We didn’t deserve the midengine Honda S660 kei convertible, which is probably one of the reasons we never got it. It was the successor — I’m not even going to preface that with “spiritual” — to the Honda Beat of the ’90s, which also didn’t come to the U.S. The S660 went on sale in Japan in 2015; it will end production next year, according to the Japanese website Response, by way of Autoblog.
The reason, unsurprisingly, appears to be down to tightening regulations. From Response, and translated (surprisingly, not poorly) by Google:
There are several factors behind Honda’s decision to discontinue production of the S660. It is mainly related to laws and regulations, but there are equipment such as emergency automatic braking that is also mandatory for light vehicles, for example. Although necessary equipment for safety, it is not easy to add electric brakes and various sensors to a car designed and tuned in a sweet spot like the S660. In addition, the S660 has been faced with even stricter requirements for mini vehicles that are required to switch to electrification, such as tightening regulations on fuel volatilization and noise regulations.
Although the region in question and particular laws are probably a little different, this is the same basic reason why we’re losing small ICE-powered cars elsewhere, like in Europe. They don’t meet upcoming emissions regulations, and electrifying them is tough — especially when profit margins on small cars are slim enough already.
Now, kei cars are quite literally in a class by themselves in Japan and are basically embedded into automotive culture there, so they may stand a better chance of surviving. But in such a scenario, fringe enthusiast products like the S660 are naturally going to be the first to go.
It’s reported tHonda has no plans to introduce a follow-up to the S660, though it will send off the little guy with a special edition before manufacturing concludes in March of next year. Called the Modulo X Version Z, this final edition S660 comes in a special Sonic Gray Pearl paint with black trim outside; carbon fiber trim inside; burgundy upholstery, leather and top; and an “aluminum console” plaque to distinguish it from other iterations.
It looks good, though personally I’m married to the idea of a yellow S660. That was the Beat’s most advertised color, and likewise it always fit the S660. Though the more I think about it, you could paint a sub-1,900-pound open-top sports car with a 658cc engine behind the seats and manual gearbox literally any color visible or invisible to humans and I’d probably drive the hell out of it.
Upon learning of the S660's demise, my colleague and Honda Beat importer Mercedes Streeter had this to say: “I can’t wait until I can import one in *checks notes* way too many years from now.” Look forward to a story about the trials and tribulations of that experience in 2040.