Toyota MR2 2021 review

The MR2 is a fun two-seat sports car sold between 1984 and 2006

£6,509
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Great fun to drive
  • Smart styling
  • Affordable used prices

Cons

  • Virtually no boot space
  • Cheap interior
  • Optional automatic gearbox isn’t the best fit
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Though Toyota might be best-known for its hybrid models these days, this firm has increasingly been showing a rather different streak with its GR performance division. It’s produced some of the best sporting models in recent years, though they tend to come at a price. 

So if you’re looking at a Toyota sports car on a budget, a model that should be considered is the MR2 – a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car that first arrived in 1984 as a more affordable performance model that was still enjoyable to drive, but also cheap to run. 

A second-generation arrived in 1989 as the same targa-top style of convertible, featuring removable panels but not the same ability to lower the roof at the touch of a button. This would continue in production until 1999.

Latest model

The most recent generation of MR2 arrived in 2000, with the model aiming to bring the same fun and affordability as its predecessors. This model moved to a full drop-top style of convertible with its soft-top roof, yet Toyota still managed to keep the weight under a tonne – something that was a priority on the new car. An optional hard-top roof was also available for those looking for slightly more in the way of creature comforts. 

Slight changes in this model of MR2’s lifetime included various bodykits being available, while a 2003 version introduced stability control and traction control on automatic models, along with changes such as larger tyres and suspension changes to improve the handling. The only noticeable design changes, though, are its redesigned lights at the front and rear.

Value for money

At its launch, the third-generation MR2 represented great value for money, with prices starting from just £17,130, and undercutting the majority of its key rivals. 

Though many sports cars of this ilk have already started shooting up in value, the MR2 remains a very affordable way into buying a fun convertible. Slightly tatty but usable examples are available from under £2,000, though you won’t have to spend much more for a high-mileage but tidy example. Prices rise to £8,000 for the cleanest, lowest mileage examples, though somewhere in the middle will get you a really clean version for not a lot of money.

Looks and image

Though it might have been more than two decades since the last generation MR2 debuted, it actually remains quite a stylish and appealing-looking model, even by modern standards. The smart but fuss-free styling has aged well, while standard-fit alloy wheels and neat proportions add to the appeal. 

The same can’t be said about the MR2’s interior, which aims to be functional, rather than upmarket in any way. A low seating position works well on a model of this kind, while big buttons mean it’s actually quite easy to use on the move, possibly more so than plenty of modern cars. 

But the best thing about the MR2 is the way it drives. A limited-slip differential ensures plenty of traction, while this Toyota’s light kerbeight, rear-wheel-drive layout and relatively powerful engine ensure it’s really rather fun to drive. The steering is also sharp, while it’s impressively agile, too. Even next to more modern sports cars, it still feels like it’s able to hold its own.

Space and practicality

Though a model like the MR2 is never going to be bought for its practicality, the MR2 really is rather flawed in this area to say the least. 

The drop-top roof and mid-engined layout means there’s no boot at the rear, with the only luggage space is under the bonnet – though even this is taken up by a spare tyre if it’s selected. If you intend to have a sports car that can be used for weekends away, the MR2 is a poor choice. On the plus side, there’s a decent amount of cabin space for a car of this size, while all models come with a decent amount of safety kit when you consider when it was built.

Engines

All last-generation MR2s feature the same 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engines. As we’ve mentioned, it’s also rear-wheel-drive, with a choice of five-speed manual gearbox or a semi-automatic transmission available, though the latter is quite rare to find. 

The engine kicks out 138bhp and 170Nm of torque, with the MR2 able to sprint to 60mph in just 7.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 130mph.

Running costs

Toyota always intended for its MR2 to be a sports car that could be used and enjoyed without incurring steep running costs, and it’s certainly one of the most affordable cars to run of this type. The Japanese firm claims it can return 38.2mpg, though you’re unlikely to ever see a figure that high. On the plus side, servicing costs should be quite affordable for a car of this type, while its insurance group is relatively low too. As for road tax, you can expect to pay £275 for the full year. 

Things to look out for

Toyota has a rather good reputation for its cars’ reliability, and the MR2 is no exception, with its mechanicals known to be good, proved by just how many high-mileage examples are for sale. 

There are a few things to be aware of, though, including the pre-cat in the exhaust manifold breaking and the possibility of bits of it ending in the engine. Models are also quite susceptible to rust, so it’s worth checking for any signs of this, especially on the subframe. As with any convertible, you should check there are no leaks or damage to the roof, as this is always an expensive part to repair and replace.

Rivals

Probably the closest rival to the MR2 is the Mazda MX-5, which remains in production. You could also consider the MG TF, Lotus Elise or the Vauxhall VX220 as a left-field alternative. If you’d prefer something a bit more upmarket, the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z4 and Audi TT Roadster are all great options.

Depreciation

With new MR2s not being sold since 2006, all have depreciated as far as they will go. Well-kept and tidy examples are unlikely to lose any money. 

Trims explained

Only one main trim level was available on the MR2, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.

MR2

Standard equipment on the MR2 includes remote central locking, electric windows, power steering and a Sony radio/CD player with four speakers. An engine immobiliser and Thatcham category 1 alarm are also included on the security front. Elsewhere, sports seats, a leather steering wheel and 15-inch alloy wheels are all fitted as standard.

From £1,500

Summary

  1. Sports car sold between 1984 and 2006
  2. Great fun to drive
  3. Affordable to buy used
  4. Not very practical even by class standards
  5. Decent amount of standard equipment
  6. Good reliability reputation
  7. Smart styling
  8. Low kerbweight
  9. Manual and automatic gearboxes available
  10. A fun and affordable used sports car

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