PistonHeads.com Forum

RE: PH Carpool: Toyota MR2 Roadster

RE: PH Carpool: Toyota MR2 Roadster

Monday 19th December 2016

PH Carpool: Toyota MR2 Roadster

This PHer switched to an MR2 after eight years in MX-5s and hasn't looked back since



Name: Lewis Craik (Craikeybaby) 
Car: 2004 Toyota MR2 Roadster
Owned since: August 2013
Previously owned: Rover Metro, SEAT Ibiza Cupra, Mazda MX-5 Mk1 and MX-5 Mk3.5 (leased). I also have a BMW 120i daily driver.

Cheap, fun and more practical than you may think!
Cheap, fun and more practical than you may think!
Why I bought it:
"I wanted a cheap fun car for track days, weekend hoons, road trips and the odd commute. Another Mazda would have been the easy choice, but after eight years in MX-5s I fancied something different. I'd initially ruled out an MR2 Roadster, due to the lack of luggage for road trips, but kept coming back to them as they seemed such good value. Then I drove one - the steering was communicative, having the engine behind me felt like I was driving something special and the whole package just felt right. Decision made!

"I looked at a few cars, but this grey one was by far the best, despite being advertised as only having part service history - which was easily accounted for when looking through the paperwork. After years of grey cars I had been after a brightly coloured car, but had to settle for a bright interior."

What I wish I'd known:
"That you can actually get a decent amount of luggage in an MR2 Roadster - I would have bought one sooner! You can fit a squishy bag behind each seat, with a day bag between them and there's some extra stowage space under the bonnet."

Car has been on track a few times - good man!
Car has been on track a few times - good man!
Things I love:
"The handling - it is surprisingly different to the MX-5, the limit is higher, but more of a knife edge. It is clinical, rather than playful, like the Mazdas were. I prefer this, but it is personal taste.

"In a world where cars a filled with driver aids, auto this and auto that, the MR2 hits the sweet spot; all the driver controls are analogue, but it still has central locking, electric windows and doesn't break down. It is civilised enough to use it as a daily driver, but also feels special enough to be a weekend fun car.

"I also love the relative rarity; you don't see them every day and when I do track days I'm usually the only MR2 Roadster. People do keep coming up to me and saying how good they are though.

"Most importantly - every time I drive it, it makes me smile."

Plain exterior colour offset by jazzy cabin
Plain exterior colour offset by jazzy cabin
Things I hate:
"The only thing that annoys me is that when you fold the seats forward to access the storage bins, the backrest doesn't return to its original position. Even my Rover Metro got that right!

"The passenger airbag can't be deactivated, so I have to wait until my son is big enough for a forward facing seat before he gets to enjoy the MR2 with me. My Dad's TR6 didn't have that problem when I was a baby!"

Costs:
"I paid £4,000 for it, which was actually under my budget, and according to the PH classifieds it is still worth around that.

"I've seen as high as 42mpg on a long motorway drive and as low as 22mpg on a track day. It has averaged 33mpg in my ownership, which I am happy with.

"Over the last three years servicing - at local MR2 specialists, has been expensive, then cheap and then expensive again. In the first year I had the radiator replaced and a four wheel alignment in addition to the regular service, which increased the bill somewhat. Last year was just an oil and filter change. This year I had the brakes stripped and rebuilt; it also needed a propshaft seal replaced. I've had to replace an oxygen sensor too, which was about £15. Overall it has been a cheap car to run."

"Yes you can take another pic, but I'm not getting out."
"Yes you can take another pic, but I'm not getting out."
Where I've been:
"The MR2 has actually proved to be a better GT car than I was expecting - it has been used for a week touring the Highlands, weekends away all over England with my wife, trips to Wales and got me, my dad and all our camping kit to Le Mans.

"I've used it for track days at Silverstone and Donington Park, as well as attending numerous PH Sunday Services - just about keeping up with much faster machinery on the Midlands forum convoys."

What next?
"In the short term it will need new tyres and front brakes before the 2017 track day season. Longer term I am planning to replace it with an S1 Elise, but the MR2 will be a tough act to follow."


Want to share your car with PHers on Carpool? Email us at carpool@pistonheads.com!

 

Author
Discussion

Itsallicanafford

Original Poster:

1,615 posts

74 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
always had a bit of a soft stop for the MK3 MR2, i saw one at the weekend in white which looked good on the MK3...

I would be wary of going from one to a Mk1 Elise though, IMO a standard Elise will be slower, less reliable and cost twice as much to buy!

Rod200SX

6,739 posts

91 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Itsallicanafford said:
always had a bit of a soft stop for the MK3 MR2, i saw one at the weekend in white which looked good on the MK3...

I would be wary of going from one to a Mk1 Elise though, IMO a standard Elise will be slower, less reliable and cost twice as much to buy!
Bit more than twice as much to buy biggrin

hepy

183 posts

55 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Great write up on something 'a bit different'.

james_gt3rs

4,157 posts

106 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Itsallicanafford said:
IMO a standard Elise will be slower
Definitely not!

Itsallicanafford said:
less reliable and cost twice as much to buy!
Yes, the difference in running costs is significant.

Evil.soup

2,620 posts

120 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
I owned an MR2 Roadster about 10 years ago and I still miss it today. I have also been lucky enough to drive it back to back with an S1 & S2 Elise and I preferred the MR2, it's 90% the Elise but without the crashy ride and poor fit and finish.

I anticipate getting back in one in the future as I do miss the way it drove, and through the Brecon Mountains with the roof off it was fantastic!

The handling is as said knife edge though, I had a few moments in mine that left me with sweaty palms but if you are ready for it to step out it is really controlable.

Looks like you have a nice example there wink
Advertisement

DanGPR

779 posts

86 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
I bought a ZZW30 as a cheap track car last year, I went halves with a friend.

It was a bit of a dog, but was fun to drive, especially when we got rid of the staggered wheels for a square set-up and fitted track oriented tyres. Unfortunately the engine ate itself after about 300 miles (bottom end) and we scrapped it because it wasn't worth fixing. I'm sure if you had one from the other end of the spectrum it would be a great car but I've been put off them by having my fingers burned.

The engine from the 190bhp Celica is a relatively straight forward swap and makes the car into an elise beater for fiesta money.

richinlondon

40 posts

37 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
I had one for a few years - was great fun to drive, in terms of luggage, three partially filled rucksacks is the limit. Also better to go for the updated one with LSD and 6 speed if you can.

Evil.soup

2,620 posts

120 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
DanGPR said:
I bought a ZZW30 as a cheap track car last year, I went halves with a friend.

It was a bit of a dog, but was fun to drive, especially when we got rid of the staggered wheels for a square set-up and fitted track oriented tyres. Unfortunately the engine ate itself after about 300 miles (bottom end) and we scrapped it because it wasn't worth fixing. I'm sure if you had one from the other end of the spectrum it would be a great car but I've been put off them by having my fingers burned.

The engine from the 190bhp Celica is a relatively straight forward swap and makes the car into an elise beater for fiesta money.
The pre-cats were an issue on the earlier cars, they would break up and lunch the engine. Most owners have removed them these days but it killed a lot of cars after not too many miles in the begining. The OP has a later model and I am pretty sure the issue was resolved with the facelift car.


Craikeybaby

7,304 posts

140 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Interesting comments on changing to an Elise - I've driven an S2 Exige and loved it, but that is way outside my budget.

sunsurfer

302 posts

96 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?

s m

14,527 posts

118 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
sunsurfer said:
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?

james_gt3rs

4,157 posts

106 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
sunsurfer said:
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?
Mine wasn't a knife edge, just had a good turn in. MUCH better handling than the mk1 I drove, however I prefer the mk1 engine and gearbox.

Evil.soup

2,620 posts

120 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
sunsurfer said:
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?
The issue, if you can call it that, is that the car has tons and tons of grip but when you push beyond that there is little warning to when it will let go.

You don't gradually notice that you are losing grip, it will just go. That said, once you know the car it becomes predictable and it is extreamly well balanced and controlable past the point of grip, so if you have the space to get it sideways and you are ready for it then it will make you look like a talented hero!

I now drive an AWD car and I love the gradual warning you get as you lose grip, but I do miss the mental attitude of the MR2.

s m

14,527 posts

118 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all

Black S2K

603 posts

164 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Evil.soup said:
sunsurfer said:
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?
The issue, if you can call it that, is that the car has tons and tons of grip but when you push beyond that there is little warning to when it will let go.

You don't gradually notice that you are losing grip, it will just go. That said, once you know the car it becomes predictable and it is extreamly well balanced and controlable past the point of grip, so if you have the space to get it sideways and you are ready for it then it will make you look like a talented hero!

I now drive an AWD car and I love the gradual warning you get as you lose grip, but I do miss the mental attitude of the MR2.
The S2000 had a similar reputation and a set of chassis braces transforms the sense of impending breakaway.

I wonder if the same would work as well for the Oo-er MRS?

Dave Hedgehog

9,328 posts

119 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
OH put 100k on her first one and 120k on the second, hugely fun car only let down by the engine IMO


TameRacingDriver

10,573 posts

187 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Funny timing, I picked mine up yesterday.

All I can say is what an absolute revelation for £2K.

It is an absolute dream to drive.

Personally for me, the engine is fine. Its not fast, but you have to actually DRIVE the thing, and when you do its not exactly that slow either. OK it arguably doesn't sound great stock but its not as bad as I was expecting, and that can be changed!

The handling though, its insane. It makes a number of my old cars look very silly indeed, and I would go so far as to say its right at the top of the pile, an even better handler for me than my old Eunos RS-Limited (google it for details) and my DC2 Integra. It's simply unlike anything I've had before.

I've not driven an Elise, but I could buy 6 Roadsters for the price of one Elise.

I am SMITTEN! I've not felt this way about a car for a LONG time, let alone one that costs as much as a decent holiday.


luke g28

165 posts

74 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
I have owned 4 Mr2s and now have an S1 elise.

I think once you have a test drive you will be smitten, look for a car that is regularly used and maintained rather than a low mileage queen and you will be rewarded with a surprisingly reliable ownership smile

speedtwelve

3,274 posts

188 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Good write-up, Craikeybaby. Your car was going well at Silverstone in October.

I've had an '03 facelift for 6 years now as a daily. Better turn-in than my Mk1 MX5 and TVR, better steering feel compared to my S2000. I've competed in autosolos, taken it up the hillclimb at Gurston Down, yet it still gets me to work every day without hassle. I'd disagree about the 'knife-edge' handling in the dry. On track I've found the car quite benign in oversteer. In the wet, yes. It snaps away into power-oversteer on wet, greasy roads more abruptly than my TVR did. It's an absolute bh on snow. The MR2 is on Toyo T1Rs with decent tread too.

I too thought about taking the Lotus route, and after looking at Elise S1 & S2 bought a VX220 in the summer. Handling, feedback and performance are on the next level and a significant and satisfactory step-up from the MR2 now that I've had the suspension geometry on the VX changed to Elise settings. They do need more money and TLC thrown at them compared to the Toyota. The MR2 doesn't require upgraded high-tensile steel bolts to stop the rear wheel hubs from potentially parting company on track for a start.




Craikeybaby

7,304 posts

140 months

Monday 19th December 2016
quotequote all
Evil.soup said:
sunsurfer said:
As a serial MR2 Mk1 owner the idea of moving to a Mk3 has been growing on me.
I was put off by it having even less storage than a Mk1 but as the owner said if you are committed and use soft bags a lot can be squeezed in.
Didn't know they were knife edge handling. Is this just general mid-engine set up or a design fault?
The issue, if you can call it that, is that the car has tons and tons of grip but when you push beyond that there is little warning to when it will let go.

You don't gradually notice that you are losing grip, it will just go. That said, once you know the car it becomes predictable and it is extreamly well balanced and controlable past the point of grip, so if you have the space to get it sideways and you are ready for it then it will make you look like a talented hero!

I now drive an AWD car and I love the gradual warning you get as you lose grip, but I do miss the mental attitude of the MR2.
That sums it up perfectly. I was comparing it to MX-5s, which are much more playful around the limit.