Used Toyota MR2: what is it like to own one?

Recently, we organised a very special road trip with the team at Car Throttle to the village of Bala, in Gwynedd, Wales, with a quartet of sports cars, included a used Toyota MR2.

In fact, two generations of used Toyota MR2 were in attendance, our own 2006 Chilli Red third-generation TF300 from the Toyota heritage fleet, and an immaculate white first-generation ‘AW11’ from 1988, owned by 20-year-old Ollie Evans, of Shrewsbury. Also in attendance was the coveted Corolla GT Coupé ‘AE86’ and a year-old GT86.

We asked Ollie – who has owned his MR2 for two months – what it’s like being the registered keeper of a car that’s fast becoming a collector’s item.

Tell us a bit about your used Toyota MR2’s history

Ollie Evans: It’s a UK car and has led quite a sheltered life. The previous owners were a local couple who are both lecturers. The pair were the car’s fourth owners, and they’d had it for five years and would only take the car out on perfect days – for the rest of the time it lived in a garage under a cover and never really saw the rain.

My MR2 has a full history and I have every MOT certificate back to 1991 – the year of its first test. Interestingly, throughout the car’s life it has never failed an MOT or even had an advisory.

Why a used Toyota MR2?

OE: I love classic cars and I wanted something small, preferably rear-wheel drive. I decided upon an MR2 when I read positive owner reviews of the AW11 (the internal name for the first-generation MR2) – it was a eureka moment for me in which I said to myself: “Yes, that!”.

Immediately I started trawling through the classifieds, saw that one, and had to have it.

What other Toyota sports cars are you especially fond of?

OE: I love the GT86 and obviously the AE86, and I’m also very fond of the Supra because they’re mad! The third and fourth-generations are my favourites, I think of the third-generation as being an upscaled MR2. When people think of sports cars they tend to think Ferrari et al, but Toyota has a rich sports car history too – the cars are just so rare!

Are you aware of any other mark 1 MR2 owners or cars on the road?

OE: Funny enough there’s one in my local area (Shrewsbury, Shropshire), but it doesn’t look like it’s been particularly well-maintained. I’m part of the owner’s club and post regularly on the forums.

What’s the best thing about owning a used Toyota MR2?

OE: It’s great fun to drive and I love being in it. The car sounds lovely and the handling is perfect, but crucially, people seem to have respect for it. It’s quite striking to look at and I would say pretty flashy, but not in a way that makes passers-by jump to conclusions about you for driving it, they see it and I know that they appreciate it for what it is – a cool, classic and retro car. Oh, and the pop-up lights – everyone loves those!

What’s it like to live with?

OE: It’s fantastic. My previous car was 13 years younger than it and it didn’t feel it – if anything the MR2 feels more up with the times. Being 26 years old it does have the odd rattle and squeak now and again but there’s been nothing I haven’t been able to fix.

The steering is quite heavy but I got used to it after about 10 minutes of driving the car, because the car is mid-engined there’s not a great deal of weight over the front wheels, so it’s easy to manage without power-assisted steering. The brakes feel old but I’m used to driving old cars, so I’m aware that if you want to stop swiftly, you’re going to have to stamp! That said, they’re sufficient and do the job.

What work have you had done to your used Toyota MR2?

OE: I haven’t really had any work done, apart from replacing the exhaust tips which were missing when I purchased the car in May. It’s completely standard asides from that.

Thanks for talking to us Ollie, is there anything you’d like to add?

OE: No problem! One thing I didn’t mention which a lot of people comment on is the sun visor above the rear window, it reflects Toyota onto the screen – I think that’s a really cool feature. The car is almost perfect, I’d just like new wheels and perhaps a touch more power, they’re tweaks rather than changes.

See also:

Toyota sports cars past and present head to the Welsh hills
Toyota sports cars past and present: MR2 vs. MR2
Toyota sports cars past and present: AE86 vs. GT86

Where next? 

Detailed MR2 history

Toyota Sports Cars Past & Present


  1. I owned a Dark Metallic Blue 1987 T-bar roof supercharged MR-2. It had 145bhb and was quick as hell. Or at least I thought it was until that Porsche 911 at the stop light pulled away from me and made me feel like i was driving in reverse.

    But I loved that car.

    1. Hi Dan
      Thanks for a great post.
      The fact that the Porsche pulled away from you does not matter. The key issue here is that you loved your car and this is the important point. Thanks again for telling us your story regarding Toyota ownership.

  2. I had an MR3 mark 3 in Chilli Red in 2004. What a fabulous car! I avoided the paddle shift version, prefering to stay with the manual gear shift. It was so much fun to drive. I found it vice free if pushed – it was very well behaved.

    Last year I had a GT-86 for a year. In the summer my son and I drove down to the Stelvio Pass through Germany and Austria, then to Bolzano before heading for Vienna to meet my wife and daughter. My wife and I then drove home to North Wales over two days before heading off to the Edinburgh Fringe a day later. 3200 miles in two weeks!

    Both cars are engaging and immense fun to drive. I often toy with the idea to get another MR2 as it would make a great summer day out vehicle. I was sad to see the back of the 86 – it is a true Grand Tourer and did everything we asked of it for the whole year (including in the Snow in February!)

    Reference the visor reflection comment – I remember being impressed by the way “Toyota” was displayed on the rear window by light shining through the clear spoiler. It was a nice touch.

  3. Hi Paul
    Thanks for your post and and for taking the time to tell us your story about Toyota ownership. The drive through Stelvio Pass sounds phenomenal and 3,200 miles in two weeks is a lot of driving!
    Hope you end up getting that MR2 and if you do then you must post a pick on our UK Facebook page. If you have any images of the GT86 at Stelvio Pass it would be great to see them as well.

  4. I had a fuel-injected AW11 for several years and now own a 1988 Supercharged AW11. It is my pride and joy! I have no hesitation in declaring either AW11 variant to be *by far the best sports-car-bang-for-your-buck in the world*.

    The FI requires revs to do the magic, and is a delight to thrash through the gears. The SC has sheer torque lower in the rev band and when I mash the gas pedal at 80 mile-an-hour, the blower sings me the song of her people.

    I routinely drag off brand new Australian 6-cylinder cars at the lights, ah, the looks on their little faces…

    It sticks to the road like the proverbial, and sometimes I glance at the speedo in the middle of a tight bend and think wow, going pretty fast but it doesn’t even feel like I’m doing something insane.

    The only non-stock item on my AW11 SC is a set of conservatively oversized pulleys which I fitted when the original harmonic balancer pulley set wore out at 180000km. This gets me 11-12psi boost (stock is 8-10, mine ran 8-9) but is well within the engine management system’s envelope.

    The 4A-GZE engine is widely held to be bulletproof and my experience of them is exactly that.

    10 out of 10, no regrets!

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