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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
649 19995 GBP
  • Toyota Mr2 1996 TBAR with full leather

    £649 £649

    130,000 miles P reg Full leather interior Some history with the car Caribbean blue T BAR with sunshades Full Clifford alarm   No MOT NO RUST as has been under sealed in all key areas (arches, floors & wheel arches) BRAND NEW - (last week with receipts) Oil change Oil filter Spark plugs   Alternator has currently seized (may be able to free off or may need replac   call 07508 935080

    • Mileage: 133000 mi
    • Engine size: 1998
    For sale
    £649 £649
    FridayAd
  • Toyota MR2

    £2,795 £2,795

    B/T MUSIC HANDSFREE UPGRADE £49.99!, Service Inspection Included, Service Included, Service Book, Service Bills, Local Car, H.P.I clear, Full VOSA History, AA Breakdown Cover, CD Player, Electric Front Windows, Adjustable Steering Column, Power Steering, ABS, Air Bag, Central Locking, Anti-Theft System, Alloy wheels, Full service history Located at Farmoor this Toyota MR2 ''Ragtop'' is finished in Rosso Red with a contrasting cloth interior.This is a rare opportunity to acquire an appreciating classic that is simply a blast to drive!Returning up to 47 mpg with bombproof Toyota reliability what more could you want for our predicted glorious summer?Call Mark on 01865 863777 or visit Farmoor Service Station, Oxford Rd,Oxford, OX2 9NN.With full dealer facilities and over 150 quality pre owned cars in group stock, SD Timmo is the only place to go!, Over 150 quality pre owned cars in group stock, please visitwww.sdtimmocarsales.co.uk

    • Mileage: 98000 mi
    • Engine size: 1800
    For sale
    £2,795 £2,795
  • Toyota MR2

    £2,980 £2,980

    Air Conditioning, Full Leather, Power Steering, Adjustable Steering Column, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, ABS, Air Bag, Metallic Paintwork, Front Fog Lamps, Remote Central Locking 120K,SERVICE HISTORY FINISHED IN METALLIC BLACK WITH BLACK LEATHER,REMOTE LOCKING,CD RADIO,ALLOY WHEELS,ELECTRIC WINDOWS/MIRRORS,AND INCLUDES RAC 6 MONTHS WARRANRY

    • Mileage: 120000 mi
    • Engine size: 1794
    For sale
    £2,980 £2,980
  • TOYOTA MR2 ROADSTER, Exceptional example with excellent service record 2001 Manual Petrol 51000

    £2,700 £2,700

    Here we have a genuine unmolested and very well cared for example which is in exceptional condition, car shows 122k miles but had a replacement engine in June 2017 that has only done 50k miles. MOT Feb 2019 (No advisories) Excellent service record will all receipts for work carried out., Upgrades - Custom Leather Upholstery, Standard Features - Alarm, Alloy Wheels, Electric Windows (Front), In Car Entertainment (Radio/Cassette/CD). 2 seats, This car drives exceptionally well and has had a gearbox overhaul in 2015 and has the short shift gear change, Has also had a new roof fitted at some point and is in perfect condition with no signs of wear or rips., HPI Checked, VOSA verified mileage, FCA APPROVED DEALER, Zero Deposit Finance Available, P/X Welcome

    • Mileage: 51000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.794
    For sale
    £2,700 £2,700
  • TOYOTA MR2 ROADSTER HARD TOP 2000

    £1,490 £1,490

    TOYOTA Mr2 ROADSTER HARD TOP finished in Blue (Manual), 100,657 miles only ;;Only GBP 1490;;- MOT: April 2019;;- Seats: 2 ;;- Service History: Many Invoices;;- Mileage: 100657;;- Fuel: Petrol; ;;;;Please feel free to view the car, and do not hesitate to ask us any questions;;;PART EXCHANGE AVAILABLE - More details on our website;;DELIVERY SERVICE - GBP 1.25 per mile one way + standard charge of GBP 45;;TEST DRIVE AVAILABLE - Please visit our website for bookings;;FINANCE AVAILABLE - Find the form on our website;;ALL MAJOR CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS ACCEPTED;;SAME DAY DRIVE AWAY;;;EG CARS;Car Showroom;Faringdon Road;Lechlade;Gloucestershire;GL7 3EY;;WWW EGCARS CO UK;;Opening Hours:;Monday to Friday: 09:00 - 18:00;Saturday 09:00 - 16:00; ;Email. sales@egcars.co.uk ;Tel. 01367617011 / 01367617003 / 07934042128 / 07592398778

    • Mileage: 100657 mi
    • Engine size: 1.794
    For sale
    £1,490 £1,490
  • Toyota MR2

    £2,995 £2,995

    Power Steering, Anti-Theft System, UK Supplied, Alloy wheels WELL PREPARED TRACK DAY RACE CAR FULL FIA ROLL CAGE TOYO TYRES ENGINE AND EXHAUST SYSTEM MODS FULL DETAILS ON REQUEST MUST BE SEEN.

    • Mileage: 91903 mi
    • Engine size: 1794
    For sale
    £2,995 £2,995
  • TOYOTA MR2 TWIN ENTRY TURBO TIN TOP 1995

    £4,995 £4,995

    WE ARE THE LEADING SUPPLIERS OF QUALITY HAND PICKED PRIVATELY BOUGHT STUNNING EXAMPLES OF JAP PERFORMANCE CARS. THIS IS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF SUCH, IT HAS BEEN LOVED AND CHERISHED . THE SALE WAS ONLY DUE TO THE PREVIOUS OWNER NOT BEING ABLE TO DRIVE ANYMORE DUE TO ILLNESS;;PLEASE DONT FORGET TO LOOK ON OUR WEBSITE FOR OVER 40 DETAILED PICS TO SHOW THE QUALITY OF THIS CAR;;ENGINE;- 3SGTE RUNNING AROUND 260-280BHP;-APEXI AIR FILTER;-HKS SSQV SEQUENTIAL BLOW OFF VALVE;;EXHAUST;-3''BERK DOWNPIPE;-FUJIBITU RM01 SYSTEM;;SUSPENSION/BRAKES;-MEISTER R ADJUSTABLE COILOVERS;-EBC YELLOW STUFF PADS ALL ROUND;-EBC DISCS ALLROUND;;WHEELS-TYRES;-ENKIE RP01LIGHTWEIGHT ALLOYS STAGGERED FRONT AND REAR 16''X7 AND 16'' X 8 ;-H and R 10mm AND 20mm SPACERS;-YOKAHAMA AD08R TYRES;;INTERIOR;-SPECIAL EDITION SUEDE / RED STITCHED OMP STEERING WHEEL;-RED CARBON FIBRE BRIDE LOW MAX'S ;-STACK BOOST GUAGE;-JAPSPEED SHORT SHIFTER;-TEIGWA GEARSTICK;;EXTERIOR;-CARBON FIBRE TOM'S AIRSCOOP;- REV5 SPOLIER WITH CARBON FIBRE BLADE AND ENDCAPS;;;WE DELIVER NATIONWIDE AND TAKE ANY CAR IN PART EXCHANGE;;CALL ANYTIME 7 DAYS;

    • Mileage: 110000 mi
    For sale
    £4,995 £4,995
  • 1991 Toyota MR2 Mk 2

    £2,475 £2,475

    This MR-2 is a very good example of the MR-2 Mk-2. It has not been messed with it has just been used and cared for as it is. In June this year the car was serviced and MOT'ed by a Toyota main dealer. It has a good history file and is in very nice condition. The engine starts fine and runs well and the automatic gearbox is smooth. The body is very good with no rust and the interior only has minor wear on the drivers seat bolster. The tool kit is with the car and the space saver is in the front. The wheels are all original but to be honest in need of a refurbish but these days this should not be an issue. All in all a great little car in very nice order. Now 25 years old these cars are bound to be desirable classics of the future, The MGB of the 2020's Priced increased due to improvements done to the car.

    • Year: 1991
    • Mileage: 87000 mi
    For sale
    £2,475 £2,475
  • TOYOTA MR2 2003 1.8 ROADSTER SMT PETROL AUTOMATIC AUTO SILVER CONVERTIBLE CABRIOLET 2003

    £2,995 £2,995

    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
    £2,995 £2,995
  • 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
    £6,995 £6,995
  • Toyota MR2

    £4,995 £4,995

    Sunroof, Electric Windows, Stereo, Cloth Upholstery, Sports Seats, 14'' Alloys TOYOTA MR2 MK1 1.6 COUPE, RED, 53,039 MILES, SUN ROOF, STEREO, SPORTS SEATS, E/WINDOWS, 14'' ALLOYS, BOOT SPOILER, PROBABLY ONE OF THE NICEST UNTOUCHED YOU'LL FIND

    • Mileage: 53039 mi
    • Engine size: 1587
    For sale
    £4,995 £4,995