Pros

  • Nothing drives like a purpose-built mid-engined sports car.
  • Potentially a future classic.
  • Nearly all the supercar fun with none of the drawbacks.
  • Typical superb Toyota reliability and support network.

Cons

  • Plenty on the used market have been abused.
  • It’s a 20 year old car, it will require constant attention.
  • Rust and deterioration becoming an issue.
  • Snap overseer into the scenery is a real concern.

Verdict

Should you buy one? Chances are if you’re genuinely thinking about buying a Toyota MR2, you’ve already made your mind up and you’re just reading this to hopefully confirm and support your decision.

Congratulations, you’ve made the right decision, yes you should buy one.

But please please have a full...

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Much like numerous exotic supercars and Formula 1 vehicles, the second-generation Toyota MR2 (SW20) spanning from 1989 to 1999 is Mid-Engined and rear-wheel drive, available in both coupe and t-top body styles – we are referring to the MR2, not the Formula 1 car.

In Australia, one of the four naturally aspirated engines was made available: the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (3S-GE) producing 125 kW (167 hp) and 186 Nm (137 lb-ft). Additionally, there was a brief offering of the single Turbo engine, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Turbo (3S-GTE), generating 168 kW (225 hp) to 180 kW (242 hp).

However, turbocharged MR2s are more commonly found in the grey import market.

Transmission options include automatic and manual, although opting for an automatic is only justifiable for medical reasons.

In terms of trim specifications, Australia featured three: MR2, GT, and Bathurst. Internationally, especially in Japan, there were numerous trim variations and some exclusive editions. Despite trim similarities, MR2s are widely popular in the tuning scene, resulting in unique configurations.

The noteworthy aspect is Toyota’s continuous refinement, addressing early models’ inclination to slide backward more than moving forward as intended. The MR2 underwent five revision iterations, incorporating aesthetic enhancements and significant mechanical improvements.

For instance, Revision 1 in 1989 marked the initial MR2. Revision 2, from late 1992, revamped the front and rear suspension, introduced wider tires on 15-inch wheels, and featured larger brakes.

November 1993 saw Revision 3, with power boosts across the range, round “Kouki” tail lights, and further suspension and transmission enhancements.

Much like numerous exotic supercars and Formula 1 vehicles, the second-generation Toyota MR2 (SW20) spanning from 1989 to 1999 is Mid-Engined and rear-wheel drive, available in both coupe and t-top body styles – we are referring to the MR2, not the Formula 1 car.

In Australia, one of the four naturally aspirated engines was made available: the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (3S-GE) producing 125 kW (167 hp) and 186 Nm (137 lb-ft). Additionally, there was a brief offering of the single Turbo engine, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Turbo (3S-GTE), generating 168 kW (225 hp) to 180 kW (242 hp).

However, turbocharged MR2s are more commonly found in the grey import market.

Transmission options include automatic and manual, although opting for an automatic is only justifiable for medical reasons.

In terms of trim specifications, Australia featured three: MR2, GT, and Bathurst. Internationally, especially in Japan, there were numerous trim variations and some exclusive editions. Despite trim similarities, MR2s are widely popular in the tuning scene, resulting in unique configurations.

The noteworthy aspect is Toyota’s continuous refinement, addressing early models’ inclination to slide backward more than moving forward as intended. The MR2 underwent five revision iterations, incorporating aesthetic enhancements and significant mechanical improvements.

For instance, Revision 1 in 1989 marked the initial MR2. Revision 2, from late 1992, revamped the front and rear suspension, introduced wider tires on 15-inch wheels, and featured larger brakes.

November 1993 saw Revision 3, with power boosts across the range, round “Kouki” tail lights, and further suspension and transmission enhancements.

Revision 4 in 1996 focused on aesthetic changes, such as diamond-cut faces on alloy wheels, alongside a few feature improvements. From November 1997, Revision 5 introduced clear fender-mounted turn signals, new 15-inch wheels with narrower spokes, an adjustable rear spoiler, and Japanese models received the new BEAMS 3S-GE engine rated at 147 kW (197 hp).

Regardless of revision or example, the MR2 is recognized as a dedicated performance car, many of which have been driven as such, presenting potential buying risks. Further details on these risks are explored below.

Much like numerous exotic supercars and Formula 1 vehicles, the second-generation Toyota MR2 (SW20) spanning from 1989 to 1999 is Mid-Engined and rear-wheel drive, available in both coupe and t-top body styles – we are referring to the MR2, not the Formula 1 car.

In Australia, one of the four naturally aspirated engines was made available: the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (3S-GE) producing 125 kW (167 hp) and 186 Nm (137 lb-ft). Additionally, there was a brief offering of the single Turbo engine, the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder Turbo (3S-GTE), generating 168 kW (225 hp) to 180 kW (242 hp).

However, turbocharged MR2s are more commonly found in the grey import market.

Transmission options include automatic and manual, although opting for an automatic is only justifiable for medical reasons.

In terms of trim specifications, Australia featured three: MR2, GT, and Bathurst. Internationally, especially in Japan, there were numerous trim variations and some exclusive editions. Despite trim similarities, MR2s are widely popular in the tuning scene, resulting in unique configurations.

The noteworthy aspect is Toyota’s continuous refinement, addressing early models’ inclination to slide backward more than moving forward as intended. The MR2 underwent five revision iterations, incorporating aesthetic enhancements and significant mechanical improvements.

For instance, Revision 1 in 1989 marked the initial MR2. Revision 2, from late 1992, revamped the front and rear suspension, introduced wider tires on 15-inch wheels, and featured larger brakes.

November 1993 saw Revision 3, with power boosts across the range, round “Kouki” tail lights, and further suspension and transmission enhancements.

Revision 4 in 1996 focused on aesthetic changes, such as diamond-cut faces on alloy wheels, alongside a few feature improvements. From November 1997, Revision 5 introduced clear fender-mounted turn signals, new 15-inch wheels with narrower spokes, an adjustable rear spoiler, and Japanese models received the new BEAMS 3S-GE engine rated at 147 kW (197 hp).

Regardless of revision or example, the MR2 is recognized as a dedicated performance car, many of which have been driven as such, presenting potential buying risks. Further details on these risks are explored below.

Exterior:

A thorough inspection of the exterior is crucial, with particular attention to rust-prone areas along the sills, inside wheel arches, under the front, and in the boot. Toyota, in some models, incorporated foam within the bodywork, which, although designed to absorb water, can lead to internal corrosion. This is especially pertinent for grey imports. Many in the MR2 community recommend removing the foam panels to mitigate this risk. Walk away from any potential purchase if rust is detected during the inspection.

T-Bar models are notorious for leaks, and while there are makeshift solutions, the best approach is to replace all seals with OEM items to prevent stains on seats, potential mould issues, and exacerbation of rust problems.

Be vigilant for poor modifications, signs of accident damage, or questionable repair work, including instances where the car has been returned to stock form. While quality modifications can enhance performance, any alterations warrant a thorough pre-purchase inspection.

 

Interior:

Inside, age-related issues like crackly speakers, door lock actuators, power window motors, and occasional electronic glitches may arise. However, these problems are generally infrequent. During inspection, ensure all switchgear functions properly by testing every button.

 

Mechanically:

Given that these cars are over 20 years old, despite Toyota’s peak reliability during this era, some issues may surface. The 3S-GE and GTE engines are generally robust, with no common reliability issues leading to sudden breakdowns. The timing belt, due every 100,000 km, is non-destructive even if it breaks, as these engines are non-interference.

The cooling system may pose challenges, especially for turbo models, with potential leaks and accessibility issues. Renewing hoses and addressing bleed points at the radiator and heater tap are likely tasks due to the car’s age.

Common issues include air conditioning compressor failure due to aging, heat-related problems with gear selector cables, and soft engine and transmission mounts, exacerbated by oil leaks in older models.

While unmodified transmissions are generally reliable, modified turbo versions can experience issues. It’s crucial to note that, as with many affordable performance cars, reliability concerns often stem from previous owners’ subpar modifications and aggressive driving habits. Therefore, a comprehensive inspection is vital when considering a purchase.

Exterior:

A thorough inspection of the exterior is crucial, with particular attention to rust-prone areas along the sills, inside wheel arches, under the front, and in the boot. Toyota, in some models, incorporated foam within the bodywork, which, although designed to absorb water, can lead to internal corrosion. This is especially pertinent for grey imports. Many in the MR2 community recommend removing the foam panels to mitigate this risk. Walk away from any potential purchase if rust is detected during the inspection.

T-Bar models are notorious for leaks, and while there are makeshift solutions, the best approach is to replace all seals with OEM items to prevent stains on seats, potential mould issues, and exacerbation of rust problems.

Be vigilant for poor modifications, signs of accident damage, or questionable repair work, including instances where the car has been returned to stock form. While quality modifications can enhance performance, any alterations warrant a thorough pre-purchase inspection.

 

Interior:

Inside, age-related issues like crackly speakers, door lock actuators, power window motors, and occasional electronic glitches may arise. However, these problems are generally infrequent. During inspection, ensure all switchgear functions properly by testing every button.

 

Mechanically:

Given that these cars are over 20 years old, despite Toyota’s peak reliability during this era, some issues may surface. The 3S-GE and GTE engines are generally robust, with no common reliability issues leading to sudden breakdowns. The timing belt, due every 100,000 km, is non-destructive even if it breaks, as these engines are non-interference.

The cooling system may pose challenges, especially for turbo models, with potential leaks and accessibility issues. Renewing hoses and addressing bleed points at the radiator and heater tap are likely tasks due to the car’s age.

Common issues include air conditioning compressor failure due to aging, heat-related problems with gear selector cables, and soft engine and transmission mounts, exacerbated by oil leaks in older models.

While unmodified transmissions are generally reliable, modified turbo versions can experience issues. It’s crucial to note that, as with many affordable performance cars, reliability concerns often stem from previous owners’ subpar modifications and aggressive driving habits. Therefore, a comprehensive inspection is vital when considering a purchase.

Exterior:

A thorough inspection of the exterior is crucial, with particular attention to rust-prone areas along the sills, inside wheel arches, under the front, and in the boot. Toyota, in some models, incorporated foam within the bodywork, which, although designed to absorb water, can lead to internal corrosion. This is especially pertinent for grey imports. Many in the MR2 community recommend removing the foam panels to mitigate this risk. Walk away from any potential purchase if rust is detected during the inspection.

T-Bar models are notorious for leaks, and while there are makeshift solutions, the best approach is to replace all seals with OEM items to prevent stains on seats, potential mould issues, and exacerbation of rust problems.

Be vigilant for poor modifications, signs of accident damage, or questionable repair work, including instances where the car has been returned to stock form. While quality modifications can enhance performance, any alterations warrant a thorough pre-purchase inspection.

 

Interior:

Inside, age-related issues like crackly speakers, door lock actuators, power window motors, and occasional electronic glitches may arise. However, these problems are generally infrequent. During inspection, ensure all switchgear functions properly by testing every button.

 

Mechanically:

Given that these cars are over 20 years old, despite Toyota’s peak reliability during this era, some issues may surface. The 3S-GE and GTE engines are generally robust, with no common reliability issues leading to sudden breakdowns. The timing belt, due every 100,000 km, is non-destructive even if it breaks, as these engines are non-interference.

The cooling system may pose challenges, especially for turbo models, with potential leaks and accessibility issues. Renewing hoses and addressing bleed points at the radiator and heater tap are likely tasks due to the car’s age.

Common issues include air conditioning compressor failure due to aging, heat-related problems with gear selector cables, and soft engine and transmission mounts, exacerbated by oil leaks in older models.

While unmodified transmissions are generally reliable, modified turbo versions can experience issues. It’s crucial to note that, as with many affordable performance cars, reliability concerns often stem from previous owners’ subpar modifications and aggressive driving habits. Therefore, a comprehensive inspection is vital when considering a purchase.

Body Styles

  • 2 door Coupe

Engine Specs

  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 129kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1997, GT 1997)
  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 125kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1998 – 1999, GT 1998 – 1999)

Transmission

  • 5-speed Manual (All Models)

Fuel Consumption

  • 6.4 – 9.5 / 100km (All Models)

Length

  • 4170mm (All Models)

Width

  • 1700mm (All Models)

Height

  • 1235mm (All Models)

Wheelbase

  • 2400mm (All Models)

Kerb Weight

  • 1151kg – 1173kg (All Models)

Towing

  • Not listed (All Models)

Ancap Ratings

  • Not tested (All Models)

Body Styles

  • 2 door Coupe

Engine Specs

  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 129kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1997, GT 1997)
  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 125kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1998 – 1999, GT 1998 – 1999)

Transmission

  • 5-speed Manual (All Models)

Fuel Consumption

  • 6.4 – 9.5 / 100km (All Models)

Length

  • 4170mm (All Models)

Width

  • 1700mm (All Models)

Height

  • 1235mm (All Models)

Wheelbase

  • 2400mm (All Models)

Kerb Weight

  • 1151kg – 1173kg (All Models)

Towing

  • Not listed (All Models)

Ancap Ratings

  • Not tested (All Models)

Body Styles

  • 2 door Coupe

Engine Specs

  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 129kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1997, GT 1997)
  • 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 125kW / 186Nm (Bathurst 1998 – 1999, GT 1998 – 1999)

Transmission

  • 5-speed Manual (All Models)

Fuel Consumption

  • 6.4 – 9.5 / 100km (All Models)

Length

  • 4170mm (All Models)

Width

  • 1700mm (All Models)

Height

  • 1235mm (All Models)

Wheelbase

  • 2400mm (All Models)

Kerb Weight

  • 1151kg – 1173kg (All Models)

Towing

  • Not listed (All Models)

Ancap Ratings

  • Not tested (All Models)

Warranty

  • 3 years / 100,000 km (All Models)

Servicing

  • Not listed – and it has run out, anyway.

Model range, pricing & features

Toyota MR2-3

Bathurst

Price when new: $49,990

Price used: $16,800 - $21,000

Equipment

  • 15″ Alloy Wheels
  • 16″ Alloy Wheels
  • CD Player
  • Central Locking
  • Disc Brakes Front Ventilated
  • Disc Brakes Rear Solid
  • Power Door Mirrors
  • Power Windows – Front & Rear
  • Radio Cassette
  • Spoilers – Front and Rear

GT

Price when new: $61,410

Price used: $18,000 - $22,400

Adds

  • 6 Speaker Stereo
  • ABS (Antilock Brakes)
  • Alarm
  • Central Locking – Remote/Keyless
  • Cruise Control
  • Fog Lamps – Front
  • Leather Trim (Incl. Seats
  • inserts)
  • Power Steering
  • Premium Sound System

Should you buy one? Chances are if you’re genuinely thinking about buying a Toyota MR2, you’ve already made your mind up and you’re just reading this to hopefully confirm and support your decision.

Congratulations, you’ve made the right decision, yes you should buy one.

But please please have a full pre-purchase inspection carried out, watch out for rust, avoid the dodgy modified ones and understand, even though it’s a Toyota, the second generation is a classic that’s pushing three decades old, it will require constant care and attention.

Should you buy one? Chances are if you’re genuinely thinking about buying a Toyota MR2, you’ve already made your mind up and you’re just reading this to hopefully confirm and support your decision.

Congratulations, you’ve made the right decision, yes you should buy one.

But please please have a full pre-purchase inspection carried out, watch out for rust, avoid the dodgy modified ones and understand, even though it’s a Toyota, the second generation is a classic that’s pushing three decades old, it will require constant care and attention.

Should you buy one? Chances are if you’re genuinely thinking about buying a Toyota MR2, you’ve already made your mind up and you’re just reading this to hopefully confirm and support your decision.

Congratulations, you’ve made the right decision, yes you should buy one.

But please please have a full pre-purchase inspection carried out, watch out for rust, avoid the dodgy modified ones and understand, even though it’s a Toyota, the second generation is a classic that’s pushing three decades old, it will require constant care and attention.

Disclaimer

Please note that pricing information is subject to fluctuations in the automotive market.

Information correct as of Nov 30, 2023.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

Read our full terms and conditions here.

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