First came the Mazda Miata, back about the turn of the decade, then came the BMW Z3 in 1996, and the Porsche Boxster and Mercedes-Benz 230 Kompressor in the '97 model year.
Seems like there's a run on two-seat roadsters, although the Mazda is the only one that is truly affordable for almost anyone - selling for about $20,000, compared with $30,000 and up for the BMW and $40,000 and up for the Benz and the Porsche.Now, Honda plans to enter the market, with a roadster based on a concept car the Japanese automaker displayed at the Tokyo auto show a couple of years ago.
The trade weekly Automotive News ran a spy photo of the slightly disguised Honda roadster this month, showing a vehicle that is remarkably similar to the Miata, including a soft top.
Honda says the car, yet to be named, will be introduced in Japan next summer, in honor of the company's 50th anniversary. It won't make its way to U.S. shores until sometime in 1999.
The car will carry a four-cylinder engine with Honda's variable valve timing system, and will come with a six-speed manual transmission. The body will be aluminum, and the vehicle will have rear-wheel drive, in the tradition of all good roadsters.
Still undetermined is where it will be priced: close to the Miata or higher, in the range of the BMW? With the expected high-horsepower engine and aluminum body, I would expect to see it closer to $30,000 than $20,000.
Until now, Honda's only competitor to the Miata has been the two-seat Del Sol, a Civic-based front-drive minicar with a removable roof panel that almost turns it into a convertible.
The new roadster will be much more of a driver's car, and should garner a lot of attention. Maybe even a starring role in a new James Bond movie or something of that sort.