) vs the Miata (+/- 2300 to 2350 lbs) is significant and as the result the Miata felt more nimble. The S2000 power advantage over the Miata felt insignificant .


Most people just don't drive them right.. you drive them between 6-9k rpm.. thats where they love it and it is sooo much fun.

We have owned one since new in 2001, and wont be selling it anytime soon. Might as well keep it forever.


A timelessly good looking car, but their reputation for being unforgiving at the limit has kept me from truly wanting one despite me being a total Honda nerd.


The S2000 is an awesome roadster. I'll likely never sell mine.


I was saving real hard, hope one day I could own one S2k before anyone acknowledge their fair price............but after this post I guess i can only own it in my dream...... sigh~~


Same here. I am waiting for that point on a scale, where the rising graph of my savings cross the falling one for S2K prices. But I feel they are soon to go up again due to the age and general appeal.

Kinda like with old Escorts. 10 years back, nobody wanted them and now? Prices for the better ones or the Cosworths have skyrocketed.


The best time to buy them was around 5 to 7 years ago. The prices have doubled since then, and the cars haven't gotten any younger. Nonetheless it is still an awesome car to drive and tweak. And although the factory part supply seems to get more difficult, the aftermarket supply is still going very strong. I hope to keep mine on the road for a long time to come.


Had an 2001 and think about it a lot. That shifter is still the best I've experienced.


At the prices they're at now, they're not really a good value. Nicer ones can cost the same as a ND Miata. The cheaper ones are usually pretty beat up with salvaged titled. If you just want a fun rwd car you can't beat the Miata for the money.


Wow quite a bit of A2000 "hate" in the comments. The car is extremely fun as hell to drive in the twisties. Always a great experience.


Why is someone not agreeing with something called 'hate'? Different people have different opinions.




I've only had my 2002 for a few weeks but have fallen for it hard. It's really the best side-by-side motorcycle out there. You end up driving it waiting for the chance to get it past 6k into VTEC heaven. It's glorious. ..plus i stole it from my brother who opted for the new Supra.


The mx5 nd2 is a good modern option to a s2000?


I was thinking about buying one of these. But good ones are now expensive, so instead, I have bought an ND2 Miata. And I love it! Ok, it doesn't have an F20C, but I think its the closest car to the S2000 and a newer chassis is a good thing to have IMHO.


I've had my 01 S for 4 years now (daily driven too) and the '91 NSX for just over 1 year. The S truly feels like a go kart at lower speeds; a super quick rack, borderline uncomfortably stiff (i'm still on OEM suspension), and generally a blast to throw around without worrying that you're going to wreck a super expensive car. It's loud, noisy, stiff, uncomfortable, with huge blind spots when the soft top is up, but imo the biggest thing that I would change on the car would be to supercharge it.

Would I have bought different cars if I had to do it all over again? nope :)


ls swap with -20 inch camber rims and a huge spoiler and stock aero, slammed to the ground on air suspesion. :L

will what will happen to these cars.


I don’t drive my 07 too hard but when I start hitting 6000 plus On the tach I feel the excitement. I mostly enjoy taking her on some twisty roads and hearing the sweet exhaust note when I shift gears with that glorious gearbox.


Suspension overhaul? The S2000 suspension from the factory is superb by OEM standards. Especially on the AP2 models. The handling is half of what makes this car so special. Poorly written article by someone that doesn’t seem to know the car very well.


Unfortunately this is true of a lot of the words on Speedhunters articles. The pictures are always great though!


Actually, when they first came out just about every notable car magazine that tested the S2000 made note of the rear suspension not feeling completely in sync with the front. So yeah, writer perhaps knows some things?

Christopher Hernandez

Idk if i should buy an s2000 or use that money for a down payment on a new type r. Anyone have any suggestions as i have love for both cars.


Will the S2000 be your only car? Do you own any other roadsters?

If yes to either question I'd get the Type R.


I have had a new one since 2002. It has 95,000 miles. It does not use oil. I drive it often and it is very reliable. Most importantly It still makes me smile and I don't think I will ever sell it.


Or even at my smallest I couldn't fit in them... Amazing cars but just like the Solstice and Sky getting a leg under the steering wheel was almost impossible




And the reason you should skip this piece of shit? The C5 Z06.

AP1 had terrible suspension geometry which is correctable, but you're never going to get anywhere near the horsepower or torque of a Z06 for the same amount of money. What is a 2004 Vette going for now? $12,000?

I've driven and raced both and have to say the S2000 is one of the most over rated cars I have ever driven. A C5 is a much faster car, way more capable and with the same amount of money you're going to dump in the Honda it (the Chevy) will smoke most cars at a track day when driven properly.

Put Hoosiers on a Z06 and you can kiss a GT-R goodbye. I like S2000s, but it's not a car to be glorified.


They've already put the Z06 against a Nismo GTR. The Vette had more torque, more power, better Carbon ceramic brakes and less weight....still lost in the 1/4 mile and around Willow Springs lol. Motortrend.com did the test


Interesting...at Magny Cours, Le mans, Hockenheim Short, Sachsenring, Laguna Seca, VIR, Motortrend figure 8 the Z06 is faster than the GT-R in many cases by over 1 second.

At WSIR the GTR is about 0.7 faster.


I almost forgot the Z06 gets better gas mileage on the freeway as well. 30mpg compared to 25mpg.


You'd hope it could out perform a platform from 2007 here and there, especially when you've got that much advantage. The GTR shouldn't even be in the picture, yet it is. The GTR is also almost 15sec quicker around the Nurburgring. The Vette does sound and look better though.