The 2002 Toyota MR2 is a no-compromise roadster designed to excite true sports car enthusiasts. It is fun to drive, good to look at and affordable to own.

Like all the best roadsters, the new Toyota MR2 combines traditional sports car characteristics with modern engineering. Returning to concept basics, Toyota drew upon their roots for lightweight sports cars, the Sports 800, and the two previous generations of MR2 to create a new style sports car for the 21st century.

2002 Toyota MR2
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New Toyota MR2 is mid-engined, rear wheel drive for precise handling. Toyota engineers have used the very latest technology to cut weight and boost performance. But it is in the area of agility that the mid engine and lightweight design really shines. The mid-engine design, combined with an ideal ‘wheelbase to overall length’ ratio, makes this one of the most nimble of vehicles on the road. Quick and accurate driver response is the name of the game for the new MR2 roadster.

The MR2’s 1.8-litre engine has VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing - intelligent) for maximum midrange torque and superb top-end power, with the best fuel consumption in its class.

Modern sports car styling

The MR2 is a sports car with striking looks. The basic characteristics are its long wheelbase, short overhangs and strong horizontal line, accentuated by the dramatic air scoop for the engine. The body is short (3885mm) relative to the wheelbase (2450mm) which increases responsiveness and the low centre of gravity, wide track and long wheelbase also gives it stability.

The interior is comfortable but clearly sporting. The bucket seats and the leather trimmed, three-spoke steering wheel create the ideal sports car driving environment, which is enhanced by the aluminium pedals. The dashboard is clean, simple and the race car instrumentation clear to read.

2002 Toyota MR2
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But drivers will not find MR2 lacking in comfort. Power steering, power windows and remote control central locking are among the items that will be offered as standard equipment. An engine immobiliser and, in selected markets, ’double locking’ will help make the desirable MR2 more secure.

A detachable hard-top, creating a striking coupe look, will be available as an option. Other options include air conditioning.

Lightweight design philosophy

The lightweight of the new MR2 is the key to its sparkling performance, low fuel consumption, agile handling and stable road holding.

Design engineers worked to a target of less than 1,000kg, not just reducing the weight of each individual component but looking at the design as a whole when considering performance. As a result, new MR2 has the best weight-to-power ratio in its class at 6.96kg/PS.

Modern safety standards

As with all Toyota vehicles, safety has been a critical consideration in the design of the new Toyota MR2 which has a strong, stiff body. Driver and passenger airbags are standard equipment and seat belts are pre-tensioned with force limiters to reduce the risk of chest injury in the event of an accident.

2002 Toyota MR2
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The lightweight platform means -excellent braking performance and anti-lock braking is standard equipment. The electro-hydraulic power steering offers precise steering assistance without drawing on engine power and is itself lightweight and compact.

Intelligent engine technology

Purposeful, agile, technically advanced – the new Toyota MR2 is powered by a sophisticated 1.8-litre, VVT-i engine developing 103kW at 6,400rpm and maximum torque of 170 Nm at 4,400rpm. Thanks to its low body weight (less than 1000kg), the new MR2 roadster has the best power-to-weight ratio in its class and performance to match. The car will hit 100 km/h from rest in 7.9 seconds and has a top speed, where allowed, of 210 km/h.

The VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing - intelligent) delivers power where it is needed most – at high engine speeds – and torque throughout the rev range, making the new MR2 roadster easy and relaxing to drive. The precise five-speed manual gearbox has a slick, positive action to allow the driver to make the most of this exciting car’s performance.

2002 Toyota MR2
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But the power comes without a penalty in fuel consumption. On the combined EU cycle, the MR2 roadster will use just 7.4 litres/100km – the most fuel-efficient car in its class and with exhaust emissions reduced to match.

The new MR2 roadster is also equipped with Toyota Direct Ignition – individual computer controlled coils acting directly onto the spark plugs – which improve ignition timing, cut harmful emissions and reduce service costs. Toyota Direct Ignition means there is no distributor to be maintained and no ignition timing to be reset.

Sophisticated suspension

The suspension design calls upon Toyota’s long experience with mid-engined sports cars and has been developed to offer a firm, but comfortable ride that keeps the car stable and true. The rear suspension is a dual link MacPherson strut design which has been refined and engineered for stability and light weight. The front suspension uses MacPherson struts, optimised and re-engineered to suit the mid-engined, rear wheel drive weight balance and characteristics.

Stylish, 15-inch alloy wheels are standard equipment (depending on local markets) with 185/55 R15 tyres at the front and 205/50 R15 at the rear. A limited slip differential for improved traction is also standard.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Full After Sales support

Like all new Toyotas, new MR2 roadster will be backed by a pan-European three year, 100,000km warranty, three year paint warranty and a 12-year, corrosion or perforation warranty. Full after sales support is available through Toyota’s extensive and highly trained European dealer network.

Local specifications and affordable pricing will be announced by individual Toyota markets.

Lightweight MR2 is a basic concept

  • new MR2 breaks the ’more power, more weight’ cycle
  • weighs under 1,000kg
  • best power to weight ratio in class (6.96kg/PS)
  • more economical, more agile as a result
  • appeals to young, single buyers

The latest generation Toyota MR2 sets a new standard for mass market, affordable sports cars by going back to basics.

Performance is not about power – powerful cars need powerful brakes, stronger chassis, heavier suspension and larger, thirstier engines. Performance is about the triumph of power over weight.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Chief engineer, Tadashi Nakagawa, explains: "Putting a big engine into a heavy structure is easy, but we did not want to create a car that would become a dinosaur. Our aim was to break the negative cycle where adding more power adds more weight. Our aim was to create an agile and lean sports car, easy to drive and responsive to the driver’s command. I think we have succeede

High performance engine

  • 1.8-litre VVT-i unit
  • Lightweight aluminium block
  • Tuned for torque and mid-range performance

The MR2 engine, designated 1ZZ-FE, is basically the same unit as fitted to the highly acclaimed new Toyota Celica. This is a lightweight aluminium-alloy blocked four cylinder unit with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It is an ultra-long stroke engine with 1,794cc displacement (79mm x 91.5mm, bore and stroke) and high compression ratio at 10:1 for maximum efficiency.

The cylinder head is a cross-flow, aluminium alloy unit. Knock resistance and fuel efficiency have been improved through the use of newly developed valve seats and a carefully designed combustion chamber.

2002 Toyota MR2
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The engine develops a maximum 103kW of power at 6,400rpm with maximum torque of 170Nm at 4,400rpm. Torque output is very constant, thanks to the variable valve timing and ultimate power has been sacrificed to achieve good mid-range torque, making MR2 lively and safe to drive under real road conditions.

The new MR2 ’back to basics’ design concept and lightweight reduction targets means the
car has best power to weight ratio in its class – weighing just 6.96kg for each PS of power.
The MR2 will cover the standing 400m in 15.2 seconds

How VVT-i works

  • computer controlled valve timing
  • improved mid-range torque
  • better fuel consumption
  • less harmful emissions
2002 Toyota MR2
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VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing - intelligent) varies the air intake valve open and close timing according to driving conditions and engine load. By varying the ’overlap’ time between exhaust valve closing and intake valve opening, the engine characteristics can be changed to create optimum burn – resulting in more efficient use of fuel, cleaner exhaust emission and maximum torque output.

The Toyota developed system has the benefit of offering continuously variable (not stepped) valve timing and allows the engine management computer to specify the optimum timing for the full range of driving conditions. It means the valve overlap timing no longer has to be fixed in advance to suit a predetermined driving environment. More complete combustion, at a higher combustion temperature, means less nitrous oxide emissions. An increase in valve overlap, at lower engine speeds, results in some recycling of unburned fuel that reduces unburned hydrocarbons. Both conditions result in better fuel consumption.

Toyota cars equipped with VVT-i are more flexible and easier to drive; offer better performance than comparable cars with the same engine size; use less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide, less nitrous oxides and less hydrocarbons. Outstanding fuel consumption Thanks to the use of VVT-i and its smooth aerodynamic shape (Cd0.35), the new MR2 offers best in class fuel consumption will use just 7.4 litres/100km on the combined Euro cycle. On the extra urban cycle, consumption drops to 5.9 litres/100km; on the urban cycle, 10.1 litres/100km.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Toyota Direct Ignition

  • more accurate ignition timing
  • reduced voltage loss
  • reduced maintenance costs

The Toyota Direct Ignition system on the new MR2 provides four ignition coils, one for each spark plug. The coils are integrated with the spark plug cap to provide direct contact. Ignition timing is controlled by the engine control unit that takes information from the crankshaft position, the camshaft position and various other relevant engine sensors.

Intelligent manifold design

  • light, plastic intake manifold
  • stainless steel exhaust manifold
  • complex exhaust pipe with three catalytic converters

The intake and exhaust manifolds play a key role in the efficiency of the MR2 engine. The intake manifold is made of plastic, in order to cut heat transfer from the cylinder head and reduce air intake temperatures, thus increasing volumetric efficiency. The exhaust manifold is more complex, due to the restricted space in which it has to operate, and accounts for the main difference in engine characteristics between new MR2 and Celica. The MR2 adopts a 4-into-2-into-1 design which allows good, clean airflow away from the cylinder head – indeed it actually improves mid-range torque.

Two ’warm-up’ catalytic converters are in the manifold, close to the head, and a third catalytic converter is in the main exhaust pipe, just under the main silencer. A ball joint mounts the silencer to the exhaust for optimum reliability.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Slick five-speed gearbox

  • improved shift feel
  • standard limited slip differential

The five-speed manual gearbox been improved by using a straighter linkage. The shortthrow gear lever is close to the driver’s hand to create true ’sports car’ feel. The single plate, dry clutch, is operated hydraulically. A limited slip differential will be a factory-fitted standard. The differential improves traction and handling characteristics in slippery conditions or when driving hard.

Whole vehicle intelligent engineering

Weight reduction was not just a theoretical target during new MR2 development, it was a fundamental concept. New MR2 had to weigh less than 1,000kg – or it would not get built. All new cars in development have a weight target. But, in practice, the individual engineers working on each component leave their own individual small margins, "just to be sure", rather than reduce to the minimum specification. These small safety margins add up and often become self-fulfilling prophecies. The car is overweight, so the margin was necessary!

2002 Toyota MR2
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Not so with MR2. Each development engineer was told to abandon individual margins and treat the car as a whole. The result – new MR2 is actually 25kg under target.

Gaining benefits from saving weight

  • more economical, 1.8-litre VVT-i engine
  • lower running costs

The new MR2 could have had a more powerful engine but reducing engine power reduces the demands on the chassis as a whole – enabling further weight savings and better overall performance.

"The MR2 will reach 210km/h and accelerate to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds,” says Tadashi Nakagawa. "Why install a more powerful engine which would have needed a heavier chassis, bigger brakes, a bigger radiator, wider wheels and so on?" With its 1.8-litre VVT-i engine, the new MR2 is the most economical sports car in its class, using just 7.4 litre/100km on the European combined cycle.

But fuel saving is not the only benefit. Other whole-life running costs, such as replacement tyres, servicing costs and insurance (particularly important for the youth market) are reduced accordingly.

2002 Toyota MR2
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More agile handling

New MR2 has the longest wheelbase in its class. These means more stable handling but, ironically, can make a car less quick to turn, less agile – unless the weight is reduced. If the wheel base is lengthened, the distance between the car’s centre of gravity and the front tyres increases. The product of this distance and the ’cornering force’ (CF) required to make the car turn defines the yaw moment of inertia, its ’agility’ rating. The best way to reduce the CF is cut weight, making new MR2 potentially the most ’agile’ car in its class – a characteristic enhanced by the near-ideal front-to-rear weight balance of 42:58.

Who needs a boot?

Creating luggage space was not a priority in the MR2 although there is room for small bags and lightweight overnight luggage. The decision not to include a boot enabled the designers to achieve yet more weight saving.

In most cars, structural body members have to be shaped to create as much interior space as possible. However, curved members are not very strong and require additional strengthening or more complex design, all of which adds weight. In new MR2, straight body members are adopted throughout. The result is a frame which is strong, stiff and light.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Deciding not to include a rear boot reduced the number of bulkheads required by one and also simplified the design of the engine exhaust manifolds. Attempting to retain the boot would have meant more rear overhang, complex heat-absorption measures and considerable weight increase. It would also have compromised the near perfect weight distribution that the new car currently enjoys.

Styled to excite the market

  • two-seat, mid-engined sports roadster
  • affordable performance for young, single buyers
  • compact body, long wheelbase
  • easy-action soft top
  • optional hard-top for coupe look

New MR2 enters a market where style, image and performance are all important. But, in the two-seater market, affordability and some degree of practicality are important too. New MR2 is more ’extreme’ than some of its rivals; more pure in concept and certainly with better performance. It is faster, more economical, more modern than established sellers in the market.

But it is more ’accessible’ than low volume roadsters from specialist manufacturers. It will be fully supported by Toyota’s pan-European dealer network and warranty; backed by Toyota’s unrivalled reputation for quality engineering and reliability.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Customers for new MR2 will predominantly come from two groups – the young and mainly single – and the older so-called ‘empty nesters’. In general they will be well informed enthusiasts and, unlike buyers for other models in the segment, are more likely to be male than female.

Compact design

  • short overall length (3,885mm)
  • longest wheelbase in class (2,450mm)
  • squat, wide design (width, 1,695mm)

The new Toyota MR2 is compact and purposeful. The low front grille gives it an aggressive look while the side view accentuates the wedge-shaped, mid-engined stance. The -characteristic side intakes and sharp lines emphasise its sport heritage. From the rear, the width of the car and its low, flat styling become apparent – taking styling cues from the great names of sports car design.

That open-top feeling

  • easy use manual soft-top
  • glass rear window with electric de-mister
  • wind deflector for reduced turbulence
  • optional hard-top
2002 Toyota MR2
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The new MR2 features an easily operated soft-top that can be raised or lowered from within the car. Two catches lock the fabric hood down onto the top of the windscreen. The hood has only two folds (most soft-tops have three folds). This means the roof folds neatly down into the space behind the seats without turning ’inside-out’. There is no need for a tonneau cover to keep the hood looking neat – and less soiling of the hood interior because it is always facing downwards.

A single catch holds the hood securely and neatly in place.

The MR2 rear window is 2.5mm reinforced glass with an electric de-fogger for excellent rear visibility at all times. A simple, manual air deflector on the rear bulkhead can be popped up to reduce turbulence when driving with the top down.

For extra comfort, particularly in winter, an option hard-top can be fitted. This factory-quality accessory is styled to follow the sleek lines of the new MR2 and creates a coupe look which enhances the vehicle’s presence on the road.

Sports style interior

  • three-spoke, leather steering wheel
  • clear, simple instrumentation
  • sports-style bucket seats
  • aluminium pedals and footrest
2002 Toyota MR2
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The interior of new MR2 is sporty but not spartan. There are several storage compartment for small items, two cup holders and a door pocket for folding maps. A rotary-control heater is standard equipment and air-conditioning will be an option. Power windows – driver’s one-touch down – are standard equipment, with switches mounted in the centre console.

A two-speaker audio system is fitted as standard with audio equipment enhancements available as options depending on local markets. The fixed rod aerial is standard with an auto-aerial available as an option.

Twin luggage compartments

Luggage space, divided into two sections, is provided behind the seats. The compartment has lockable lids and a folding parcel shelf is also available for use when the soft-top is closed and with an open top. There is additional storage space in the front box, which also accommodates the spare tyre. There is also a spacious, lockable glove box.

Anti-theft security

  • engine immobiliser
  • double locking in selected markets
  • lockable fuel-filler and engine cover
  • front box opener in glove compartment
2002 Toyota MR2
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New MR2 uses a key-code engine immobiliser that means the engine cannot be started without the correct ignition key. The engine ECU looks for a matching code from a transponder buried in the ignition key. Remote control central locking is standard equipment. In selected markets a double-locking system is available which will prevent the doors from being opened from either inside or outside the car.

The front box storage compartment cannot be accessed without unlocking the glove compartment.

Bright colours and trim

New MR2 will come in seven lively colours to suit its sports styling and seat trims can be either red or grey-black, depending on exterior colour.

Tyre sizes are 185/55R15 at the front and 205/50R15 at the rear with sporty five-spoke aluminium wheels available as standard in some markets.

Safety from the start

The new MR2 is the first Toyota to be designed from the outset as an open-topped sports car. It is not a remodelled coupe or a saloon with the top cut off. Thus, the safety requirements of a sports roadster were integrated from the start. SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) airbags are standard equipment for both driver and passenger. They work in conjunction with the pretensioning seats belts and force limiters to reduce chest and upper body injury in the event of a frontal impact.

2002 Toyota MR2
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The MR2 is also equipped with a fuel cut-off control that stops the fuel pump to minimise fuel leakage if the airbags are deployed.

Powerful, effective brakes

The weight reduction programme for MR2 has helped its braking performance but powerful, 14-inch ventilated discs are fitted front and rear nonetheless. A lightweight 8-inch brake pressure booster is used. The brake pedal mechanism has been designed to retract in the event of a frontal collision, reducing the risk of injury to the driver’s lower legs.

Strong, stiff bodyshell

The simple, straight main framework of the new MR2 is not only light; it is also highly rigid and contributes greatly to the structural strength of the chassis and bodyshell. High tensile sheet steel for the majority of the body panels adds to this strength.

Crossmembers and braces, including a rear suspension upper brace, have been located to ensure maximum rigidity and excellent suspension performance. The front (A-) pillars are stiffened with a straight pipe to ensure rigidity equal to a conventional saloon car. The bottom of the A-pillar has been enlarged to increase its strength at the mounting with the door sill.

Front and rear body sections are designed to absorb and dissipate impact energy and reduce cabin deformation. The luggage compartment space helps protect occupants from any movement of the engine forward by progressively collapsing.) In a side impact, the integrated door beams dissipate energy to the main cabin structure and a door trim centre pad helps dampen any impact to the occupants during the collision.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Newly developed power steering

  • precise steering control (2.7 turns, lock to lock)
  • reduces power loss from engine

The MR2 uses a newly developed electro-hydraulic power steering in which the pressure pump is turned by an electric motor, rather than the car’s engine. This compact, lightweight system gives more precise power steering control and means the steering reduces power loss from the engine.

The MR2 steering column is tilt adjustable and has an energy absorbing mechanism which, in the event of a frontal collision, is designed to move the column down and away from the driver’s upper body.

Fully independent suspension

  • MacPherson struts front and rear
  • anti-roll bars front and rear
  • ’long coil’ springs for improved feel
2002 Toyota MR2
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The MR2 suspension has been developed to offer optimum feel, ride comfort, safety and stability under sports driving conditions. The MacPherson struts used are light, effective and maintain the correct geometry over long stroke lengths.
The front suspension uses an L-shaped lower arm for weight reduction and an anti-roll bar mounted on that lower arm.
Dual links are used on the rear suspension, with the anti-roll bar acting on the struts.

Intelligent engine delivers maximum performance

  • 1.8-litre VVT-i engine for maximum torque
  • 103kW power at 6,400rpm; 170Nm torque at 4,400rpm
  • Best power to weight ratio in class
  • Top speed 210km/h, 0-100km/h in 7.9 seconds
  • Excellent fuel consumption and reduced emissions

The new Toyota MR2 offers dramatic performance to match its exciting looks. This is a true driver’s car with lively acceleration, agile handling and comfortable, stable high speed cruising.

Like the new Toyota Celica launched late last year, the new MR2 benefits from VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing-intelligence). As a result, new MR2 offers exciting sports performance from a compact and powerful, 1.8-litre engine without comprising fuel economy or weight.

2002 Toyota MR2
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Chief engineer, Tadashi Nakagawa, said: "In a lightweight sports car, absolute power delivery and performance at ultra-high speeds are less important. More important is the instant response which gives the car its light and lively feel. We concentrated on this aspect of the engine performance."

Prices & Equipment

Base 2-door convertible, manual $23,735
Base 2-door convertible, SMT $24,515

Standard Equipment


  • 1.8-liter dohc 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission
  • Safety
  • dual front airbags, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, daytime running lights
  • Comfort and Convenience Features
  • air conditioning, power steering, tilt leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, bucket seats, center console, cupholders, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, AM/FM/cassette/CD player, digital clock, tachometer, rear defogger, variable-intermittent wipers, map lights, wind deflector
  • Appearance and Miscellaneous
  • 185/55R15 front tires, 205/50R15 rear tires, alloy wheels
2002 Toyota MR2
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Optional Equipment

Base SMT, Base manual $660 $528

Preferred Accessory Pkg.,
Base SMT, Base manual $490 $272
Simulated carbon-fiber dashboard, floormats, wheel locks.
Comfort and Convenience Features
Simulated carbon fiber dashboard,
Base SMT, Base manual $369 $199
Base SMT, Base manual $66 $39

MT, Base manual $55 $34 

About the author

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What do you think?
Show Comments


  (363) posted on 03.16.2010

It has grown on me, but I still don’t really fancy it. Its justto boring on the outside I guess. When I look at it, I just see what it could have been.

  (708) posted on 01.27.2010

If you’re still not sold, think of this: If you want a rear-drive mid-engine sports car with a sequential manual, your only other choice for 2002 is Ferrari. This is good company to be in, don’t you think?

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