The Toyota MR2 - short for Midship Runabout 2-Seater - was a small and lively machine, and all but perfected the formula for a fun, affordable sports car. From 1984 to 2007, let's take a look at Japan's first mid-engine car and the impact it made on the era.
MR2: The Beginning
Manufacturers from Europe and beyond have played around with the idea of a mid-engine sports car, but when Toyota first announced that they were working on their own, they weren't playing around. However, amidst the oil crisis, it wouldn't reach production until 1984. But the flame hadn't died out just yet.
The first-gen MR2 attracted many buyers, who soon realised that the 4 cylinder 1.5/1.6 litre engine was not only efficient, it had enough power for it to be fun to drive, too. And although the 145 horsepower from the supercharged variant was considered very little for a sports car back then, this was the very car that changed that view.
MR2: A Maturing Breed
By 1989, the MR2 was given a redesign, with smoother styling and a range of larger, more powerful engines. It was fair to say that Toyota's sports car had matured into a fully-fledged sports car, capable of 242 horsepower and 200 lbs/ft of torque with a 2.2 litre engine - enough to rival an E30 BMW M3.
This maturity was the peak of popularity for Toyota's beloved model, and showed that the formula can be refined to create a car that is better in many ways than the first-gen car, but with the same charm and amazing driving experience. A ten-year lifespan saw it last until 1999, with only a few minor changes each year.
MR2: Back to basics
The third generation of the long-lived MR2 showed the world that Toyota was not ready to slow down their sports cars. Conceived at the end of the 1990s, this joyful car revisited its roots, with back-to-basics styling to put a smile on your face and a smaller 1.8 litre engine producing 138 horsepower.
A significant decrease from the more mature car was nothing to worry about, however, because the final model - produced until 2007 - still had a lot of life and was great to drive. Although it didn't sell as well as other sports cars, there was absolutely no doubt that the MR2 should be remembered in history as one of the monumental machines that changed motoring.
MR2: The Future?
Evo magazine revealed in 2017 that Toyota wanted to go back to producing a range of sports cars, dubbed 'The Three Brothers', one of which is a lightweight, mid-engine sports car. Will we see the MR2 return in the future? Maybe, but for now it stays in our books as a game-changing sports car as well as a mid-engine marvel.