Toyota MR2: Market Watch

It may have seemed an impossible dream, but Toyota succeeded in making an affordable two-seater, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car for the masses. And its landmark MR2 changed the perception of what was possible. As a result, the Japanese motoring giant reaped substantial rewards - with three generations of MR2 selling close to a third of a million examples over 23 years.

Mister Two Mk2
Mister Two Mk2
The first two generations of Japan's first mid-engined production car are now appealing classics, while the final third generation Roadster has to be one of the cheapest ways to have fun on a budget. Yet all three claimed an exotic layout, and enabled the ordinary man to drive something truly exceptional.

Always conceived as a small, inexpensive sports car, Toyota's Mid-ship, Runabout, 2-seater design harnessed straightforward and appealing elements: independent front and rear MacPherson suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, a transverse-mounted inline four-cylinder engine, a tight manual transmission, a low-slung driving position and, of course, rear-wheel drive.

And a Mk3. Very different despite a shared name!
And a Mk3. Very different despite a shared name!
Manufactured from 1984 to 2007 each of the three generations differed from one another, despite possessing these key characteristics. So while the first generation W10 was lightweight and sharp-edged, the second-generation SW20 was curvaceous and motorsport focused. Not only bigger, it was also better-appointed and more powerful. And in Japan and the US it also came in seriously quick turbocharged form. Changing once again, the third generation W30 MR2 returned to the original car's lightweight pared-back mantra, but this time became a Roadster - with less emphasis on power and more emphasis on sheer fun.

It's yet to be seen whether Toyota will produce a fourth-generation model (go on Toyota - you know we want one!) but supply is dwindling and values are starting to rise. It therefore seemed the ideal time at PH to revisit all three incarnations, and discover which MR2 currently looks the best buy, which versions are likely to become future classics, which evolution makes the best track day ride and which MR2 is the best starting point for further tuning.

Toyota MR2 Mk1 (1984-1989)
Toyota MR2 Mk2 (1989-1999)
Toyota MR2 Mk3 (1999-2007)

Many thanks to Drift Limits Performance, Rogue Motorsport Ltd, the MR2 Owners Club and Glass's Guide for their help with this feature


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Comments (123) Join the discussion on the forum

  • R400TVR 17 Jul 2017

    It was never called the MR2 in France for some reason!

  • AC43 17 Jul 2017

    In 1989 I stepped out of a Sud and into one of them when the owner chucked me the keys.

    Got in sceptical, got out amazed.

  • 98elise 17 Jul 2017

    Always wanted a MK1. My first car was a Fiat X1/9 and the MK1 MR2 was a very similar car in many ways, and pretty much picked up where it left off.

  • Philbar 17 Jul 2017

    I am biased...

  • Jayho 17 Jul 2017

    R400TVR said:
    It was never called the MR2 in France for some reason!
    MR2 in French sounds like their rude word for Poop! They got called MRS instead.

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