Daily Slideshow: Is the S2000 Too Much for a First Car?
Although the S2000 is a desirable sports car, there are a few things new drivers should consider about the little Honda before choosing one as their first vehicle.
That S2K Itch
The S2000 makes for a great sports car, but do the inherent qualities of this 2-seat roadster make for an adequate first car? The S2K is still as sexy as it was nearly 20 years ago when it made its debut, which is likely why we see new drivers seeking the thrill of this performance vehicle. That said, any car will be a compromise in one area or another, so it is important to evaluate your vehicle needs to see if the Honda will meet those needs without being too much of a compromise. Here are a few things to consider if you are looking at an S2000 for your first car.
Rowing The Gears
Perhaps the first thing to consider before even pursuing an S2K is if you will be comfortable operating a manual transmission on a daily basis because that's it. Recent studies show that only about 15% of the population even knows how to select their own gears anymore, and only 5% of all cars sold today still come with a manual trans. A manual transmission is very involved and quite rewarding out on the back roads, but can often be a drag in heavy traffic. Additionally, many feel that new drivers already have plenty of distractions as it is and adding shifting into the mix only complicates things. On the other hand, we need more folks who love a good stick shift and you are likely to have boatloads of fun rowing your own gears if it meets your fancy.
Smaller Than Your Average Bear
The S2K is quite a small vehicle, but there are pros and cons to being pint-sized. Obviously, there are only two seats in the car, so you will only be capable of hauling one other soul around at a time. Cargo capacity is also at a premium as the car has a mere 5 cubic feet of space, meaning that you can't use your car as a much of storage container. Although the car is small, it is maneuverable and makes getting into and out of places much easier compared to something larger like a sedan.
Soft Top Woes
The S2000 originally came with a convertible soft top that is accompanied by all of the nuances associated with top-down driving. While the car is at its best with the top down, visibility out the rear is hampered with it closed as the rear window is quite small. Road noise is another issue that is common with the soft top, so if you want to cruise in silence you would be best off with a solid roof over your head. The soft top will wear, has the potential to leak over time, and has even been known to invite theft and/or get slashed. As an alternative, a hardtop will basically solve all of these potential issues, but they can be a pricey addition to your first vehicle.
Hondas have been known for their reliability and the S2000 is no different. The S2000 is a solid platform that typically does not take any additional maintenance over a regular commuter car and can easily go 250k miles. The S2K has been known to consume oil, so it is prudent to regularly check the engine oil level. Besides making sure the valve adjustments are properly set and ensuring that the timing chain tensioner is replaced in a timely manner once it's worn, the car has proven to be nearly bulletproof. As always when buying a used car, one that has been well taken care of and has had regular maintenance will be cheaper in the long run.
Honda built this car with razor-sharp handling in mind, so the suspension is tuned for speed. If you are looking for a plush, comfortable ride, you would be best looking elsewhere as the S2K tends to be hard-edged compared to conventional cars. You will feel the joints and potholes in the highway as you pass over them, but the trade-off is the great feedback that the car provides to the driver. In short, the S2000 is best suited for an enthusiast that wants to savor the drive as opposed to someone simply looking for a means of transportation.
Attentive Drivers Needed
Honda did a great job in making sure the crash safety ratings were top notch prior to releasing the S2000, so this is likely good information to share with whoever is making the purchase decisions. The S2000; however, has also been known as an unforgiving car that can catch inexperienced drivers out because of its snap oversteer. The first generation AP1 cars had a stiffer suspension setup and lacked traction control which made for a car that required an attentive driver. The updated AP2 released in 2004 received softer springs and anti-roll bars that helped to improve this tendency, but it would not be until 2008 that all cars came standard with traction control. The S2000 begs to be pushed to the limit and therefore requires a responsible driver.
Many young drivers have purchased an S2000 only to be shocked by huge insurance premiums dished out by the insurance companies. Insurance costs do not typically favor sports cars in general, so it is no surprise that a driver with minimal experience behind the wheel will get gouged with excessively high coverage costs. Age, location, driving history, car model, year, mileage driven, coverage options, etc. will play a huge role in the what insurance is going to cost. The best advice is to make sure insurance coverage will fit within your budget prior to working out a deal on an S2K to avoid any surprises.
A few other tidbits to consider is that the S2000 requires premium fuel and can be quite thirsty if driven hard. City driving can drop as low as 16 mpg whereas high driving can net 25+ mpg. Tires are another area that the S2K has been known to chew through rather quickly, however, the type of driving you do will have a significant impact on tire life. Many who are buying their first car are still in school, so it requires extra care to keep it from getting dinged in school parking lots by those who could care less about what kind of car it is. Overall, the S2000 is an awesome car to drive that provides a unique driving experience, which is why individuals are still talking about it nearly 20 years after its release. If you can live with some of its quirks and a few of its shortcomings, it can be a rewarding car that you will remember for the rest of your life.