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Toyota MR2

Published: 25th Feb 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Toyota MR2

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 1587/4-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 122/6600
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 105/5000
  • Top speed: 119mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.7sec
  • Fuel consumption: 29mpg
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual
  • Length: 12ft 11in (3.93m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 6in (1.67m)
  • Weight: 2355lb (1066kg)
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The MR2 has it all and at prices you wouldn’t believe.

With classic cars there’s often a catch. You can have a fantastic chassis with poise, grip and balance, but it’ll be at a huge financial cost. Or it’ll be unreliable unless it’s serviced every week. Or it just doesn’t handle, stop or go that well regardless of the penalties. Unless it’s an MR2 – because you really can have it all with this baby Toyota sportster that first saw the light of day nearly three decades ago and gave us that Ferrari feeling at Ford prices. Admired by the press and punters alike, the mid-engined Toyota went down a storm with all who drove it; between the car’s introduction and its demise in April 1990, around 14,000 examples were sold in the UK, although many more have been imported from Japan since then. Whether originally supplied in Japan or the UK, there are some true dogs around along with quite a few corkers. Here’s how to tell the two apart.

What to look for

Despite its complexity, the MR2’s engine is durable if serviced properly. That means cleaning the injectors every 12,000 miles, replacing the oil every 6000 miles and fitting a new cam belt every fi ve years or 60,000 miles. Anti-freeze concentration must also be maintained or a blown head gasket will result. Check the state of the exhaust; they rot through and replacements are £300+ so go stainless.

Gearboxes are pretty strong but start to jump out of gear around 100K mark. Lift off the throttle and see if it happens; catch it in time and adjustments can be made, but if left too long a rebuilt or used gearbox will be needed. Shock absorbers go soft after around 70,000 miles; early cars used oil-fi lled units while later cars have gas-fi lled dampers. A knocking noise from the front over uneven surfaces is worn roll bar drop links or tired steering rack bushes. Both are easy replacements for the home mechanic – original equipment parts are £40-£50 a side. Juddering under braking means new brake discs are needed – the most you can expect from a standard pair is 30,000 miles, unless the car is driven gingerly. Many brake component manufacturers have now produced improved discs that give better performance and life but cost no more than genuine standard units.

The killer for most MR2s is rot, the rear wheelarches being the most common area, followed by the quarter valances. Check that the windscreen is the original; it’s bonded in and often replaced incorrectly. Other rot spots include the base of the A-pillars, the front bumper reinforcement bar, the floorpans and the bottom of the B-posts.

Finally watch out for track day or ex-race cars (a dedicated low cost series is very popular with owners) which have been thrashed and crashed…


Prices have started to rise, with donor cars now fetching £200, while a restoration project which runs reliably with an MOT can be picked up for £700- £1000. An average car can be obtained for £1500 to £2500 depending on its age. Pristine low-mileage cars are very hard to find; if you do track one down, expect to pay anything up to £6000 for it; a really nice car is closer to £4500. Prices of the rare supercharged cars fluctuate around the £5000 mark.


This is why you buy an MR2 – because of the fabulous driving experience. It’s down to a combination of winning factors, the key ones being superb weight distribution, great agility thanks to a low kerb weight and a brilliantly rev-happy twin-cam engine – a twin-cam four-pot with a quartet of valves for each cylinder and a 7600rpm red line. The key is a two-stage throttle set-up which takes advantage of the engine’s efficient top-end breathing without compromising its running at low revs. With 122bhp and 104lbft of torque, the car served up a top speed of 119mph and was capable of 0-60mph in just 7.7 seconds. As long as the car’s been looked after it should still be able to deliver that in spades.



The SV-3 design study is shown at the 1983 Tokyo motor show.


The MR2 goes into production – looking just like the SV-3 concept.


The first MR2s reach the UK, power coming from a rev-happy 1587cc fuel-injected engine mounted behind the two seats and driving the rear wheels.


A facelift brings colour-keyed bumpers, spoilers and skirts, plus central locking. There’s also a T-bar roof option, while all MR2s get a deeper front spoiler, suspension tweaks, longer nose and revised tail lights plus an air intake. Also, a 145bhp supercharged MR2 is introduced for markets outside Europe.

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