What happened to the affordable two-seater sports car? I still remember the thrill of reading the September 2000 issue of EVO magazine; the one with the Vauxhall VX220 on the cover.
‘Wild new Vauxhall meets Elise and MR2… and beats them!’ writ large on the cover. It planted a seed in my head that led to the purchase of my first VX220 in 2002, still the best car I’ve ever owned. Renault Safrane excluded, obviously.
Granted, a £23,000 VX220 would cost the equivalent of £39,500 in today’s money, but we were spoilt for choice. Pick and choose from the Elise, MR2, BMW Z3, Fiat Barchetta, Honda S2000, Mazda MX-5, MGF and Porsche Boxster. We never had it so good.
I always fancied a Toyota MR2. Its biggest crime appeared to be a lack of luggage space. In the context of a sports car, that’s akin to criticising your supermodel girlfriend for leaving the cap off the toothpaste. An appropriate analogy, when you’re struggling to find space in an MR2 for a toothbrush.
In just about every other department, the Toyota MR2 brushed up. A midship runabout sandwiched between the affordable MGF and the more expensive Porsche Boxster. Both offered better practicality, but neither had the reliability of the Toyota. That said, early versions of the 1.8-litre VVT-i engine suffered from disintegrating pre-cat systems, so it’s best to buy a post-2002 example.
A weight of 975kg sounds positively portly in the company of the VX220 and Elise, but it used its engine to great effect. Peak power of 138bhp at 6400rpm tells you everything you need to know about the rev-hungry nature of the Toyota engine.
EVO labelled the MR2 a ‘baby Boxster’, recognising that, aside from ‘paltry stowage arrangements’, it was the ‘complete package’. A car you could live with throughout the year, assuming you ditched the supermodel and used the passenger seat for extra luggage. Still want that Cindy Crawford, etc?
So it’s rather odd that Toyota MR2 Mk3 (W30) prices are so much lower than its contemporary rivals. The latest Octane price guide lists £4000 for an excellent example, or £2500 for an MR2 in good condition. These prices rise to £13,000 and £9500 for the VX220, with an extra 50% for the Turbo.
As for the Lotus Elise S1. Octane quotes figures of £25,000 for a car in excellent condition, or £20,000 for a good one. Remember when these were the prices for a new Elise?
The point is, the MR2 Mk3 is a used car bargain. A mid-engined, rev-happy sports car for less than £5000. You know you want one.
Which is where friend of the show Andrew Brady comes in. He’s selling his wonderful Toyota MR2 Roadster Red Collection for £4500. A price slightly above the Octane guide, but Andrew went to great lengths to find the best example. Four years on, he’s selling it due to a lack of use.
Toyota unveiled the Red Collection versions of the Celica and MR2 in 2004. Highlights of the MR2 included a red leather interior, red soft-top roof with heated rear screen, Sable grey metallic paint and special red badging. It cost £17,995.
Andrew says: ‘I was looking for a weekend toy and set out to find the best I could find. This was it. If I were to nitpick, the only issues I can find are a few small stone chips on the front bumper and a (very) small scratch on the driver’s door. I’ve tidied these up using touch-up paint.
‘Reason for sale? I’m just not using it enough. It spends most of its time locked away in the garage so it’s time to let it go.’
It’s got an MOT until May 2022, has four new Bridgestone tyres, and was treated to an oil and filter change this week. This is your chance to buy an MR2 owned by a motoring journalist with a blue tick next to his name on Twitter.
You can collect the car from Stamford or Shropshire. Either way, the drive home should be epic. Don’t forget your toothbrush.