Owner Review

1989 Toyota MR2 review

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I have owned this car for the best part of five years now, and since owning it, it has never missed a beat.

The car is a 1989 Toyota MR2 1.6-litre N/A manual, probably Toyota's first affordable sports car. The party piece of this car is its mid-engine rear-wheel drive two-seater combo, which at the time was only found in very expensive exotics.

Firstly, the engine. The 1.6-litre 4A-GE is a cult classic. It's twin-cammed, fuel injected and designed to be revved. In NA spec’, the engine delivered 88kW@6600rpm and 142Nm@5000rpm. The engine is known to be very strong and best enjoyed above 4200rpm when the T-VIS (variable intake system) would open up four extra intake runners to improve airflow volume. The system would then improve low-end torque by closing the four runners and improving low-speed air velocity below 4200rpm.

Mated to the nice close-ratio five-speed manual made for a very fun drive, as it changes the note of the engine while it revs quicker to its redline of just below 7000rpm, albeit it won't beat anyone from the lights. The pedals are spaced nicely for heal and toe as well.

In typical Toyota fashion, everything still works, even the electrics, which for a car made in the ’80s is amazing. It is very well equipped for the time, with power mirrors, power windows, cruise control and air-conditioning.

There are no active safety features here; you overdo it and you will probably die or be badly injured, as there is nothing except seatbelts to save you. The car does, however, come with four-wheel disc brakes that work quite well.

Steering is unassisted, which can be rather heavy in a parking lot, but is very communicative while driving. Steering is direct and superb at placing the wheels where you need them to go.

The handling of this car is what people wanted when they bought this back 30 years ago. It really does feel like a go-kart. You can place it anywhere, grip is fantastic for 195-wide tyres, independent front and rear suspension, and balance is pretty good. Although, it tends to favour understeer and has a weight bias to the rear, obviously because of the engine placement. The dreaded 'snap oversteer' only happens when you really overcook it.

Cabin space is what you'd expect of a two-seater. The seats are comfy enough and hold you in really well. Everything is within easy reach, but it may not suit really tall drivers. I'm 5ft 9in or so and it seems perfectly suited, and I can even comfortably wear a helmet. Visibility is fantastic as well.

So, onto the body and what is it like to live with? Firstly, luggage space is very limited with a smallish front trunk 'frunk' and a small boot behind the engine. Enough for groceries, but that's about it. It can't tow and around town may become tiring, as it lacks any low-end pull, with heavy steering and the engine sound and exhaust are loud.

Rust on these things is also a concern, and it needs to be well look after to avoid it. Servicing is simple, and as long as you keep up the basics, it should last for a long time.

Overall, it's an awesome, fun car that is hard to find in these days of automated safety everything. It's not overly fast but feels fast, and the more you put into it, the more it delivers. Plus, it is just cool to be in and its rarity makes it feel special on the road.