September 29, 2023

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Why This Mid-Engined Toyota MR2 Is One Of The Last Affordable Japanese Sports Cars Left


  • The SW20 Toyota MR2 is an affordable and practical sports car that offers style and an eventual potential return on investment.
  • While iconic Japanese models like the Nissan Skyline and Toyota Supra rise in value, the MR2 remains relatively affordable.
  • To some, the MR2 has Ferrari-esque styling, a well-balanced driving experience, and good storage space, making it a great option for car enthusiasts on a budget.

For most of the public, sports cars are a dream, something to aspire to. That’s thanks to the higher purchase cost, running costs and maintenance, as well as the fact that they can rarely replace primary vehicles in a household.

Therefore, practical, reliable, and cheap sports cars are sought after items, especially ones that also offer style and for some, a positive return on investment. JayEmm – YouTube automotive content creator from Britain – says that customers buying up iconic cars as investments drove up prices. Enter the SW20 Toyota MR2, an oft-overlooked, mid-engined Japanese sports car that remains a capable and relatively affordable car in 2023. Here’s what he has to say after spending time with what some call the Japanese Ferrari.

RELATED: Toyota’s Next Sports Car Will Not Be An Mid-Engine GR MR2

The SW20 Toyota MR2 Is A Great Affordable Sports Car

James says that while the Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra and Mazda RX-7 rise in value to unobtainable levels, cars like the MR2 remain affordable – for now. When customers look for the next best thing, the mid-engined machine will look like a pretty good deal.

It is the second generation of the MR2, which followed the boxy-first generation and ended in the rounded, lightweight third generation. In the US, the 2.2-liter four-cylinder base engine made 130 hp, while the desirable MR2 turbo offered-up a substantial 197 hp & 200 lb-ft. These are the versions which will likely appreciate the most. With Ferrari-like styling and an exotic engine layout, the MR2 is surprisingly practical as James reveals the storage space which extends to the small frunk, reasonably sized rear trunk and extra space behind the seats.

He notes that it is capable of reasonable fuel economy and has compliant suspension which makes it a grand tourer rather than a sharp, apex-searching track machine.

RELATED: Why More Inbound Toyota GR Models Suggest A Mid-Engine MR2 Is In The Works

How Much Does An SW20 Toyota MR2 Cost In 2023?

Toyota MR2 WB20, front quarter view
Via: YouTube via JayEmm

Snap over steer was an issue that he says was more often related to inexperienced drivers pushing the limits in a car with an atypical engine layout.

Throttle lift-off mid-corner could result in a pendulum effect, but James reveals the car to be well-balanced in normal conditions when driven correctly.

It’s not the best examples of the MR2, but even examples in rough condition like this are relatively cheap to source parts for he says, and any investment made now could reward later if prices do rise like the more iconic Japanese models.

In contemporary tests, the MR2 was a quick car – nowadays though, an entry-level Tesla Model 3 would see it off in a drag race. But that car doesn’t offer what the mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive SW20 does, and few others either.

Values in the US for the second-generation SW20 Toyota MR2 are around $13,000 for the manual base model, and $21,000 for the turbo model. Good examples of the MR2 turbo can sell for much more, with recording sales of $30,000, all the way up to one example which sold for $61,000. The Lotus Elise S1 has an average value of $31,000. Cheaper mid-engined cars like the Pontiac Fiero and Porsche Boxster have average values at auction of only $12,000 and $16,000 respectively.