Pretty cute coupe
Toyota MR2 1990-1999
TOYOTA’S second-generation MR2, the SW20, was the prettiest of the lot. It was a cute little two-door, mid-engined, Targa-topped coupe with well-balanced proportions. But it wasn’t just a pretty face. It was a pocket dynamo on the road. Its mid-engined layout gave it a balance close to perfect.
Under the rear lid lay a cross-mounted 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that punched out 117kW and 190Nm, all of which was channelled through a fivespeed manual gearbox to the rear wheels.
A 1994 update brought the GT and the Bathurst special models. The engine for both boasted 125kW and 186Nm.
Inside you were cocooned in a tight cockpit, sitting in form-fitting sports seats, with everything within easy reach. There isn’t a lot of storage space though.
At launch, the coupe came with alloy wheels, power windows, central locking, rear spoiler, fog lamps, high-mounted stop lamp, and AM/FM stereo sound. A facelift in 1992 brought larger 15-inch alloys, larger front spoiler, revised suspension, different steering wheel, gearshift knob and upgraded sound system.
From 1994 the Bathurst had alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers, power windows and mirrors, central locking, cloth trim and cassette sound.
The GT was better equipped. It came with leather, cruise, fog lamps, power steering, remote central locking, and an alarm. CD sound was added in 1995. Airconditioning was an option.
Toyota also sold a turbocharged model in some overseas markets. Any here will be grey imports rather than locally delivered cars, so be wary.
Most MR2s are owned by enthusiasts who take care of them, but look for signs of hard driving. There are enough around to be choosy.
It’s important to follow the Toyota service schedule. Toyota recommends regular changes of the engine coolant, but be careful to bleed the system properly when you do so. Airlocks caused by not bleeding the system correctly will almost certainly lead to overheating and engine damage.
The cam-timing belt should be changed every 100,000km or five years, but the engine is a freespinning design, so while a broken belt will leave you stranded by the roadside it won`t cause internal damage to the engine.
The clutch is relatively heavy. It’s possible to get well in excess of 100,000km from the clutch, but hard driving can cut that to 80,000km or so. The gearbox is generally sound, but there are reports of notchy gear shifts. Using higher-grade oil in the gearbox is the fix most owners use.
Tyre wear can be a problem. Front tyres tend to wear the inside edges more rapidly than the outside; the rears wear more rapidly on the outer edges than the inner.
The fundamental safety weapon in a car like the MR2 is the chassis. One of its most endearing attributes is its razor-sharp handling that gives the driver every chance of avoiding a crash. MAKE: Toyota MODEL: MR2 1990-1999 ENGINE: 2.0L/4-cylinder base 117kW, 190Nm; specials 125kW, 186Nm ECONOMY: expect about 8L/100km PRICE: Base coupe, sold between 1990 and 1994, will cost you $7500-$12,000. From 1994 there was the GT coupe, for which you will pay $11,500-$20,000, and the Bathurst special that will set you back $11,000-$18,000. RATING: 75/100 VERDICT: Great-looking sports coupe boasting brilliant handling and performance.