4 out of 5 4.0
Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The sporting roadster that thrives on revs and excitement

Honda S2000 (99-09) - rated 4 out of 5
Enlarge 73 photos

At a glance

New price £27,730 - £28,686
Used price £4,550 - £16,035
Used monthly cost From £114 per month
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Road tax cost £280 - £585
Insurance group 40 - 44 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Good looks and well-engineered
  • Hugely impressive engine
  • Great fun to drive

CONS

  • Engine has to be worked hard
  • Can be unpredictable in the wet
  • Noisy on the motorway

Honda S2000 rivals

Written by Richard Kilpatrick on

The S2000 is the car that Honda built to celebrate its 50th birthday, and it compared well to more expensive alternatives such as the Porsche Boxster in terms of performance and driving enjoyment.

As a used buy, the values have swapped places, and now the S2000's rarity means it's considerably more expensive than a Porsche Boxster of the same age. Its abilities and appeal remain the same, but is it harder to justify as a used roadster now it's becoming a modern classic?

Is the Honda S2000 a good used buy?

It's powered by a superb 2.0-litre VTEC engine which provides stunning performance without using a turbocharger, and in true Honda fashion has proven to be incredibly reliable. It does need to be worked very hard though in order to tap into the maximum performance, which can make for a tiring, albeit involving, driving experience.

The handling is superb thanks to sharp steering and immense grip, however it can be unpredictable when pushed too hard - particularly in the wet.

As with any high-performance, enthusiast roadster it requires regular expert maintenance to keep everything as Honda intended, and despite the 'mainstream' brand it's more demanding than your average Japanese car.

Honda S2000 top tips

1: Oil is everything for the S2000

Even when new the S2000's engine used oil. Honda recommend checking it at every petrol stop, which not only means wear on the bonnet catch, it also means the potential for hot readings and overfilling are greater than with most cars.

Check for a clean, dry engine bay, and clean oil between the level markings on the dipstick. As with the Mazda RX-8 of the same era, a good sign of a caring owner is a bottle of the correct grade of oil, some gloves and disposable funnels kept in the car.

2. Not all S2000s are created equal

Over a ten-year production run the Honda S2000 unwent several evolutionary changes, and for that reason we'd suggest starting with a 2002-on model. This was the first to be revised after customer feedback and it's easily spotted by the glass rear window, but the changes are deeper and extend to revised suspension, better audio and many detail changes throughout.

After this initial refinement, the S2000's suspension and steering were continually tweaked, ultimately becoming softer, more forgiving and less sharp, though still excellent. We would suggest test driving a 2002/3 model, and a 2006-on model, and choosing which you prefer before spending big money on an S2000.

Whichever model you go for, condition is everything - if you find a perfect 1999 example it will be better than a tired 2004, even if the back window is plastic.

Modified cars and enthusiast owners mean no two S2000s will be alike and many will not be as they left the factory, so don't assume that a car that feels different is 'wrong'; it may just not be tuned to your taste.

3. The S2000 can rust - and does

It's an expensive car, but it's still made of metal and like other Japanese cars of the era, is well made, but has much less rust protection than many European cars. The end result is the same - the arches, sills, boot floor and subframes can all rust badly while the car looks shiny on top, and you should get an independent specialist to check the car over if you're in any doubt.

Enthusiast-owned cars may have had rust protection applied, and of course the dream is the summer use, garaged, cherished S2000. Many people share that dream, so if you want a bargain be prepared to view a lot of average cars that could be hiding serious problems behind a high asking price.

Should I buy a used Honda S2000 now?

Unusually for a car so recent, the values have already found a low point and started to recover, so if you want a Honda S2000 there's no point waiting for them to get older and cheaper. Given the tendency to rust and need for specialist maintenance, it's likely that the S2000 will be a niche, rare classic car by the 2040s, and either hard to find, or relatively expensive.

So yes, you should buy one now if you want one.

Read the rest of our review and buying guide for more details of what the car was like new, and what to look out for when buying one today.

Honda S2000 rivals