PH buying guide: Toyota MR2

The third generation of Toyota MR2 that arrived in 2000 was the ideal car to take on the Mazda MX-5 and MGF, particularly as it was the first MR2 to have a fully folding soft-top. It mixed many of the attributes of both of these cars while retaining a unique appeal, although the Toyota perhaps divided the opinions of contemporary road tests and buyers more than its competitors.

Sticking with the mid-engined layout of previous MR2s, the third generation W30 model differed slightly by having its engine turned so the exhaust manifold was to the rear of the engine bay. It also did away with the rear luggage compartment, making this model more focused on driving fun than practicality. This more than anything was what split opinions on the MR2 as many were happy to enjoy the purity of the MR2's driving experience, while others deemed it too compromised.

Actually there IS an alternative to an MX-5!
Actually there IS an alternative to an MX-5!
Weighing in at just 975kg, only a Lotus Elise could claim to be lighter in the affordable roadster market. This meant the MR2 didn't need a hugely powerful engine to deliver good, though not outright fast, performance. The 140hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol motor could muster 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, though some contemporary road tests saw 0-60mph times as low as 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 130mph. Another benefit of the lightweight and relatively mild power output was 38.2mpg average fuel consumption and many owners report this is a very realistic figure in everyday driving.

Toyota didn't need to change the MR2 greatly during its production life, which came to an end in 2006. The most significant were the addition of a six-speed gearbox and alterations to the engine to prevent the problems experienced by many early owners with disintegrating pre-cats that ruin the engine. For this reason, the post-facelift cars from late 2002 onwards are generally considered the most desirable. Take heed - though an early MR2 for around £1,600 can look like a bargain it can also be on the verge of some expensive repairs. Expect to pay from £2,500 for a facelifted car and all the way to around £7,500 for a late model, low miles example.

Owner's view
"I found the car to be really great fun and one of the nicest handling cars I have owned, and I have owned a few. Mine was low mileage and in mint condition so I never experienced any problems: the engine, six-speed gearbox, handling and driving position were faultless. The roof was easy to raise and lower too."
Martin Roberts

Buying guide contents:
Rolling Chassis
Search for Toyota MR2s in the PH classifieds

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (137) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Max_Torque 30 Nov 2012

    "more hardcore than an Elise"???

    er, I think you'll find you mean "less" not "more"...........

  • milesr3 30 Nov 2012

    Beat me to it

  • eliotrw 30 Nov 2012

    As above x 3

  • Guvernator 30 Nov 2012

    Always found this version of the MR2 a huge disappointment when compared to the previous version to be honest. Weedier engines, less practical and the nicest thing I can probably say about the looks is that they weren't to my tastes (dare I say it, very girlie) so not a huge fan I'm afraid.

    Give me a previous gen, late revision turbo or one with the 2 litre NA Beams engine any day of the week.

    Edited by Guvernator on Friday 30th November 14:17

  • justa1972 30 Nov 2012

    My folks drove one of these down to the South of France - brilliant little car. With a luggage rack on the back and one suitcase there was plenty of room.

    With twin exhausts it sounded fantastic and due to the low power you couldn't overwhelm the chassis - one of the best handling cars I've driven.

    I ended up using it through the winter a couple of years ago - one memorable drive was from Bradford back to home in Derbyshire - the snow had started to settle when I left but the little MR2 coped with everything and the heater belted out hot air - it never skipped a beat and was great fun in the snow, the thin wheels meaning it was surprisingly sure footed...

    I really wanted to buy it off them but didn't have a spare 7.5k at the time frown

    8/10's of an Elise I always though but cheap to insure and run - 35 mpg was easily possible even with spirited driving..

    Edited by justa1972 on Friday 30th November 17:27

View all comments in the forums Make a comment