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I brought my first MR2 about a year ago and it was the best car I have ever driven. I was initially looking for a Black MR2 but I was having no luck at finding everything I wanted in a car (Mainly a very clean example). I then came a cross a beautiful red MR2 which was stunning, I took it out for a test drive and instantly fell in love. The drive was so comfortable, it helped that it was one of the hottest days that year so I had the roof down!
Getting into the car was a little bit of a mission............. Ladies think twice about wearing a short dress or skirt trying to get out of this car because it was a bit of a struggle but once you are in, the ride is fantastic.
I have no hesitation in recommending this car! I did not own the Car for long as my Insurance was costing me through the roof due to my age and I had to down grade :( but as soon as I get enough NCB behind me I will back behind the wheel of my MR2 again :)
Some (including my four grown up lads) regard it as a mid life crisis, but with them (largely) off my hands, the mortgage almost paid off, and with no vices such as drinking or smoking to spend my hard earned cash on, I made the decision to buy a Toyota MR2 Roadster. Mainly because it would be fun, was totally impractical, and would last longer than a holiday. And because if it didn't turn out, I could always sell it and get my money back.
Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that my wife wanted a sports car and that her Corsa was coming up for replacement, or that my brother-in-law (who owned a Triumph Spitfire 1500, but has subsequently seen the light and just traded it in for a Roadster himself) turned up out of the blue one sunny day with a bright shiny yellow MR2 Roadster borrowed from the girl next door - and completely sold me on the idea.
Nevertheless, we did our homework, wanting to ensure that the MR2 did indeed offer us the best value for money. For around £5000, it seems there are three main options - the Mazda MX-5, the MG TF, and the Toyota MR2 Roadster. The Mazda just seems a bit cheap & cheerful, not stunning in either the performance or handling stakes, and sadly lacking a little something in the looks department. The MG is, well - just that, an MG! I'm afraid some of it's recent stablemates still carry a lot of baggage. Besides which, I know a couple of TF owners, and, quite frankly, I'd like a few less squeaks and rattles and a bit more reliability!
The Toyota MR2 Roadster seemed to fit the bill, at least as far as we were concerned. Build quality, performance, handling, economy, reliability, and looks - it just has the lot. A test drive sealed it for us - we found one at a local garage, a 100k example that had gone through the mill a bit, and turned up to give it a good blast - top up, top down, A-roads, and county lanes. It was FUN!
Decision made, we started looking in earnest for the 'right' Roadster for us. We were quite particular - there are several extras available if you shop around. Apart from choice of colour, you can look for air con, leather seats, hard top (may be factory fitted or after market - always ask if its factory fitted, otherwise it isn't likely to be a precise fit and may let in water), 5- or 6-speed gearbox, SMT (semi-automatic gearbox), body styling kits, roll bars, sports exhausts, etc. There are any number of extras - apearance related or performance enhancing - available, but if you can buy them on the car you're going to get them an awful lot cheaper.
And you can always sell them - if you buy a car with a hard top, for instance, and don't need it, you can sell the top & fixing kit for several hundred pounds on an internet auction site, offsetting some of the purchase price of the car. Just make sure you've got the bits you need to replace the fixings on the car.
After five solid months of searching and several viewings later, we finally purchased our Roadster in October 2009 -- a Lagoon Blue 2000 X-plate with one previous owner, 50k on the clock, full service history, full tax & MOT, air con, leather seats, and factory hard top complete with padded storage bag. A private purchase for just £4350.
We had originally looked for a yellow one, but that was our only concession - we turned to blue, simply because yellow is so incredibly hard to find. But I'm glad we did, now, blue has definitely grown on me.
Silver or red are undoubtedly the most common. Blue, black, & grey less so. And yellow or green (jade or British Racing type) are by far the least common. There are others - white, or pale metallic blue - but these are imports. On the subject of which - there are a lot of imports around - we were advised - including by an Importer - to steer clear, as if anything goes wrong, most garages won't touch them.
We've had the car a full year now and are delighted with it. We've added a further 5k miles, and had no real trouble with it. It drives and handles beautifully, and is just as much fun now as the first day I drove it. I can't wait to get home and park up my boring Company Astra and climb into the Roadster for a blast around the lanes. With the top down and the windows up you are out of the wind zone, apart maybe from the very top of your head (I'm 5' 9"). Wind the windows down and it's a different story! But even on a cold Winter's day with the top down, crank the excellent heater up and direct the flow to your feet and it might as well be Summer. I do find, however, that after about 70 or so miles of high speed motoring the wind noise kind've gets to you - I'd have to stop and put the top up again. Maybe I'm getting old!
The soft top only takes 30 seconds to put up & down. To raise it, release one clip behind the seats & lift it up & forward into position. With the windows down and / or doors open, clip it into place with one large spring clip either side. To lower, reverse of the above, but you may have to coax it to lay down properly, and either operation is best done from outside the car - it can be done from the seated position but it is tricky.
A problem to watch for is 'ears' - little sticky-up bits either side of the hood when folded down. It means an elastic strap linking the two sides of the hood and designed to fold the 'ears' in is worn - it may be frayed or the velcro and popper studs are damaged. Fiddly, but it can be repaired or replaced for about £15. Failing that, you can manually fold in the 'ears' every time you lower the hood, but it gets annoying.
Another problem is water collecting down one or other side of the hood, and overflowing into the small storage space behind the seats. This means the drain on that side is blocked - can easily be cleared by popping out the side vents by three plastic clips, and clearing the debris out of the drain pipe behind. Takes five minutes but there's a risk you'll break one or more of the clips, costing around £1 each!
Putting the hard top on or taking it off takes around five minutes and is best done by two people. That's assuming the fixings are already in place on the car - mine have been there since I bought it and I leave them on even in the Summer when the hard top is stowed away in it's padded bag, suspended flush to the garage ceiling with large hooks / eyes and ratchet straps from B&Q. But I guess if you needed to put the fixings on first, this would only take a few minutes extra. Two people are needed to lift the hard top into position as it's surprisingly heavy, and fiddly to locate the clips at the rear into the fixing bracket. Once there, it's simply a case of securing four large spring clips - the two at the front used for securing the soft top, plus another one behind each door. And then you just need to change over an electrical plug, and plug in an extension cable in the storage bin behind the drivers seat, to disconnect the soft top / connect the hard top screen heater. Oh, in case you wondered, the soft top remains on the car, folded down.
Other problems to watch for include yellowing / misting of the tops of the headlights. Unsightly, but can be polished out using a number of products - I used T-Cut followed by a good brand of polish, and they look as good as new.
A loud knock from the front wheel when going slowly & turning full lock sounds alarming, but is a common annoyance. I say annoyance rather than problem because it's not usually recognised as a fault. It's to do with the geometry of the steering (supposedly) and may be solved simply by a change of tyres, although some owners spend loads of money changing all manner of bits and never actually resolving it. Mine sailed through the MOT with it & so I'll live with it until (hopefully) I change my tyres. Having said that, neither my BIL's red 02-reg or his neighbours yellow X-reg do it.
Tramlining (an alarming tendency to follow lines in the road) is another problem usually attributed to tyre wear. Again, mine does it which makes for an interesting life, but hopefully new tyres will soon sort it.
One small problem I've had is the Engine Management Warning Light coming on. Never to be taken lightly, if this happens get it diagnosed immediately just in case it's anything serious, but in my case it was just the exhaust O2 sensor heating coil. Basically, the sensor monitors the exhaust gas emissions but works best when it's hot. So it has a heating coil to heat it up in the few seconds before the exhaust gas itself gets hot. This heating coil often fails, putting the engine light on. It's a very common problem, but does NOT affect the emissions at all, just the management system's ability to measure them for those first few seconds. A garage will recommend a replacement sensor costing £140 plus fitting. A simple and perfectly legal fix is to link a resistor into the heating coil circuit to make the management system THINK the coil is working. Cost about £10.
As for diagnosing engine management faults, on this or any car - don't let a garage charge you £50 for the privelege - you can buy an OBD2 or similar diagnostic reader for as little as £25 on an Internet Auction site and read the codes yourself.
Don't get me wrong - I've had a few very minor problems with the car, but overall it's a fantastic little motor and endless fun. Don't let such minor issues put you off buying one.
However, there is one 'biggy' that all prospective purchasers must be aware of in order to avoid buying a shed - it is often described as the oval bore syndrome, or the pre-cat problem. I won't go into detail here - look it up on the internet or check out those wonderfully helpful guys at the MR2ROC (MR2 Roadster Owners Club), but if the car you're looking at is having any problems at all with overheating, or burning oil, just don't touch it, it could be terminal. But again, please don't let this put you off - it affects only a very, very small number of what is otherwise a great, fun car. And lets face it, ALL cars can have their problems.
If you've bought a Roadster and you're concerned about the pre-cat issue, there are firms around that will remove them for you for about £150. They're not necessary - they're fitted for the Californian market where emission controls are much tighter. With them removed, the main cat is still perfectly capable of meeting UK emission standards. Again, check out the MR2ROC for details.
Problems aside, the car is great. It is very comfortable. Despite having sciatica / lower back problems in the past, I can slip in and out of it without any problems whatsoever. The seat is a few notches forward and reclined as far as it will go so that I am lying as much as sitting in it, and the length is about right for me - my feet on the pedals and my head comfortably on the headrest, though somebody over six foot may perhaps find it doesn't quite give them the room they desire.
Everything is in easy reach - gearstick, handbrake, etc, and the steering wheel rake is adjustable to suit. There's plenty of room around the pedals for big feet, and for journeys, theres a handy foot rest to the left of the clutch pedal. The only slight bugbear I have is that there is nowhere comfortable to rest my right arm - the door armrest is a bit too far back and has a hard edge, and the window ledge too high. Also you can't easily see the speedometer as its to the left and partly obscured by the steering wheel. The rev counter is in the middle and in full view - pity they didn't swap them over.
All of the controls are very firm and positive. Gearstick movements are short and it just clicks into each gear beautifully. The steering is very sharp, but - I guess being a sports car - you get a lot of feedback through the steering and so you have to constantly work at it, particularly on challenging roads - but thats what makes it fun. Nevertheless, it took me several weeks to really get used to the difference between this and my Astra, and to learn to relax with it - it's just a totally different driving experience. The brakes are good but not stunning - I'd be happier if they were a little sharper.
Performance wise, its really good fun (I keep on using that word, don't I?) but it won't blow you away. It accelerates well, and even in fifth you can feel it pulling. But to really see it go, drop it into third at about 80mph and floor it! That's what I like about it. It's good for about 130mph, but I've never taken it even close to that.
Roadholding is excellent in the dry - it took me a long time to build up the confidence in it, but now I've learnt to enjoy it. I still treat it with respect in the wet, though, as it would be very easy to lose the back end. It only happened once - that was in the dry, on the roundabout outside Tesco's when it was really busy. There had been a fuel spillage - I gave it a bit too much welly & just flipped it 180 degrees, and I was left rather embarrassingly facing the oncoming traffic!
Onto more practical issues (or should I say, impractical) - luggage space. There is none. Or, at least, very little. There's lockable storage behind the seats, just about big enough to carry four small carrier bags, provided you don't fill them broader than a loaf, and not too high. And then there's a small space under the bonnet, on top of the spare wheel - probably enough for a couple more bags. Some owners remove the spare wheel and carry one of those seal and inflate aerosol cans instead, which will give you more storage as well as cutting down on weight. But the Thatcham approved alarm is hidden beneath the wheel & then gets in the way - again, I know of one owner who relocated his alarm beneath the floorpan of the boot, where it can be heard a lot better (excellent alarm that should keep your insurance premiums down, but hidden beneath the spare wheel inside the boot it's very difficult to hear when it goes off!). You could make a little more space by removing the tool roll from the storage space behind the drivers seat. And if you're that way inclined (I'm not!) you can get a boot luggage rack to sit on the back.
I hope you've found this review helpful. As you've read it, chances are you're thinking of buying a Roadster. Just take my advice. Do it and enjoy - you'll wish you'd done so years ago!
I decided to buy an MR2 around 2 years ago. (I say decided but it was really my partner that pushed me into it). I wanted a Porsche Boxster or Audi TT but the funds simply didnt allow at the time. Mr C recommended the Toyota MR2 as a stopgap until we could afford something better and I was really glad I took his advise.
My MR2 was red, W reg with 65k on the clock and I paid just £4100. The paintwork was spotless as was the interior. I also think the interior is far more modern than the Merc SLK or BMW Z3.
At only 1.6l engine the tax and insurance was reasonably cheap and made filling up less of a hole in the pocket. The gears were good quality and of course being a Toyota it was extremely reliable. This has been by far my favourite convertible car to drive as it is very comfortable and smooth in comparison to similar models by other brands.
One problem with the MR2 is the lack of boot space. You get a small boot (large enough for 1 tesco bag only) and again a small space under the bonnet (as it is a mid engine car). Consequently my shopping ended up on the passenger seat or if I needed something larger I would take my partners car. If you had 2 people in the car you would have no chance of getting your shopping in.
Overall I really enjoyed this car but still pined for the Porsche. When I sold the MR2 and got the Porsche I missed the comfort factor but loved everything else even more.
Model: MR2 Roadster Manual
Year: 2002 (02 plate)
The buying decision:
I had finally reached the point where I had the money to buy a decent new car while being sufficiently free from responsibility to be able to choose an impractical, fun car.
I'd wanted another two seater convertible ever since a youthful dalliance with a clapped out Triumph Spitfire which spent more time on blocks than on the road. Luckily, most of the leading manufacturers now include one in their lineup since the introduction of the MX-5 in the early nineties so the choice was good.
With a budget of between £18-20,000 the choice came down to a new MR2, MX-5 or MGF or a slightly older Z3. Bearing in mind I bought the car in 2002 I won't say to much about purchase price. This was around the time of aggressive import options and excellent deals were possible from dealers, this is no longer the case.
I felt the MX-5 was a little long in the tooth by this stage and has a slightly sedate, comfortable look to it. The same applied to the MGF which also looks a little 'chubby' for what should be a sporty car. Even two year old Z3's were going for more than £20k so were never really an option. The MR2 has a definite sporty countenance and being a relatively new model (at the time) had a freshness that I liked. A couple of test drives later and I was convinced and a deal was struck, trading in my venerable Audi 80 for a princely £100.
The MR2 is a great looking car. It strikes the right balance by looking sporty and aggressive enough without trying to be something it isn't. From the over-large lights at the front to the grill over the engine at the back everything works. It really is a ringer for the Porsche Boxster and even after a couple of years ownership I have to look twice when I see either. The choice of colours is good, I went for the dark blue (metallic) with black hood and never had a moments regret. It looks great in all colours, although I'm not a big fan of the red.
The roof is very easy to take down and put back up. Easily a one person job and can be done from the drivers seat. When down, the folded roof will sit concealed in the rear parcel shelf and looks very tidy giving nice straight lines. You probably have to be outside the car to ensure it folds completely but this can be done in seconds. With the roof up a good level of soundproofing is provided and it is easy to think that you are in a hardtop. A big positive is the heated, glass rear window. As I say the soundproofing and insulation are very good so I was never tempted by the optional hardtop plus the extra cost and storage problems counted against it for me.
With the leather pack the interior has a very high quality, luxury feel to it. The seats are comfortable and supportive and you sit nice and low with your legs out straight in front of you. All the trim has a feel of quality and ergonomically everything is well positioned.
The MR2 is a joy to drive. It is a sporty car rather than a sports car but the driving position and responsiveness enhance the feeling of exhilaration. As with other Toyota's, the drive is excellent. Everything feels precise and direct, steering, braking and gear change are smooth and clean. Long journeys can be undertaken without any fear of discomfort.
There are three ways to drive the MR2 as a convertible. With the roof up you have a feeling of enclosure and solidity you'd expect from a hard top, external noise is minimal. With the top down and the windows up you begin to understand why you bought a convertible. The world opens up and the feeling of light and space is fantastic. In this way the MR2 can be driven at almost motorway speeds with minimal turbulance, noise becoming a factor only at high speeds. With the top down and the windows lowered you get the full, wind in the face, convertible experience - awesome! Unless it's raining you can have the top down all year round if you want, it certainly is a nice feeling on those crisp sunny winter days - just wait for the heater to kick in and you'll be fine.
This is a modern, Japanese, car so everything you would expect from build quality, reliability and support is there. In all the years I owned the car I never had a problem. Minor issues were dealt with swiftly and courteously by the Toyota dealer and I would (and have) happily deal with them again. The body and roof are easy to clean and maintain and after three years of being parked outside showed no sign of fading. With the hood up fuel consumption is pretty good, but motorway driving with the top down will reduce your return noticeably.
The obvious one is storage space. This was not even a consideration when I was buying the car but to be honest the space available is minimal. There is enough room for a couple of (soft) weekend bags but nothing approaching a boot-sized space. When even the sales literature claims the glove box as significant storage space you know you're not getting much. The other problem I noticed was that some of my taller friends (6'2" plus) found themselves looking over the top of the windscreen, this isn't a problem for me but if you are tall this is definitely an issue. There is nothing else I would put forward as a negative, if you want something more powerful you're going to have spend more than this.
This is a great car, I don't believe you can get a better looking, better performing, more reliable car for anything like this money. If it wasn't for the onset of children I'd still be driving it, unless I had found the money for a Boxster.