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Why I Bought a Toyota MR2

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2002 Toyota MR2 profileHello folks! Tyler here and with some news from my personal motoring story. One of the first questions people ask me upon discovering that I am a motoring journalist is “what do you drive?” I’m2002 Toyota MR2 rear sure it is the same for many in this profession as surely we all drive something extravagant that we fell in love with whilst road testing, right? Well, in reality many of us motoring hacks just kick about in something which suits our needs. Be it a diesel Passat or a banger bought out of curiosity. I am in the very fortunate position of being young, there are still some raised eyebrows when announcing my age to new manufacturer PRs, and so I don’t need to put too much thought into practicality or running costs. As a result for the past few years I’ve been running around in my MK1 Mazda MX-5 sporting its now infamous Martini stripe. I love that car for its pure driving connection and ability to put a smile on my face even when just popping to the shops. However, driving as many cars as I do in a year resulted in me thinking it might be time for a change. Sticking with the romantic notion of being young, free and blah, blah, blah I bought a Toyota MR2.

I caught sight of a 2002 MK3 Toyota MR2 on the internet and as it was not too far away I gave into curiosity. I test drove it twice, did a bit of homework overnight and purchased it the following day. Why? A) Because it was the specification I would have chosen had I bought it new. B) A mid-engine sports car seemed like a natural progression. C) The dangerous side of my brain wanted to find out why so many people ended up crashing them. Bought and paid for, I had all of the paper work but the next day I was to be abroad on a car launch and so couldn’t collect it until my return.

2002 Toyota MR2 frontA few days later I eagerly walked up the previous owners driveway to this gleaming black beauty. It is a difficult car to take a picture of, due to its low profile, but in the metal with its black alloy wheels and red trim that matched the seats it looks almost exotic. The cars steeply raked silhouette and double bubble removable hard top promotes the much more serious character that the Toyota MR2 has over the MX-5. Whilst the Mazda was a great toy, what I had bought here was a car design from the ground up to be a performance tool.

Under its bonnet, at the rear this being a mid-engined car, is a 1.8 litre VVTi engine producing 138BHP. Whilst that isn’t loads in the grand scheme of things, factor in that this car only weighs 975KG. 0-62MPH is completed in an official 7.7 seconds but I have been reliably informed by journalist who were on this cars launch when new that Toyota were very conservative with that figure. They managed to get the time down considerably and had telemetry data to prove it, something I shall try and match soon.

I’ll be honest…. There are a few shortcomings of the MK3 Toyota MR2 Roadster. Firstly its boot, located at the front, is so small that a medium sized bag will completely fill it. Secondly the noise of its VVTi engine isn’t the most inspiring, not at least until pushed past 5,000rpm. This is because the exhaust note is muffled by the sharp angles the pipe takes before reaching its end. If I were assessing this car in a professional capacity I might also say that the ride is a bit firm and rear visibility is ridiculous. What I absolutely can not complain about is how this thing moves. It leaps from bend to bend with the agility of a mosquito! There is just so much grip and balance to the way it handles that you can immediately tell that it would set a pleasing lap time around a technical circuit. Communicative steering, excellent pedal weighting and almost telepathic responsiveness all feed directly to you from within the low-slung red interior. Many cars claim to have a go-kart feel to them, but that is mainly marketing talk. This Toyota MR2 is so light and well connected to the driver that it actually does feel like a big go-kart. Settle down and turn on the air conditioning on a motorway trip and it is comfortable, although a little noisy, even returning a real world 36MPG. When the sun comes out you can even enjoy going topless. People who claim that this is a hairdressers car clearly need to drive it, especially in the wet weather thanks to its mid-engine layout it will bite you very quickly for taking liberties.

I had an MR2 in the back of my mind when looking for a new car, but was surprised at just how good it was when I drove it. I still love the MX-5 and will shed a tear when I get around to selling mine. However, this “black beauty” is a much more serious motor that requires a bit of talent to drive it quickly. Whilst having all of the thrills a sports car can offer, at the end of the day it is still a Toyota meaning parts are plentiful and it is reliable. At the £1,300 that I paid for it, this has to be one of the biggest “bangs for your bucks” propositions out there. I can not wait for the summer to arrive and the road trips to begin!

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