UK Car Road Test

Toyota MR2 Roadster 2001

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Toyota's MR2 was launched back in 1986 in a Coupe 1.6 Twin Cam. In 1990 it was facelifted and available in both Coupe and T-Bar formats. Engines were up-rated to 2.0 formats producing up to a whopping 173 bhp pushing this mid engined rear wheel drive car to speeds in excess of 130 mph. Toyota have kept with the mid engined theme throughout the production of the MR2 including the current models. The car tested has the 1.8 VVC Roadster 2001 smaller engine and less bhp than its older brother. But it's a loveable little car and extremely good fun to drive.

 

Toyota MR2 Roadster

The Roadster tested was in a sharp blue metallic and quite simply looked stunning. It is quite unique in many ways in appearance but does carry some reminders of other previous makers cars.

It wasn't in proportion, however, to the front, and reminded me of a TVR in that it has the same view from the inside of the car. It also put me in mind of the Porsche 911 with the headlamps being tunnelled in appearance above the dropping bonnet line. The rear wheel arch surprisingly reminds me of the current Mini (2004) and there are hints of Boxster and Elise too. Despite hints of everything, it holds together by itsself , producing a good-looking little sportster.

It is very compact indeed and very much a pleasure car. Not essentially having to be part of the crowd with restrictions based on consumer demand, this car is styled for the fun aspect of driving and the consequence is very appealing to the eye, even if not entirely (or even remotely) practical.

The seating is standard with sports-styled, tight supportive seats and a well-styled, three spoke steering wheel complete with diddy airbag.

The interior is sporty and imaginative in design, the speedo is white with bright red needles for easy and accurate reading. 

The stereo is supported with an vertical aluminium-patterned housing which, when viewed from the driving position, looks okay. Pictured as it does below, it looks rather cheap and cheerful. 

The foot pedals have the lightweight Nardi drilled look, they are solid and can be slippery with wet feet. The clutch side footrest is excellent though most of the time your left foot is frantically pushing the clutch in and out.

 

 

The MR2 tested was the top end  model which came complete with leather seats, air conditioning, radio cassette and cd player. The music system had an acceptable acoustic capacity but no credibility in an attractiveness competition, looking a little like a 50 Aldi karaoke machine. 

The electric windows are operated from the centre console and I found them a little difficult to access. The windows are taut in the doors considering there is no support above the door top.

Clear and simple controls.

Cup holders below the stereo.

Nicely moulded door panel with Ali hand grip

Sporty stylish dash

A touch disappointing was that the roof is a manual one with no button to press to lower it when the weather is good enough. You have to actually get entirely out of the car to put it up or down to secure it (oh, we are getting lazy are we not?)

 

This 1.8 VVTi is 200cc less than the older engine it replaced and is easily noticeable.

But let me not criticise the MR2 1.8. 

Turn the key and the car bursts into life, revving high for some time before settling down to its programmed engine idle speed of about 800 rpm. The rear mounted unit has a definite level of noise matched only by the sprightly way it delivers its horses.

The MR2 is very light at only 975 KG and takes off rather quickly if the throttle is pushed hard enough. It has to be admired for the balance and the driver feedback which it delivers with some character. The front will lift on hard acceleration but this is only minimal and at the top end of the VVTi burst. The mid engine rear wheel drive is what you would expect with more grip, more noise and more fun than a conventional front engined car.

Engine BHP CC Fuel Inj.
16 Valve DOHC 138 1794 Yes
Cyl Camshafts Valves/cyl Compressor
4 Double 4 None
Top Speed 0 to 60 BHP per Tonne
129mph 8seconds 143

Take this car from a standing start and first gear blasts off so quickly that you are selecting second in no time at all (and that is also at about 6,500 rpm). As the car accelerates the engine is noticeably more powerful the higher it is revved, giving most of its horsepower beyond 5,000 rpm. When the engine is up in the range, the acoustics of the exhaust and engine noise from behind are as exhilarating as the drive itself.

The clutch is very light, being hydraulically operated and the gears are very close and definitive in their selection. Bearing in mind that the selector is remote from the box, the change is good to excellent with a nice solid and positive location. 


Engine cooling vents

Driver cooling vents

Technically, the MR2 has the following list of gadgets fitted as standard, including disc braking front and rear with ABS for the odd occasion you may be trying to stop too quickly. Some of the other features are listed below.

Alloy Wheels
Alloy Wheels
Catalytic Converter
Catalytic Converter
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Disc Brakes Front & Rear
Halogen Head Lights
Halogen Head Lights
Independent Suspension
Independent Suspension
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Intermittent Wash Wipe
Power Assisted Steering
Power Assisted Steering
Rev Counter
Rev Counter

The suspension is independent front and rear, the wheel base is very short and the weight distribution is very even front to rear. This achieves a tremendous feel when throwing the car into tight corners. At speed the car is very secure on the road and surprisingly robust and lacking body roll which is quite common in small open top cars. There is a touch of scuttle shake with no roof to brace the shell. To its credit it seems to manifest itself as a minor shaking of the dash plastics rather than a twisting of the chassis.

The grip is tremendous though, when pushing the limits, you are aware that the back end can break loose. Being very short in the wheel-base, when it starts to go it goes quite quickly. Luckily, the steering is beautifully responsive, giving loads on feedback and warning. The steering rack is geared quite highly and is very direct and sharp. 

The car tested had the luxury of a hard top which is also colour coded to the car. The hard top does transform the driving characteristics by stopping the wind noise and generally quieting the car. It is also very useful for winter as it helps keep the interior free from excess condensation.

There is a heated rear window fitted into the soft and hard tops, making the rear view acceptable and clear unlike the plastic versions used by other soft top cars.

Safety does not come to mind with this little car. You would not like to be in it if a Ford Transit ran into it at any speed at all. It would not have either the body mass or general strength to protect the occupants. There was also no anti-roll feature fitted. In the event of the car rolling onto its roof it would be the drivers head which skated along the floor and not any steel constructed protection. Maybe the driver should wear a crash helmet?

Strong anchorage for the hard top

Driver Airbag neat and tidy.

 

Alarm
Alarm
Antilock Braking System
Antilock Braking System
Deadlocks
Deadlocks
Engine Immobiliser
Engine Immobiliser
Front Twin Airbags
Front Twin Airbags
High level brake Light
High level brake Light
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Fuel Cap
Locking Wheel Nuts
Locking Wheel Nuts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Pre Tensioned front Seat Belts
Remote Central Locking
Remote Central Locking
Side Impact Protection
Side Impact Protection
Visible Identification Number
Visible Identification Number

 

Generally, this car is not a day-to-day workhorse. It's for those summer days and the odd rampant drive in the countryside.

What I thought was the boot.

It stores the spare wheel

You cannot even use it for the weekly shopping unless you go alone. When the bonnet is opened it is disappointing to find the storage area is tiny and shared with the spare wheel.

The only useful storage area is the passenger seat, which I suppose is alright if you going away for a weekend alone but if you have some company, you will have to figure out a way to take the toiletries along.  Maybe they would fit  in the storage bins behind the seats below.

Neat speedo - clear and concise

Even the badge has an arty appearance

Getting in and out is easy enough with the roof off although it takes a little more gymnastic ability with the hard top on. I am not overtly large but the seat was right back on its stops for getting in and stayed there for driving. Anyone approaching 6ft or more is going to find it a tight squeeze. Foot room, though, is good with little in the way of transmission tunnel between you and passenger.

Such impracticality really limits the occasions when you can use MR2. Unless, of course, you use it to commute to an office job. In that case you will probably always be late due taking the scenic route.

Still, practicality tends not to be the watchword of sports cars and it's no worse than a motorbike

If you can live with its inherent limitations then it really is a fantastic little car

 

 

 

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UK Car Road Test Toyota MR2 Roadster 2001

UK Car Road Test Keywords: SportsMR2 Roadster