2009 Honda S2000 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
May 3, 2009

The 2009 Honda S2000 is a true sportscar, in the sense that it trades comfort and refinement for speed and performance.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Honda S2000 in order to give you an expert assessment here in this Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests on the new Honda S2000 to produce a review that surveys a wide range of observations and opinions.

It’s been a decade since Honda launched the S2000, and its styling can no longer hide the car’s age. However, the roadster gets a respectable 18/25-mpg fuel economy, and the 237-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine's performance is stunning.

Drive the S2000 gently and you probably won’t be pleased with the buzzy powertrain and busy ride. Tuned to perform on tight hairpins, the S2000 can feel taut and jittery on public roads. Wind out the engine and push its limits in corners, and you’re in for a completely different, grin-inducing experience; that’s what the Honda S2000 is all about.

Mazda's Miata feels almost roomy in comparison to the S2000. The cockpit is cramped no matter how small the occupants. The high shoulders of the S2000 confine the driver and passenger, and the steering wheel sits low even at its highest adjustment point. Uncharacteristically for Honda, the controls aren't laid out cleanly (there's not a lot of dash space to do so), and the big red Start button seems more like a gimmick. There's plenty of black plastic, too, in the name of saving weight.

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The 2009 Honda S2000 is one of the least practical mass-production cars on the planet. There's almost no interior or trunk storage, the cockpit's more cramped than the coach seats on a Boeing 757, and it's priced above $30,000. It is a classic roadster sportscar with rear-wheel drive, a ragtop to open on sunny days, a six-speed manual transmission, and a rev-happy four-cylinder engine.

Last year Honda introduced the S2000 CR, the club-racer version of the standard S2000. The CR gets a full-body aerodynamic kit, high-performance Bridgestone tires, firmer suspension settings, a thicker anti-roll bar, and new wheels. A lightweight aluminum hardtop that cuts weight by about 90 pounds replaces the soft-top mechanism. Inside, the CR gets distinctive cloth seats with yellow stitching, a new aluminum shifter knob, and carbon-fiber look-alike trim panels.

Standard equipment on the 2009 Honda S2000 includes electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, but side airbags—a feature now found on nearly all new vehicles—aren’t available.

8

2009 Honda S2000

Styling

The S2000 Honda’s styling remains unchanged for 2009, but it's a favorite among go-fast enthusiasts.

Though the 2009 Honda S2000 has a dated design, the base model stands out for its impressive blend of style and performance, despite the overwhelming additions on the CR.

Cars.com reports other exterior highlights include stylish “high-intensity-discharge headlamps and 17-inch alloy wheels” that come standard on the 2009 Honda S2000. Edmunds lodges the most prominent criticism of the exterior of the 2009 Honda S2000, noting that while the new aerodynamic pieces on the CR “reduce high-speed aerodynamic lift by about 70 percent,” they also “reduce the car’s overall visual appeal by, oh, 79 percent.” Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the exterior styling of the 2009 Honda S2000 is a huge success, and Kelley Blue Book says the Honda S2000 “strikes a very un-Honda like, somewhat wicked poise” that can “resemble an angry cobra about to strike.”

Kelley Blue Book notes that “CR models include an aerodynamic body kit,” along with “lift-reducing front and rear spoilers and a removable aluminum hard top in place of the conventional cloth” version on the standard Honda S2000.
According to the reviewers at Edmunds, the “2009 Honda S2000 is a compact two-seat roadster that’s offered in two trims: standard and CR.” Both trims share the same basic profile, which Cars.com calls a “wedge-shaped profile that stands apart from other roadsters.”

ConsumerGuide approves of the interior layout on the 2009 Honda S2000, claiming that the “S2000 has a cozy cockpit, so everything is close at hand,” and while the “electronic bar-graph tachometer and digital speedometer are not the sports-car norm,” they are “easy to read.” Edmunds chimes in, noting that “nearly all the controls you’ll ever need are mounted within a finger’s extension of the steering wheel.” One of the cooler interior features to find its way into a production car is the “new Peak-Power Indicator” on the 2009 Honda S2000 CR, a feature that Cars.com says will flash “a green light when peak power is reached.” Kelley Blue Book gushes the 2009 Honda S2000’s “interior is full of wonderful surprises,” including a “big red START button on the dash” and “the long center console [that] sits up high, affording you the perfect perch on which to rest your arm.”

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2009 Honda S2000

Performance

With razor-sharp handling and precise steering, the 2009 S2000 Honda doesn’t disappoint driving enthusiasts.

The 2009 Honda S2000 enjoys better handling due to the quicker steering ratio and new tires, and the CR model is a track-worthy contender that can hold its own against more expensive European and American competition.

The EPA estimates that the 2009 Honda S2000, whether in standard or CR form, will get 18 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. Most cars as potent as the 2009 Honda S2000 pay a significant penalty at the gas pump, but the small engine combined with lightweight construction on the Honda S2000 yields a relatively frugal performance machine.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the engine is happiest when running flat-out. Cars.com notes that “once it reaches 5,000 rpm or so, the S2000 lunges forward like a rocket,” and Edmunds adds that “piloting the 2009 Honda S2000 takes some getting used to, since peak power is delivered at almost 8,000 rpm.” ConsumerGuide reviewers love the engine and find the Honda S2000 “provides a surprising supply of usable power across a broad rpm range, combined with ultrahigh-revving excitement.” Despite the fact that two distinct versions of the 2009 Honda S2000 are available, Edmunds reports that the only engine offered is a “2.2-liter four-cylinder that churns out 237 hp at a lofty 7,800 rpm and 162 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm.” Honda has tuned the engine on the Honda S2000 almost to the breaking point, with Car and Driver commenting that “the S2000’s 2.2-liter four is basically maxed out.”

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com also compliment the S2000’s transmission for its smooth shifts and short throws. Kelley Blue Book claims that the engine and transmission combination makes for “startlingly-quick performance,” while the chassis adds “remarkable nimbleness” to the 2009 Honda S2000 package. Cars.com states that the four-cylinder engine on the S2000 Honda “mates with a six-speed manual transmission” that ConsumerGuide says will offer “manageable clutch action” and a “slick, short-throw gearbox.”

As good as the engine/transmission combination is, handling is still a hallmark of the 2009 S2000. Cars.com holds nothing back in praising the “razor-sharp steering, disciplined handling and athletic cornering ability” of the 2009 Honda S2000. Kelley Blue Book reviewers rave about the “nearly flat cornering behavior and extremely crisp response that allows” the 2009 Honda S2000 “to negotiate the corners with sure tenacity.” The Club Racer is even more impressive, with Car and Driver reporting it “is simply harder and sharper, with less body roll and tire scrubbing and more corner composure and stability under braking.” Unfortunately, the price for all that performance is poor ride quality, and ConsumerGuide points out that “nearly every small bump and tar strip registers through the seats.” On the positive side, ConsumerGuide also comments that “braking is swift and easily modulated” whether you are driving on the street or the track.

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6

2009 Honda S2000

Comfort & Quality

Comfort and practicality are scarce in the 2009 Honda S2000.

There's no disputing the Honda S2000's quality and reliability, but interior comfort may not be as good as that of other cars in its class. However, in TheCarConnection.com's experience, those seeking race-car-like handling are usually willing to sacrifice a few comfort amenities for increased performance.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com’s editors all praise the build quality of the 2009 Honda S2000. Kelley Blue Book loves that the Honda S2000 offers performance “but with a Honda price tag and build quality,” which is to say low and high, respectively. ConsumerGuide points out that “materials are solid and assembled well,” and the “power top operates quickly and seals well,” despite the fact that the top can be a problem area on some roadsters. Edmunds reviewers rave about the “bulletproof reliability promised by its impeccable Honda bloodlines.”

The 2009 Honda S2000’s interior is loud in either standard or CR trim. ConsumerGuide finds that, even with the “top up, tire roar is very intrusive.” Edmunds adds that “the assault on the ears is slightly less endearing, especially on long trips,” and “the noise factor is even more of an issue with the CR trim, since CR models sacrifice sound-deadening material in the interest of reducing curb weight.”

Cars.com reviewers appreciate the “body-hugging, leather-trimmed bucket seats,” of the S2000, but they also note “the range of driving positions is limited because the steering wheel doesn’t adjust and the seats must be positioned manually.” While the overall dimensions of the S2000 Honda may be a bit confining, Kelley Blue Book still loves the “deeply contoured bucket seats” that hold you firmly in place during aggressive cornering. The 2009 Honda S2000 is a small two-seater with a “snug” cockpit, according to Edmunds, and even that description is generous. ConsumerGuide reports that “large people have precious little room to spare, so they may find the seats too confining.”

Cars.com, like most reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, says that “storage space is at a premium,” finding “a tiny bin between the seats and a trunk with only 5 cubic feet of capacity.” ConsumerGuide recommends that drivers “pack light,” since the Honda S2000’s trunk only “holds a fair number of plastic grocery bags or a couple of day packs.” What limited space there is on the 2009 Honda S2000 is devoted almost entirely to the driver and passenger, and precious little room is given to anything they might want to carry with them.

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2009 Honda S2000

Safety

Despite being a small, lightweight sportscar without side airbags, the 2009 Honda S2000 tests well.

TheCarConnection.com found that the Honda S2000 earned four out of a possible five stars from NHTSA in the front impact category, while also managing a perfect five stars in the side-impact rating despite the absence of side airbags. Although the IIHS has not had the chance to test any 2009 Honda S2000s for their crashworthiness, NHTSA did manage to procure a couple to demolish.

NHTSA’s results are very impressive, especially considering the safety features not included on the S2000 Honda. Cars.com mentions that, unlike with many cars on the road today, “side-impact airbags are not offered,” even as options. Among the included features are “antilock disc brakes and stability control,” both of which are standard, according to Edmunds.

The only downside to visibility from within the cramped confines of the 2009 Honda S2000, according to ConsumerGuide, is that “top-up visibility is not great over the shoulder,” but they also note it’s “better than in many rivals.”

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10

2009 Honda S2000

Features

The standard features found on the 2009 Honda S2000 should be enough to leave most buyers satisfied.

The 2009 Honda S2000 is one of few mass-produced cars without factory options. On the bright side, this makes shopping easier, and odds are you won’t miss much.

One of the more talked-about features on the S2000 Honda in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is the pair of “headrest speakers” that Kelley Blue Book says “are the only way to really hear your music when both the top and the accelerator pedal are down” in the Honda S2000. Edmunds lists some of the other standard features on the 2009 Honda S2000: “17-inch alloy wheels, xenon HID headlights…full power accessories, air-conditioning and a CD player.” ConsumerGuide reports that “cruise control” and “remote keyless entry” are also included among the Honda S2000’s features. The standard features list on the Honda S2000 may not be lengthy (there’s only so much you can fit inside such a small car), but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for with quality and usefulness.

Amazingly, the S2000 CR removes some of the limited features found on the standard 2009 S2000. Motor Trend says that the “radio and air conditioning are deleted” on the Honda S2000 CR, though “they can be put back in as an option” at no extra charge. Without those amenities, Motor Trend says, the weight-conscious Honda S2000 CR “weighs 99 pounds less than a regular S2000.”

TheCarConnection.com notes a few options—including XM Satellite Radio—that can be installed at the dealership.

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September 18, 2015
2009 Honda S2000 2-Door Convertible

Outstanding sports car that has Italian good looks and performance, with Japanese reliability and simplicity.

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An outstanding sports car that has Italian good looks and performance, with Japanese reliability and simplicity. Absolutely it is the best of both worlds, with exclusivity to boot.
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8.2
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Styling 8
Performance 9
Comfort & Quality 6
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Features 10
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