The Japanese two-seater that isn't an MX-5 but most certainly is worthy of your attention
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
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!
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.