Toyota MR2 Mk1 (1984-1989): Market Watch

The first MR2 was born from Toyota's favourably-received 1983 Tokyo Show SV-3 concept car, which had more than a touch of Fiat X1/9 and Triumph TR7 about it. Japanese buyers first got their hands on a full production model in mid-1984, with UK buyers having to wait until March 1985. Demand immediately outstripped supply.

Because pop-up headlights are just cool
Because pop-up headlights are just cool
Japanese Domestic Market buyers has choice between a weak 83hp AW10 model with a 1.5-litre SOHC engine, and the sportier export-focused AW11 - packing a 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve 4A-GE motor. This naturally aspirated 1,587cc inline-four had dual overhead cams and was equipped with electronic fuel injection and variable intake geometry, delivering a maximum power output of 130hp in Japan. UK cars peaked at 124hp, but with a lowly 1,050kg maximum kerb weight performance was spritely - with a 7.7-second 0-60mph time.

An optional four-speed automatic was also available, and in 1986 Toyota introduced a T-bar roof option, plus a supercharged 145hp engine for lucky US buyers. Sadly, this model was never offered in European markets, although a few cars were privately imported. Late 1986 saw a facelift with tweaks to the engine, chassis and interior, with further minor changes following in 1988 - before the W10 was replaced in 1989 by the larger second-generation SW20. More than 160,000 Mk1 cars were sold, with 13,579 snapped up by UK buyers.

The rev-happy Mk1 delivers superb handling, with just enough performance not to be dangerous - and has now developed something of a cult following. Good ones are highly prized and increasing in value, but buyers should beware of bad examples hiding problems, with rust and poor body repairs the biggest dangers. "Many of the first-generation cars have suffered at the hands of bad modifiers or were not looked after properly, so used values fell to very low levels," explains Robert Redman, UK Car Editor at Glass's Forecast Values. "As a result, there are not many remaining examples in good original condition, and so values are climbing."

Light weight means sharp, agile handling
Light weight means sharp, agile handling
This is backed by Luke Bliss at MR2 tuning experts Drift Limits Performance: "Mk1s without rust are definitely appreciating," he says. "They have now obtained classic car status and are becoming thin on the ground owing to rust issues, so finding a good one is becoming very difficult these days." And Patrick Mortell at Rogue Motorsport tells the same story: "The Mk1 MR2 obtained classic status some time ago and well-kept examples already attract a premium." Definitely the MR2 to buy now then, before prices really shoot up.

But don't expect much on the way of modern luxuries, or usable boot space - there's hardly any of either. And aside from rust, potential Mk1 buyers must also keep their eyes peeled for any signs of poor brake balance, clonking from the driveshafts, failed electrics, uneven tyre wear and any signs of oil or water leaks. Prices for decent cars start at £3,000.

Buy if: you fancy an affordable, appreciating classic sports car that's easy to maintain
Don't buy if: performance is important, or you plan to drive it regularly
We found: 1987 Red MR2 T-Bar, full-service history, 94K miles, £4,200

Price Guide
: Under £3,000
Good: £3,000 to £5,000
A1: £5,000+
Special Editions: JDM-import supercharged MR2 SC can fetch more than £6,000

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