Honda to debut new convertible at Tokyo motor show

The S660 Concept combines mid-engine thrills and spills with an environmental conscience and could be heading for production before 2015.

The S660 has the haunches and sharp angles of a serious roadster, but is powered by a 660cc motorcycle engine.

However, to make sure it isn’t left standing at the traffic lights or passed on the finishing line, the small powerplant is force-fed via a turbocharger so that it can deliver 64bhp.

OK, that’s a mere 10 percent of the current Dodge Viper’s 640bhp output and a smidgen over 7 percent of what a McLaren P1 can offer, but this car will be considerably lighter (it tips the scales at around the 850kg mark) and considerably less expensive to buy or maintain. And making sure that the car is always at optimum revs, it uses a CVT gearbox all of which means that it should be fun to drive at any speed.

And, if the car comes to Europe — for the moment it is only guaranteed to launch in Japan — it will do so with a bigger, 1-liter turbocharged engine and therefore even more power.

The reason for Honda’s preference for a motorbike engine in its native Japan is down to keijidosha, which roughly translated means ‘Light Automobile’ and is a class of vehicle that complies with the country’s strictest tax, insurance, size and power put regulations.

Owners of cars that meet these criteria benefit from lower vehicle taxes and insurance premiums and in the 1990s inspired a spate of motorbike-engine-powered two-door, two-seat cult micro sports cars, such as the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappuccino, which have since become collectors’ items in Europe — particularly the UK where, like Japan, cars are right-hand drive making their import and daily use much simpler. All that’s required is that the speedometer be updated to indicate miles per hour as well as kilometers per hour.

Some keijidosha car fans are already heralding the S660 concept as the return of the Honda Beat. But to see it in the flesh, car fans will need to be in Tokyo on November 20 when the 43rd Tokyo Motor show officially gets underway.