Remembering the Toyota MR2

The era of the 1980s ushered in lots of new, fun-to-drive cars such as the MR2, which was a great example of a car not needing a lot of power to be a blast to drive.

The Toyota MR2 was a two-seat, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car that was produced by Toyota from 1984 to 2007. Three generation models were produced during its lifespan of 23 years before the Japanese automaker decided to pull the plugs off the little sensation.

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It is one of the few mid-engined vehicles available in a body style other than a coupe. Toyota originally explained the name “MR2” as meaning “Mid-engine, Runabout, 2-seater”. Due to its name MR2, it was also often called “Mister Two”. It was also referred to among the Three Brothers which were the Supra, Celica, and MR2, Toyota’s sports trio of that era.

Related: Remembering the Nissan 300ZX

For a price that almost everyone could afford, the MR2 offered a great deal of atypical mid-engine sports car thrills. Its appeal was also aided by low maintenance costs and Toyota’s standing for dependability and longevity.

Frist Generation MR2 (W10) 1984-1989

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The first generation MR2 (1984-1989) was a lightweight, nimble, and affordable sports car that became popular among enthusiasts for its excellent handling and affordability. A wonderful combination of popup headlamps up front and classic geometric styling made this generation the ideal inspiration for 80s poster vehicles. The W10 was available either as a coupe or a T-top convertible. Although it was produced for hardly 5 years, the impact it had on car enthusiasts around the world was much larger.

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It was powered by a variety of Toyota four-cylinder engine options. A 1.5L and 1.6L naturally aspirated as well as a 1.6L supercharged unit were among the offerings. Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual and a 4-speed automatic. Its handling, agility, and affordable price point received a lot of positive feedback.

Second Generation MR2 (W20) 1989-1999

The second generation MR2 (1991-1995) was more powerful and refined, larger and better-looking, with a more luxurious interior and exterior. It was an eye-catching blend of the styling elements of the first-generation model enhanced with the smoother styling cues of the 90s. If the emblems were covered, this one literally looked like a budget Ferrari.

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Like the first-gen W10, this generation model was also available in both coupe and convertible body styles. This generation model had the infamous “snap-oversteer” issue that everyone loves to bring up even though they would never push a car to its genuine limit.

It was available with more powerful 2.0L & 2.2L engine options in naturally aspirated and turbocharged guises, paired with the same 5MT/ 4AT gearbox combos. The second-generation MR2 also featured improved suspension and handling, making it a popular choice among sports car enthusiasts.

Third Generation MR2 (W30) 1999-2007

The third generation MR2 (1999-2007) was larger and more powerful than its predecessor. This model was only available as a convertible and was often also called MR-S or MR2 Spyder in certain markets.

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Styling wise it was much different than the previous two generations saying goodbye to popup headlamps and adapting a unique silhouette. Even so, many didn’t think it had the same assertive styling as its predecessor. It was also different in terms of engines, as it came with a lone downsized 1.8L unit with either a 5- or 6-speed manual, or 5-AMT & 6-AMT depending on the market.

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Although the MR2 Spyder was smaller and less powerful than its predecessor, it was hailed for its nimble handling and enjoyable driving experience. However, it was discontinued in 2007 and is now only remembered with glum “huh” and “hmms” by car-savvy men.

Why Toyota MR2 was Discontinued?

As with all truly great things, they eventually come to pass. The same goes for the MR2, which was discontinued for several reasons. One of the main factors was declining sales. The early 2000s was a crowded roadster market, and the MR2 faced tough competition from other popular models like the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Honda S2000.

Additionally, Toyota shifted its focus towards more practical and family-oriented vehicles, like SUVs and crossovers, which were more profitable for the company. Finally, the MR2 faced increasing pressure to meet more stringent emissions and safety regulations, which made it more difficult and expensive to produce. These factors contributed to the decision to discontinue the MR2.

Related: History of an Icon: Honda NSX

Despite being abandoned long ago, the MR2 enjoys a huge fanbase across the world with active communities keeping these cars alive. Regardless of which generation you choose, you will find the MR2 as a fun-to-drive car.

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The Toyota MR2 earned a reputation as an affordable, reliable, and fun-to-drive sports car that is an excellent choice for driving enthusiasts. It has also been praised for its excellent handling, fuel efficiency, and low cost of ownership.

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