Digestible Collectible: 2003 Honda S2000

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, Honda could do no wrong in enthusiasts’ eyes. Nearly everything was a hit. The CRX, Civic, Prelude, NSX and Integra all handled beautifully, taking well to both motorsport and unwise modification.

Near the turn of the century, however, some folks decreed that Honda had lost its way. The double-wishbone suspension was phased out in most cars, replaced by the space-saving, less-expensive McPherson strut. Honda enthusiasts decided that this change fundamentally altered the character of the cars.

As it turns out, Honda had one last round in the chamber.

The S2000 was unlike any other Honda before or since. Not since the very early ’70s had anything from Honda come with an otherwise traditional front engine, rear-drive configuration. Clearly an upscale competitor to the Miata, and perhaps a budget alternative to the Z3, the S2000 quickly found favor among those who wanted plenty of power in a compact, nimble package. Two-hundred-and-forty horsepower out of a 2-liter is remarkable even 15 years later.

This 2003 Honda S2000 at $14,900 seems priced right in the sweet spot. I’ve seen ratty cars for $5,000-8,000, and pristine cars up over $20,000, but for a car that had few major changes over a nine-year model run, never mind the fanbois internet-fighting over the AP1/AP2 differences, generally the best advice is to buy the cleanest car you can afford.

This car is not too far from home. Perhaps I’ll go give it a drive this weekend — assuming I fit. The one and only time I tried to drive an S2000, I had to plant my somewhat-voluminous rear on the side bolsters as I couldn’t slide all the way in. I’ve lost weight in the interim, so I might be able to make this happen. I love the dark grey paint, though I’d prefer to see the red leather interior.

The last few years have been somewhat quiet for fans of new Hondas, as we wait for the new Civic Si and Type-R. Let’s hope they are worth the wait.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Chan Chan on Oct 21, 2015

    My only gripe against the S2000 is the seats that place you practically on the cabin floor. My 6' height meant that my thighs were uncomfortably canted, knees-up, with no support. Although I had a little headroom, the car is a terrible ride for taller people.

  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Oct 21, 2015

    I thought Honda cars from the early 70s were front wheel drive as well (the N600 sedan/Z600 Coupe were at least). Honda does make RWD vehicles, but they are kei truck/vans sold in Japan. Honda's first four wheeled vehicle was a RWD truck IIRC. I have never had the pleasure of driving an S2000. Given their ability to hold their value as they do, I may never get the chance to own one, but Id sure like to drive one at some point. Speaking of the Z600 Coupe, I want one so bad, it could almost be considered an obsession. Gotta be Advacado Green, orange or yellow. I have a bright yellow Z600 Coupe from an old JDM advertisement as my background on my PC, its been that way for several years (although admittedly, I rarely use the PC anymore).

    • Ryoku75 Ryoku75 on Oct 21, 2015

      They built tiny convertible RWD coupes known as Honda S500-800's, rare cars in any case. Years ago my family had an Avacado Green Honda Z600, it had surprisingly little rust but the engine timing was off so shifting was a bit of an issue, it gathered quite the crowd at car shows. Aside from usual age issues and small size (even Smarts dwarf these) sourcing parts was a bit of a challenge (even just the tires were a chore to find) so we sold it, this was all before youtube and such. It was a good novelty car but aside from great mpg it wasn't all that endearing, but then again we didnt drive it as much as we should have.

  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂