What's New for 2000
Toyota revives the MR2 nameplate on a minimalist two-seat roadster, set to compete directly with the ever-popular Mazda Miata. Only 5,000 are being built and sold.
Given the popularity of two-seat roadsters, it was only a matter of time before Toyota joined the fray. It resurrects an old timer of the performance line, the MR2 in a new incarnation, the Spyder. Although it has its work cut out for it with the plethora of new roadster competitors, its price is its selling point. The MR2 is one of three new vehicles (the others being the Echo and Celica GT) trotted out by Toyota to appeal to younger, first time buyers.
The Spyder rides on a low-slung platform with MacPherson struts at each corner. The rear-drive wheels are attached to a five-speed manual, and the newly developed electric hydraulic power steering should make it a blast ripping through canyon roads.
It shares an engine with the Celica GT, a 1.8-liter twin-cam 16-valve four cylinder engine which produces 138 horses at 6,400 rpm and 127 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Weighing in at a dimunitive 2,200 pounds, it provides plenty of vroom from the get-go. Not to worry, however; a long wheelbase, wide track, and different sized rear and front tires will keep you firmly planted to the asphalt. With the mid-engine design and its speedy recovery ability, acrobatics on curvy roads equals some good times.
The kids will have fun with the body, which features steel panels bolted onto a high-rigidity unit-body, allowing for aftermarket customizations. Considering the no-frills, form-over-function design of the interior, this may be the outlet to express your inner artiste.
The MR2 Spyder comes in one grade level which pretty much includes any features you might want. It comes standard with air, ABS, power windows and doors and tilt steering wheel. Plus it boasts something its higher priced competitor, the Honda S2000, doesn't have, a glass rear window with defroster. However, the ragtop, though made by the same company that makes the S2000 and the Miata, is a bit more cumbersome. It is necessary to get out of the car before putting it up or down.
Some might find contention with the styling of the little machine, Danny DeVito-esque being one of the terms to describe the bulging headlights and rotund yet busy lines of the sheetmetal, especially next to the sleek and curvaceous Miata. But one sometimes feels more affection for the less comely child...
Ah, to be young, beautiful, and racing around town in a convertible. You may not be the first two, but you could have the last for a lot less money than you would expect.