Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Richard Hammond Reviews The 1999 Honda S2000

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Try if you will to categorise 'Honda' as a car manufacturer. What do they specialise in making?

Look around and you might think it's small and rather faceless family hatchbacks.

But then again they do make the 'Integra' and now the 'Accord Type-R', both full-on nutter machines.

But there is a common factor here

'Honda' cars are discrete.

It's not until you drive the 'Integra Type-R', do you realise what it's all about.

Look at it, and it's just an ordinary hatch with a spoiler stuck on the back.

And then there's the 'NSX', a car that takes being understated to the point of being, well, not very funny at all, really.

Who wants to have a supercar that can outgun a 'Ferrari', but looks like, a 'Honda'?

And now it looks as though 'Honda's' new baby is about to do to the two-seater roadster market

what the 'NSX' did to the supercar market.

Nothing.

The 'Honda S2000' isn't about to set anyone's knees trembling on looks alone.

An 'MX5' is cuter, a 'Porsche Boxster', more beautiful, and a 'BMW Z3', more sort of...snarling.

But it does have something.

The metal looks like fabric stretched tautly over shapes, defined by this big boxy grill at the front, these slanted headlights and these big bulgy wheel arches.

It's distinctive, but understated.

'Honda' it seems have taken the concept of the small two-seater roadster and they've gone all sensible about it.

They've tried to make it work... as a car.

They wanted to keep to a 2 litre, 4 cylinder engine, because it's light and compact, and thanks to the 'V-Tech' system; very high revving.

Also being so compact, that means 'Honda' could mount it a long way back; under that long bonnet at the front.

And that gives it the 50/50 weight distribution, that fans of mid-engined supercars will tell you; "Is what driving pleasure is all about".

So we have here; a rear-wheel driven, two seater, open-top roadster

with a 50/50 weight distribution and an engine that will happily rev to 9000.

When you just know, it's got to be fun.

And then they get really clever; by a combination of technical virtuosity and I suspect voodoo.

'Honda' have managed to squeeze an incredible 240 brake horsepower

out of that 2 litre, 4 cylinder engine.

Now come on chaps, that really isn't playing a game.

I mean a chap could've hurt himself.

Isn't that rather missing the point though? We should know, we're British, and we've been blatting around in little two-seater for decades.

And we know that they should be cramped, unreliable and outpaced by large family cars.

But always beautiful and dashing.

So what's all this talk of reliability, performance, handling?

Come on chaps, play the game.

'Mazda' may have made their 'MX5' indestructible, but it's certainly not over-powerful.

And the 'Z3' in anything other than 'M-Tech' form, is just pure pose value.

'Honda' then have decided to make their baby two-seater work in all departments.

And then there's the price; well like anything else, the two-seaters roadster has gone up in price over the years.

From being just the thing for a young gadabout to be seen spinning around town.

It's become a play thing for the fat fifty-something, corporate gladiators to escape in at the weekend.

At a shade under 28 grand, the 'S2000' is about 6 thousand cheaper that your 'Porsche Boxster'.

But, it outperforms it.

People regularly spec-up their 'Z3's', until they cost around this, and the only ones cheaper

are the 'Mazda MX5' and 'Fiat Barchetta'.

Neither of which are even in the same league when it comes to performance.

Perhaps the only disappointment for the 'S2000', is the interior.

Which once you get past the racey red leather sport seats, and the extra deep transmission tunnel;

which does give the car extra stiffness

It's all a bit bland really.

Some of the switch gear, though very sturdy, is a little on the flakey side, and I'm still not a big fan of the digital dash.

And that exterior, I've come to like it.

It's taut, purposeful and stylish, and I'm sorry for saying that it wasn't.

It may take a while to realise it, but I think it looks fantastic.

But it is very comfortable in here, and like the rest of the car it feels very substantial and very well put together.

But it's not for sitting around and gawping at, the idea is you're supposed to take it out.

Drive it... enjoy it.

Drive it quite fast.

Now hold on a minute.

I've found a fault, everything is not rosy after all, and It's this;

You've pulled up to some beauty spot with a lady in your life, look out at the view and

the moment arrives, and you lean across;

"Darling I wonder if I might steal a kiss"

"Is it me or is it raining? Ahhh!"

It's the headlamp washer. The buttons and you...

It's not cool. It's not cool at all.

Quite embarrassing.

There is passion in the 'S2000' and it starts here with this button.

It's big. It's red. And as it says; it starts the engine.

And it's absolute proof that 'Honda' are just a little bit proud of what they've done with this car.

And justifiably so, they've taken the concept of the small two-seater roadster by the scruff of the neck

and have shaken it, 'til it's goggles fell off.

They've produced a car that is tauter, stronger and faster, than anything else in the class.

And it does it all, for less than anything else in the class.

It still may not be a cheap toy.

But it's a damn good one.

The Description of Richard Hammond Reviews The 1999 Honda S2000