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With a long-standing tradition of building compact, open-top sports cars that started with the S600 and recently ended with the S2000, Honda seems intent to get back into the game. After seeing the success Toyota/Subaru has had with the 86 (Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ), Honda is primed to one-up its rivals. According to a source within Honda, a new affordable sports car is being seriously considered, but don’t expect something as high-end as the S2000…think small, quick and light. Here’s what we learned:

Many Honda engineers and executives believe that they were beat to the punch when Toyota/Subaru introduced its affordable rear-drive sports offering. And now that they know the market is hungry again for exciting affordable sports cars, a new “S1500” is on the drawing board within the walls of the company’s Tokyo headquarters. The car would be small, probably even smaller than the Mazda MX-5, and come equipped with either a 1.3-liter or 1.5-liter inline-4 with i-VTEC. If the latter, it could well be the current engine under the Fit’s hood that can produce up to 132 hp. The car would be very light, about 900 kg or right at about 2000 lb., making it very quick and agile. It would of course be rear-drive, and come with a 5-speed manual gearbox. Our source says he would like to see the car priced around $20,000. There’s even talk that the “S1500” may come with a mid-engine layout, a la the Honda Beat.

As for the car’s design direction, we hear that Honda would either use the Japan-only N-ONE as the base (as pictured here) or make it look more like the current Civic. We like the N-ONE styling because it pays homage to the S600. Either way, look for Honda to come up with this answer to the Toyota 86 and the Mazda MX-5 in 2015 or 2016.