History of Toyota sports cars (part 6)

The MR2 of 1984 was actually derived from a 1976 design project that had the goal of building an enjoyable, yet fuel efficient car – much like the earlier Sports 800. Over the coming years, the ethos of the original concept evolved into a sports car and the resulting ‘Midship Runabout 2-seater’ was born, joining its bigger brothers, the Celica and Supra.

Compact fun for a new generation

With a compact and practical body, agile and athletic handling and responsive engine – not to mention the feeling of being at one with the elements provided by its optional T-bar roof – the MR2 was overflowing with fun. With its engine located centrally, the MR2 was Japan’s first mass-produced mid-engine car and this formula earned unanimous praise from the press at the time, the little Toyota being awarded the prestigious title of Japanese Car of the Year 1984-85.


Over five years later, the second-generation model took a bow retaining the original’s mid-engine layout and fun-to-drive personality, but at the same time taking on a more upmarket approach. A larger, more exotic-looking body, higher-quality interior and more refined and comfortable drive widened the MR2’s appeal even further, and with this solid base the second-generation MR2 would continue on sale and in demand for an incredible ten more years.

Although the third- and final-generation bore the same name (it became the MR-S in Japan) it was clearly an indirect replacement. Out went the larger, more grown-up personality of its predecessor and in came a smaller, lighter, cheaper open-top roadster. The new MR2 Roadster had all the ingredients to be a pure, dynamic sports car for the next century.

Like the Celica, MR2 suffered at the hands of the global slow down in the sports car market and in 2007 production finally ceased. After two decades and three generations in production, the MR2 had made a big enough impression on so many lives that it wouldn’t easily be forgotten.

Published: 24 October 2016

Information correct at time of publication.


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History of Toyota sports cars (part 7)