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Toyota MR2 Mk1: Buying guide and review (1984-1989)

Toyota MR2 Mk1: Buying guide and review (1984-1989) Classic and Performance Car
Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989)
When Toyota launched the MR2, it was entering a market that was in dire need of some rejuvenation. Mid-engined sports cars dated back to the likes of the Porsche 914 and Lotus Europa, but heading into the 1980s, only the rapidly ageing Fiat X1/9 soldiered on. The traditional sports car market was also being squeezed by the rampant evolution of the hot hatch, which offered most of the thrills with more practicality.
 
Toyota began development as far back as 1976, launching the finished MR2 (Midship Runabout 2-seater) in 1984. Here was an affordable mid-engined sports car, with the bonus of Toyota’s excellent engineering and reliability record. It was a breath of fresh air, and it went down extremely well in the UK. 
 
Fitted with a revvy twin-cam engine, and a close-ratio five-speed transmission, Toyota’s sportscar turned out to be a great steer too. Although relatively soft riding, the MR2 was precise and well balanced on the road – finding favour with many road testers at the time. The combination of a 122bhp engine and low 977kg weight, the MR2 was genuinely rapid, managing a sub-8.0 second 0-60mph time.
 
The positive press also helped to turn the MR2 into a strong seller, but it also helped to spawn a one-make race series in the UK, although a proposed Group S rally car never came to fruition due to the cancellation of the series. 
 

Which MR2 to buy? 

 
For the easiest experience, your best bet is to stick with an original UK car. All U-market cars originally came with a removable sunroof, which could be carried in the front luggage compartment, however there was also a T-bar roof option from October 1985. This added a removable glass panel above each occupant. While a desirable option in summer, the the glass roof can cause problems with leaks during the wetter months – something to consider if you can’t garage the car. 
 
As always, you should find the lowest mileage car you can. Although the biggest concern is rust, it’s also worth taking into account the most common mechanical issues that commonly strike at around the 100,000-mile mark. A higher-mileage car with all the work done might ultimately be the cheaper option. 
 
Although they require a more careful eye, as well as some more extensive searching, some of the imported models can offer considerably more than the UK-market cars. Two popular versions are the Supercharged and G-Ltd models. The usual pitfalls of imported cars apply, meaning you should beware of clocked examples, as well as poorly converted cars. They were also even more prone to rust due to less protection than the UK-sold counterparts. We’d also recommend avoiding the 1453cc cars sold in Japan originally, as they have just 83bhp – although if you find one of these in exceptional condition for sensible money, it might make a smart buy. 
 

Performance and specs 

 
Toyota MR2 Mk1
Engine 1587cc, four-cylinder
Power 122bhp @ 6600rpm
Torque 105lb ft @ 5000rpm
Top speed 119mph
0-60mph 7.7sec
Fuel consumption 29mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2320mm
Length 3925mm
Width 1665mm
Height 1250mm
Kerb weight 975kg
 

Common problems

 
• As it’s not a difficult car to spin on wet roads, you must check for badly repaired crash damage. A big giveaway is mismatched paint as well as badly aligned panel gaps. 
 
• Expect rust, especially in the rear wheelarches. This is the biggest killer of MR2s, as a rusty car can be difficult to rescue once the rot has spread to far. 
 
• Look at the rear quarter valances and the rear wings too. 
 
• Pull out the spare wheel, and check the seam that runs across the bulkhead as this rots, especially on the pre-1987 cars. 
 
• The front valance on early cars also gets stone chipped and rots out, although later models used a plastic valance. 
 
• Open the rear boot and carefully check for corrosion in the corners, as rust can star here and spread. 
 
• Check the bottom of each A- and B-post, as corrosion in these areas is likely. Things will be made even worse in a T-bar car with leaky seals, which could potentially flood the interior. Pull up the carpets if you can, as there may be rust holes. 
 
• The front wheelarch liners can also trap leaves, which then absorb moisture, leading to rotten A-posts. If the car has been parked under a tree, then these should be cleaned out and inspected for rust. 
 
• Check that all the bungs are in the various holes on the underside of the chassis, in particular the areas under the footwells and seats, as water can enter here through damaged underseal and go undetected beneath the carpets. 
 
• Engines clock up 150,000+ miles if the oil is changed every 6000 miles. The cam belt should have been changed at 60,000 miles or every five years. 
 
• Check the colour of the coolant, as it should be a deep red colour. This would indicate that the correct Toyota anti-freeze has been used. If this becomes too dilute, the cylinder head gasket could potentially blow 
 
• The system should be bled (which can be difficult) to avoid air locks, which can fool the various temperature sensors, causing the revs to fluctuate between 600rpm to 2000rpm, when at idle. 
 
• The five-speed transmission is reliable, the only likely problem being worn synchromesh on second gear. Some Japanese cars got an automatic gearbox, and even then it was available only with the smaller engine and also as an option on supercharged cars. 
 
• The manual gearbox can develop fifth-gear problems after 100,000 miles, so check for it jumping out of gear. This can sometimes be repaired cheaply, but if it’s been damaged for a while it’s likely to need a replacement or rebuilt gearbox. 
 
• Knocks from the front suggests either the roll bar drop links or the steering rack bushes have worn. Both are easy to replace on a DIY basis. 
 
• The MR2 has disc brakes all round; rear callipers can seize because of worn handbrake cables and/or worn seals. 
 
• The alternator is prone to overheating, which shortens its lifespan, so make sure it's charging properly. 
 

Model history

 
1983: MR2 Prototype is shown, badged SV-3, at the Tokyo motor show. 
1984: Production MR2 is launched in Japan. 
1985: First cars arrive in the UK in March. By October there’s already a minor facelift, with colour-keyed bumpers, spoilers and skirts plus central locking. 
1986: A T-bar roof is now offered, while all models get a deeper front spoiler, longer nose plus revised tail lights and air intake. There are also suspension tweaks while a 145bhp supercharged edition is introduced for markets outside Europe. 
1988: Leather trim is now standard on the T-bar MR2. 
1990: The Mk2 supersedes the first-generation car. 
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.mr2dc.com
• www.mr2mk1club.com
• www.mr2oc.co.uk
 

Summary and prices

 
The MR2 has always offered a lot of fun for not much money, but due to the surprisingly rare nature of these Japanese classic prices have unsurprisingly soared in recent years. Today a top condition car could cost more than £5000, although there are still great cars to be found from around £2700. If you’re handy with a welder, then there are still plenty of cars out there for around £1000.
Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989) Toyota MR2 Mk1 buying guide (1984-1989)
Last updated: 31st Oct 2016
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Toyota MR2 cars for sale

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Toyota MR2
1000 6995 GBP
  • TOYOTA MR2 1.8 VVTi AIR CON .SOFT TOP.

    £1,995 £1,995

    Type: Used Year: 2000 Make: TOYOTA Model: MR2 Trim: 1.8 VVTi AIR CON .SOFT TOP. Body: Convertible Trans: Manual Mileage: 95000 Engine Size: 1794 Ext Color: GREEN

    • Mileage: 95000 mi
    • Engine size: 1794
    For sale
    Mansfield Car Centre
    01623549861 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Toyota Mr2 1999

    £1,000 £1,000

    Great little car, very fast and handles amazing, I have just serviced with, oil, filters, performance air filter and plugs etc.  Has a decent stereo, no faults drives great, just the alloys are a bit rough which is a common problem on older toyotas.

    • Mileage: 117400 mi
    • Engine size: 1794
    For sale
  • TOYOTA MR2 ROADSTER SMT - 12 MONTHS MOT - 2 KEYS 2001 Auto 51220 Petrol Silver

    £2,995 £2,995

    TOYOTA Mr2 ROADSTER SMT - 12 MONTHS MOT - 2 KEYS finished in Silver (Auto), 51,220 miles NEW SERVICE AT 51000;;Features include Immobiliser, Cassette Player, Radio, Electric Mirrors, V5 Reg Doc, Leather Interior, CD Player, Remote Locking, Electric Windows, ABS, Warranted Mileage, Metallic Paint, Central Locking, Service Indicator, Front, Side, Rear Airbags, Adjustable Steering Wheel, MOT, Colour Coded, Spare Key, HPI Clear, Alloy Wheels, Power Assisted Steering, Comfort Seats, Sports Seats.;;Only GBP 2,995;;

    • Mileage: 51220 mi
    • Engine size: 1.794
    For sale
  • TOYOTA MR2 ROADSTER 2001

    £1,995 £1,995

    Lovely MR2 Roadster Genuine 48650 Miles 2 owner Car with Superb Leather interior,Service History Mot 01/06 2018, Just Serviced ,Excellent tyres,Looks Runs and Drives superb. Spare Key Hand books and service Book. Hpi Clear Silver, Please Call Richard for more details 07885582082 or WEBSITE WWW.RBCARSALES.COM,Viewing MK44 Bedford, GBP 1995 p/x poss

    • Mileage: 48650 mi
    • Engine size: 1.794
    For sale
  • TOYOTA MR2 2003 1.8 ROADSTER SMT PETROL AUTOMATIC AUTO SILVER CONVERTIBLE CABRIOLET 2003

    £3,495 £3,495

    We are pleased to offer this fabulous Toyota MR2 Roadster which is sure to be a future classic. With its mid mounted engine and deep exhaust note this is open top sports car motoring at an affordable price. In rare automatic form it even has buttons on the steering wheel to change gear. It has great service history and has clearly been cared for by its previous owners. It has just had a brand new replacement roof and all four wheels refurbished so is in superb condition throughout. Upon sale the car will be serviced, issues with a new 12 month MOT and come with a three month warranty. We can offer flexible finance terms on this car including ZERO deposit. We can also take your old car in part exchange.

    • Mileage: 83123 mi
    • Engine size: 1.794
    For sale
  • Toyota MR2

    £6,995 £6,995

    CD Player, Remote Central Locking, Head Restraints, Front Fog Lamps, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Power Steering, Electric Aerial, Electric Mirrors, Electric Windows, Adjustable Steering Column, Height Adjustable Seat, Immobiliser, Alloy wheels, Full service history LARGE SELECTION OF 2 & 4 SEATER CONVERTIBLES/CABRIOLETS ALWAYS IN STOCK, OPEN 7 DAYS, PX WELCOME, FINANCE AVAILABLE, 12 MONTHS MOT www.maidstoneautocentre.co.uk, FOR FULL DETAILS AND MULTIPLE PICTURES PLEASE VISIT..www.maidstoneautocentre.co.uk

    • Mileage: 35000 mi
    • Engine size: 1794
    For sale
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