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As a company car driver I was fortunate to take part in one of Toyotas track days recently. Being on the mailing list of practically every major motor manufacturer can have its advantages. Among the cars I was fortunate to drive was the Toyota MR2 and this really made my day. I do enjoy cars but I had never driven a mid-engined car before.
Here are my impressions of this wonderful car.
Looks Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder but this beholder thinks the MR2 is beautiful. It has a superb low short body not dissimilar from the Porsche Boxster. Of course this is not a Boxster in performance or status but the Boxster would set you back twice as much as the MR2s £18000. The probable competitors to the MR2 are probably more likely cars like the MGF or the Mazda MX-5 and in my humble opinion they just do not have the up-to-date look of the MR2. The old MR2 was still a good looker after 8 years of production and the new one looks as if it has enduring looks.
Performance The MR2 I drove has an 1.8litre engine with a useful but not spectacular 138bhp. As it weighs less than a tonne its bhp per tonne comes out a shade over 140. Nowhere near as good as Lotus Elise territory but still good enough for over 120 mph. As this was a track day we got up to some good speed and the MR2 felt very good beyond 100mph. This is not the slightest bit of good in Gatzoland (formerly known as the UK) but useful in more enlightened France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg etc etc. It has a 16 valve engine mounted transveresly in the middle driving the rear wheels which for road cars in the optimum position and drive combination for a balanced sports car. The MGF uses the same set-up but costs £3k more in Trpohy trim which is probably nearest to this model. The engine note is pleasant without being raucous. It seems to sing at me.
Comfort and Useability As someone approaching the dreaded 50 I am not as agile as a ballerina. In fact I am not as agile as a septagenarian tap dancer but getting in and out of the MR2 was not a problem. Lets face it after being given the chance to drive one it never was going to be now was it. The seat is very comfortable and you look forward to a dashboard of three huge white faced dials with further dials in the centre console. It all looks very good and very purposeful. Once in the car you become aware of its very compact dimensions and even before starting the engine you feel at home. Luggage space s almost non existent but who cares, this is not a family car. If its a problem take less luggage, marry someone smaller, become a naturist. This car is either for a young buck or uncle buck to use to flaunt his masculinity. Perhaps the Mazda and the MGF and more girly cars. The MR2 is infinitely more masculine.
What do you mean I should say more about the handling. It is fantastic. Oh all right bloody brilliant. After a very short time getting acquainted with the MR2 you are soon wishing that the next bend or bends would appear. When you do you just drive effortlessly through them. The car corners better than anything I have ever driven before. When you consider I currently have a Peugeot 406 that’s not saying much but the grip and road holding on the MR2 are wonderful. The steering is so precise you seem to have barely made your mind up to turn and you are already through the bend. In that time the car will not have given any hint of roll, the tyres will barely have scrabbled for any grip. It all just happens. I say again, fantastic.
As I used it as part of a track day I have no idea about the fuel economy. Anyway people who are choosing between these cars will not have mpg high up on the list of priorities a few mpg either way will not matter a jot. Suffice to say it will use less than the Boxster and lot more than a Fiesta or Astra. People who drive Fiestas and Astras worry about mpg not MR2 drivers.
I was really looking forward to driving the MR2 and was not disappointed. For the price this has to be one of the best handling cars on the road. Impractical maybe, adorable definitely.
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