Toyota MR2 (Mk3) | Spotted

Toyota is back on a roll – so what better time to revisit a past highlight?

By Matt Bird / Thursday, May 20, 2021 / Loading comments

You may have noticed that Toyota has returned to making cool cars again – the Supra is back, and the Yaris GR is better even than we could have hoped. That’s in addition to another ’86 coupe on the way (which we thought might not happen) alongside a GR Super Sport hypercar (which didn’t need to happen). After so long in the doldrums and off the radar for enthusiasts, it’s a joy to welcome Toyota back into the fold.

Because, lest we forget, it made some great driver’s car before deciding to make a four-wheel drive Yaris or before a Supra was in Fast & Furious. In fact, at just about that time, there was all sorts of interesting stuff being made by Toyota, up to and including the very odd (yet strangely appealing) Corolla T Sport Compressor.

But the MR2 seems to be at best half-forgotten, despite it being well received at the turn of the millennium. Why? The MX-5, of course. The Mazda was similar money and just as fast, but far more practical owing to its front-engined layout. When selling new as an everyday sports car, that makes a difference – there really was very little space to put anything in a Mk3 MR2.

More than 20 years after they went on sale, however, and 15 years since production ended, the last MR2 looks an intriguing secondhand purchase. Because where else are you going to get mid-engined, rear-drive thrills for so little money? With a sub-tonne kerbweight, too. If you can live with the practical impositions of its layout – and they’re far easier to excuse in a cheap, secondhand weekend plaything – then there’s an awful lot to recommend the MR2.

Early cars and imports have hung around near Shed money for a while. The best MR2s are the facelifted ones, launched in late 2002, which introduced a six-speed manual in place of the five, tweaked the suspension and increased the wheel size. Facelifted examples are also those less prone to the pre-cat disintegration that blighted early cars.

This one is an updated MR2, a 2005 model that’s had just two owners and recorded a little under 100,000 miles. For three quarters of that distance it’s said to have been serviced at a main dealer, and with a new battery at the end of last year and a recent MOT it’s good to go for the summer. For just £3,499, too.

Obviously, it’s not perfect at that money, and the very best examples will cost you twice as much. But a comparable MX-5 isn’t going to be perfect either – and nor is anything for sale at the price of a week in a Cornwall Airbnb this August. But it’s certainly a cheap way to have an awful lot of fun. It’s the cost of a Circuit Pack on Yaris GR, to it in context.

Moreover there are a decent amount of Mk3s still around for anyone intrigued by the prospect. And if you consider it a cut-price Elise – mid-engined, rear-drive, lightweight and Toyota powered – then the lack of luggage space becomes is even less worrying. Even now an MX-5 will suit more people more of the time, but if you aren’t one of those people then an MR2 looks a few thousand pounds very well spent.


SPECIFICATION | TOYOTA MR2

Engine: 1,798cc, four-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],400rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],200rpm
MPG: 38
CO2: 178g/km
Year registered: 2005
Recorded mileage: 92,000
Price new: £17,995 (2001)
Yours for: £3,499

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