Probably second on any Honda enthusiast’s wish list, trailing the legendary NSX, is the S2000. This affordable, high-revving, and fun to drive 4-cylinder coupe made a splash when it was first released in 1999. Its 2-liter, naturally aspirated engine (N/A) put out 237hp (247 in Japan). For the time, that was quite an accomplishment and held the title of the highest horsepower (hp) to liter ratio of any mass-produced, N/A engine. Even by today’s standards, 124hp/liter is still an impressive number. Over the years, the S2000 won praise for its reliability and performance from respected publications such as Road&Track, Car and Driver, Jalopnik, and J.D. Power and Associates to name a few.
While the engine is the highlight of the S2000, commonly referred to as the “S2K”, there is more to this little coupe. It came with a tuned suspension and a 50/50 weight distribution that gave it excellent handling characteristics. As a result, S2K’s are popular to this day among car enthusiasts and racers alike and SCCA type track events are where this car shines. Also, there are plenty of aftermarket parts available from mild to wild to squeeze every bit of power out its 2-liter (later 2.2) engine. Thus, if you are looking for a track warrior or weekend fun car, the S2000 will not disappoint.
Pros and Cons
- Fun to drive and impressive power from an N/A four cylinder
- Good handling characteristics
- Affordable and reasonably priced, clean used models can be found for less than $20,000 USD
- Lots of aftermarket performance parts available
- Quite reliable despite being a sports car
- Underpowered by modern standards but can be fixed with a supercharger kit
- Clean, unmodified, and accident-free S2000’s are becoming more expensive and difficult to find
- Can be somewhat unforgiving for inexperienced drivers, prone to fishtailing. Poor traction in wet conditions
- Fairly stiff ride which might be uncomfortable for some
- Some parts and repairs can be expensive, especially engine and transmission
S2000 are quite reliable. Most issues are usually related to how well the car was maintained (or lack thereof) and how it was driven. Obviously, an S2K that has been modified or raced is likely to have more problems than a stock one. Not to mention, accident damage is common and like any used vehicle, it should be inspected prior to purchase. With that said, here are some frequently reported issues with the S2000.
High oil consumption is a recurring theme for many 1999-2003 models. Consuming a quart per 1000 miles is not unheard of although many times this is related to driving habits as VTEC motors tend to consume some oil at higher RPM’s. However, it could also be a sign the motor is due for a rebuild which can be costly. Oil consumption issues were largely fixed by 2004 and did not affect the 2.2-liter (F22C1) engine.
A second problem which affected the early production 2-liter (F20C) were cracked intake valve retainers due to overrevving the engine. Usually, it was a cumulative effect over time but should the retainer fail, expect to be in for some expensive engine repairs. Fortunately, the solution is fairly easy and cheap, with parts costing less than $200 and can be done with basic hand tools in your garage. It is usually advised to replace the valve retainers when buying a used 1999-2003 S2K. The F22C1 came with upgrade retainers and did not have this issue.
Lastly, is the timing chain tensioner, especially on high-mileage motors. Like the valve retainers, it’s a fairly inexpensive and easy fix. Fortunately, you’ll usually have an audible warning such as a ticking or tapping sound coming from the engine at idle well before it fails. There are stronger, aftermarket tensioners available that addressed this issue as well.
The S2000 has held its value and will likely become more expensive over the years as demand increases. Clean, accident-free, and unmodified models along with the Club Racer and the JDM-only Type-V and Type-S sell for a premium. Pricing typically ranges from $15,000-$25,000 USD.
There are not many directly comparable alternatives that were convertible and came with an N/A 4-cylinder engine in the $30,000 price range when new. The closest spec’d competitor is the Mazda MX-5, however it was cheaper and had less horsepower. The BMW Z4 and Nissan 370 Fairlady are similar in terms of performance and were available as convertibles but had 6-cylinder engines.
Models and Specifications
The S2000 was produced from 1999-2009 with two engines offered depending on the year and market. Horsepower specs were as follows: 237 for the 2-liter (F20C) used in NA from 99-03 and the EU from 99-09, 247hp for JDM models from 99-05. The 2.2-liter (F22C1) 237hp engine was used in all North American models from 04-09 and 239hp for JDM models (06-09). A 6-speed manual transmission was the only option available.
All versions received the F20C with JDM models having an extra 10hp due to a slightly higher 11.7:1 compression ratio.
Over the course of four years, there were several minor changes. Starting in 2001, an aluminum hardtop was now available. This was followed in 2002 with the plastic rear window being replaced with glass, the stereo was upgraded, and there were some minor suspension tweaks.
Also, there was a JDM-only Type V produced from 2000-2007. The main feature of this model was an optional variable gear ratio steering (VGS). What this did was continuously change the steering ratio depending on the vehicle speed which improved handling and made parking easier. The suspension was slightly modified to complement the VGS as well.
In 2004, the S2K received a refresh with several updates. The North American models now received the larger 2.2-liter engine followed by Japan in 2006. All other markets continued to receive the F20C through 2009.
The wheel size increased from 16” to 17” and the suspension was tweaked again, mainly the shocks and spring stiffness. The front lip and rear bumper were redesigned along with the headlight and taillight assemblies. Starting in 2006, a drive by wire throttle and electronic stability control were introduced.
For 2008, a Club Racer (CR) model was offered in the US. This was essentially a track-ready version of the S2K. The main features of the CR were: a lower ratio steering rack, darker colored wheels, stiffer suspension, weight reduction mods, chassis braces, and a revised body kit and rear spoiler. In terms of weight savings, the stereo and A/C were optional, the spare tire and jack were removed which made the CR approximately 90lbs lighter than a standard S2K. All models were hardtop convertibles and a total of 699 were made in 2008 and 2009.
A JDM-only version known as the Type S came with the above options although the suspension was slightly softer as it was more intended to be a streetcar. A total of 1755 of these were produced from 2008-2009.
It should be noted 2010 and 2011 sales numbers were leftover 2009 models that were still on dealer lots.
If the S2000 is 15+ years old it can be imported to Canada. In the USA, it must be 25 years old.
They were well-built, fun to drive, with good performance characteristics. As a result, they have become popular over the last few years.
The Club Racer, Type S and Type V (JDM only). These three are the most desirable with the CR and Type-V being as close to a street-legal race version of the S2000 you can get. The Type-S had an extra 10hp and was the only model that came with the VGS.
Considering the S2K is a sports car, a prospective buyer should have the vehicle inspected prior to purchase. The main things to check for are accident damage and has it been modified and/or raced. If the answer yes to any of these, you might be in for some costly repairs later.
How to Import a Honda S2000
Read our ultimate guide, How to Import a Car from Japan.
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