Not Just Front-Wheel Drive? Five Great RWD Hondas to Appreciate from the S2000 to the Beat
Honda, perhaps more than any other automaker, is known for building some of the best front-engine, front-wheel-drive enthusiast vehicles of all time. From the CRXs of the 1980s to the Integra Type R of the '90s and the turbocharged, world-beating turbocharged Civic Type R of today, Honda's history is filled with front-drive vehicles that have punched far above the weight.
Most casual enthusiasts primarily associate Honda with the front-wheel-drive layout, but the company has also built some pretty special RWD vehicles, with engines mounted up front, midship, and even electric powertrains.
There's the mid-engined, rear-drive Honda/Acura NSX of course, but that car is so well-known and so beloved that its a little too obvious. But here are five others of varying popularity.
This one is nearly as obvious as the NSX, but the S2000 is hands down the greatest front-engined, rear-drive car that Honda has ever built, and one that's stood the test of time incredibly well.
When it was released in 1999, the Honda S2000 made waves across the enthusiast world. Not only was it a rear-wheel drive two-seat sports car, it also packed a screaming 9,000 RPM 2.0L VTEC engine that made 120hp per liter naturally aspirated.
If there was ever a Honda that deserved a modern rebirth, the S2000 is it. Its popularity has been high since day one, and the car has only become more beloved in the nearly 15 years since Honda stopped building it.
From the S2000 we go all the way back to 1963 and the vehicle that was actually Honda's first production automobile: the T360 pickup truck.
Powered by a mid-mounted, motorcycle-based 360cc four-cylinder engine, the T360 made just 30 horsepower and revved up to 8,500 RPM.
The T360 would of course, evolve into the small-displacement kei-class trucks like Honda Acty that are still commonplace on Japanese roads to this day.
The Beat was Honda's entry into the kei class sports car battle of the 1990s. That meant both the car and its engine were extremely small.
But despite its tiny-size, the Beat was a true sports car, with an open top, a mid-engined layout and a high-winding, 656cc naturally-aspirated three-cylinder engine.
In many ways, the Beat was like a pint-sized version of the Honda NSX, and though it was never imported the US by Honda, its affordable price has made it popular with JDM aficionados in recent years.
The Beat actually made such a lasting impression on Japan's auto market that Honda decided to revive the formula in 2015 with the debut of the Honda S660.
Like the Beat, it the S660 is a kei-class sports car with a mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels, this time with a turbocharger affixed to its tiny three-cylinder engine.
The S660 ended production in 2022, and will likely become a modern classic alongside the original Beat. We wouldn't be surprised, though to see Honda bring back the concept again in the future, likely in the form of a small electric sports car.
Finally, we get to the newest car on the list, the current Honda e. Though this small electric car is not sold in the United States, its one of the more interesting Honda products currently on the market.
Yes, the styling is cool as it takes inspiration from the first generation Honda Civic of the 1970s, but its also neat in that its rear-mounted electric motor powers the rear wheels.
Unfortunately, despite its drivetrain layout, the Honda e is much more of a city car than a backroad burner, but we can't help but think about how cool a higher-performance version might be.
More From Driving Line
- Want to see how a modified S2000 does against Toyota's mighty Supra on the track? Check out this episode of Driver Battles.