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When it comes to small sports cars, one particular model stood out in its time. The MR2 made its splash in the 80s and 90s and into the 2000s. But it left the market, leaving a small hole in the little sports car industry. Here we are a decade or so later, and rumors are flying that it’s about to come back. What was the MR2, and was it a reliable vehicle?

A silver Toyota MR2 in an outdoor environment with buildings around.
Toyota MR2 | Getty Images

History of the Toyota MR2

According to MotorTrend, the MR2 stands for Midship Rear-drive 2-seater, or as others called it, the “Midship Runabout 2”. This little vehicle was Toyota’s answer to the sports car, Japanese style. It debuted in 1983 at a Tokyo auto show and was released to the market as a 1984 model. 

This vehicle sported the mid-engine body design that had a successful run until 2007 when Toyota decided to drop it from the lineup. The MR2 Mark I model ran on a 1.6-liter Inline four-cylinder that produced 112 hp during its first generation. Paired with it was a five-speed manual stick transmission. You could opt for a four-speed automatic if you choose. 

In the 1990s, the MR2 Mark II model was launched. This vehicle had a lot of upscale improvements, which included curb weight. Powering it was a 2.2-liter 16-valve Inline-four engine, the same as the Camry. It generated 130 hp. The MR2 Turbo sported a 2.0-liter 3S-GTE instead. This one had the capability of producing 200 hp. 

When the 2000s rolled around, the MR2 Mark III was released. Known as the MR2 Spyder, this vehicle was fully convertible, lighter than the second-generation models, but with limited storage. Sales figures for this version weren’t as impressive as you would’ve thought. 

With only 2.0 cubic inches of cargo total, this model could only stash small items in the two storage boxes behind the seats. While the MR2 ran until 2007, the 2005 model was the last to be seen on American soil. 

How reliable was the MR2?

We know that Toyota is well known for building reliable vehicles. So, was the MR2 just as reliable as the brand’s other models? Let’s see what the Japanese sports car owners have to say about it. 

According to Cars, many pleased MR2 owners reported the vehicle drove like a dream and found it dependable. One user on the site claims that they had their MR2 for about 19 years. When they had it, there were no major problems with it. There were some minor issues, like water pooling in the back, but otherwise, they were happy with their purchase. 

Another user had their third-generation model for 18 years, and it looks and drives as good as it did when they first bought it. Some owners found that the MR2 didn’t meet their expectations, though. One Canadian driver reported that he felt there was poor reliability on some of the parts, like the fuel pump and window motor. 

The MR2 Spyder convertible has plenty of fans, but a few weren’t impressed with the sequential manual transmission. One user warned others not to get it because they tend to fail, and they reported that Toyota wouldn’t be able to figure out how to fix it, according to Edmund’s reviews. 

Overall, most owners have been happy with the MR2 and recommended it to others. 

Is the Toyota MR2 coming back?


Throwback: Toyota MR2

Toyota’s original run of the MR2 ended back in 2007, but it looks highly likely that it will make a return in the distant future. While fans might be waiting with bated breath to see it come back on dealership lots, it could be 2024 before that day actually comes. It might even be later than that, as the automotive industry deals with parts shortages and high prices for new cars. When it does debut, it’s not going to be completely like its predecessor model. 

The new remake version reportedly will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain, pairing electric motor technology with a 3.0-liter V6 engine. It hasn’t been revealed whether it will get a manual gearbox or not. 

Toyota’s MR2 was a fun little Japanese sports car back in its heyday. When the remake finally makes its debut, it won’t be surprising if it ends up being a best-seller the first year it releases.