The Toyota MR2 uses a steel monocoque chassis with MacPherson struts, dampers and an anti-roll bar at the front. For the rear suspension, there are dual-link MacPherson struts, dampers and anti-roll bar. To this was attached 15-inch alloy wheels for the early Mk3 models shod in 185/55 VR15 tyres at the front and 205/50 VR15 tyres at the rear. For the facelifted model, the rear tyres grew in size to 16-inch alloys with 215/45 VR16 tyres.
Behind the wheels sit 254mm ventilated front discs, with 264mm solid rear discs. Anti-lock brakes were standard on the MR2 from the outset, while the steering uses an electro-hydraulic set-up with 2.7 turns from lock-to-lock. Turning circle for this generation of MR2 stands at 10.0m.
Although there had been no complaints about body stiffness with the original third generation MR2, Toyota added braces to the front and rear suspension for the facelift model that make the body's structure even more rigid. At the same time, Toyota also added improved the spring and damper rates to further fine tune the ride and handling, though this was also because the company switched to 16-inch rear wheels in place of the earlier 15-inch items.
The choice of tyres for the MR2, regardless of what size of wheels are fitted, is a key area. When new, the MR2 was fitted with either Bridgestone or Yokohama tyres. Both worked well enough, but the MR2 earned a reputation for tail-happy driving manners in wet conditions. Nowadays, most owners opt for Toyo T1-Rs for the best balance between wet and dry grip, and handling versus wear.
One point to be aware of, even when test driving a potential purchase, is the MR2 is also very sensitive to tyre pressures. A car with even slightly mismatched pressures in the four tyres will simply not handle or steer as it should. It's worth taking a pressure gauge to make sure the tyres are at the proper pressures according to the handbook.
Further improvements to the MR2's body stiffness came in 2004. Toyota upgraded the body's occupant safety for crash testing by adding new crossmembers under the front of the car and momentum cancellers to the front strut tops. A side effect was to make the body more rigid and help the car handle even better. There were also new braces for the rear bumper, rear struts and floor to sill areas, while improvements to the floor pan and tunnel further stiffened the body shell.
If you have plenty of cash to spare, an upgrade to Tein Mono Flex coilover springs and dampers is the best you can get. However, Tein kit is expensive and a better balance of cost and ability comes from a BC Racing kit, which is what a lot of race-prepared MR2s use.
The brakes on the MR2 are generally reckoned to be pretty good, but an upgrade to Carbotech pads is not cheap but it will help if you use the car on track days or for plenty of fast road use.
One last rolling chassis item to check when buying an MR2 are the wheels. The aluminium pits and corrodes more easily than on some other alloy wheels, which makes the wheels look scruffy and ultimately weakens the wheel. If a car you inspect has corroded alloys, budget for having them refurbished or replaced.
"I swapped the brake pads for EBC Yellowstuff pads, but am not totally blown away by them and from what I've read Mintex 1144's seem to be the preferred aftermarket option, and the stock Toyota pads that were previously on mine are pretty good considering the price and easy availability."