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Author Topic: The spiritual successor of the Bagheera/Murena : the Honda S660 !  (Read 9608 times)
Lennart Sorth
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« on: October 23, 2017, 10:30:51 pm »

Dear all,

One of the things I love about the Murena is its size, - it is a very small car, - in fact so small that even its 15" wheels looks big !

By todays standards, weighing in just around the 1 tonne is also "light" and this shows in its reasonable fuel economy - given the engines available for its time.  Modern 1 liter engines sport the same power and almost twice the economy, so if Matra were to re-invent the Murena, they would have some great options.

Now, - Honda have a long history of making sporty and good looking cars - I know, because I had an S2000 and loved it to bits - and only sold it to keep the car-collection down, when I wanted to also get a more usable 4-seater. I have however regretted parting with the lovely S2000 ever since.

In 2015, Honda their next two-door, two-seater, rear-wheel drive, sporty “S” model – be it in the low-Japanese-tax bracket called “Kei-car”. The rules for this bracket limits the engine capacity to 660cc, max power is set to 64hp, and the overall length  must be less than 3.40 meters:



Despite these minute dimensions, Honda has come up with a true gem. Mid-engined, soft top, gorgeously sounding, perfectly balanced, and even economic.

Sadly, Honda has not (yet) announced any plans of bringing the S660 to Europe or US – there are rumours of a 1-litre version for the US market, which obviously would provide more power (rumours say 125hp), but in my view not quite true to the concept – but having now tried it, I would be perfectly happy with the original, true-to-the-concept 63hp.

The exterior design is reminiscent of the Civic, just smaller and lower – actually a LOT lower, which is evident at toll-road payment booths. You could even call it a miniature NSX, - and there is nothing wrong about looking like the NSX !

The side mirrors are styled like the civic, but “hot-rod” trimmed to be narrow slits, which looks fantastic, and still provides a full view of the road behind. Speaking of view, - there is a glass window all across behind the seats, through which it is fairly easy to see where you are going when reversing.




Now, I am tall – 1m94cm tall (6’ 5”) – which was my major concern when booking the car over the Internet, to try it out during my trip to Japan, and it is a tight fit – but the only small problem is that my hair touches the ceiling at the back of my head, as there is a panel covering the roll-bar. If I owned the car, I think I could make a “Gurney” dent in that panel. But with the right motivation, even my similarly sized friend and I managed to squeeze ourselves in – with out two rucksacks on the passengers lap – as there really is NO storage space – except for a little compartment out front, designed to take the folded up roof.


It seats – be it with some difficulty, and only JUST – two motivated 6’ 5” ‘ers :-)
 
The perky little 3-cylinder engine sounds a little rough in idle, but as soon as you are giving it a little food, it roars into life – very much like an air-cooled Porsche engine. (I may get into trouble here, but I have actually never liked the 911 engine at idle – but above 6000rpm it changes character).



Not the easiest access – but then, it is a Honda, so you shouldn’t need it much.
The S660 engine redlines at an impressive 7700rpm, and the turbo is proving much extra torque from 2600 onwards. I didn’t really feel any pronounced turbo-lag, but if accelerate and then lift off, the waste-gate “clears its throat”. I never thought I’d like a car with a waste-gate, but it really is a scintillating sound – especially in such a small car :-)

Honda has managed to make the 6-speed short-throw gear leaver in the S660 feel just as concise and wonderfully satisfying as in the S2000, where the leaver more or less went straight into the gearbox due to front-engine and rear wheel drive. This is great engineering indeed for a mid-engined car.

The brakes have a wonderfully purposeful feel to them – not the flimsy over-assisted ones you get in most cars today, - here you actually have to push the pedal, but the car stops brilliantly without any drama at all – no doubt helped by the specially developed 16” Yokohama Advan Neova tyres (165/55R15/ 195/45R16). It has an automatic hazard-light system, which I’m sure will be a bit annoying on a track, and as it feels so stable, one could often ebd up braking hard enough to set it off – even in traffic. Personally I’d love to be able to either ajust its sensitivity, or disable it altogether.

But all in all an absolutely fantastic little car which can’t stop putting a huge smile on my face whenever I drive it.



And I haven’t even come to the best of it! – the mid-mounted engine makes for a perfect 55/45 balance, and the steering is as precise as anything – despite it being electric. Whatever they have done, this is much MUCH better than most modern numb-feeling woolly electric power steering, which seems to have taken over the world. This feels as direct and  precise as my good old love-affair, the Matra Murena !

I took it up Mount Tsukuba at night (my only chance in the dry) and as it turned out, the road is fabulous, and completely abandoned that time of night – and with a GPS, you always know what turn is coming up, and I could do my best to try to unsettle it – without much success. No doubt partly due to its specially developed Yokohama tyres. It simply drives like on rails! - no understeer and very difficult to induce any oversteer thanks to the always-engaged traction and stability control.

The was a wonderful section where the road did a 360 degree corkscrew upwards, which was brilliant to push harder and harder – I did that a couple of times over, and despite eventually going almost unbelievably fast, I never felt any limit approaching. ROCK solid. The limit was only the fact that it was not my car, and I did not want any trouble.



I’d love to try it out on a track, - but this won’t work for a rental car (they make you sign a form prohibiting it) – but I have absolutely no doubt that it is a blast – Honda know their stuff. This is backed up by plenty of Japanese youtube videos.

The only issue that persists is to get Honda to export it to Europe – PLEASE PLEASE ! - it is such a fabulous, economic, fun and sporty car that it is a crying shame that Europe and US are being deprived the experience.


« Last Edit: October 23, 2017, 10:47:31 pm by Lennart Sorth » Logged

Lennart.Sorth@matrasport.dk
Murena 1983 1.9i silver // Alfa Romeo Giulietta 2.0d 2012 white // Smart 4two cdi 2010 blue //
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« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2017, 02:16:47 pm »

In a few years it will appear in the UK as did the Nissan Figaro, Japanese roadworthiness laws make it impracticable to keep beyond five years old so they tend to be exported to other right-hand drive countries.
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