Return of Toyota MR2 sports car a chance for dramatic reshape – report

The MR2 may take on a more traditional sports car design – and a three-cylinder engine – according to new reports from Japan.

Toyota is said to be evaluating two different design concepts for the long-rumoured return of its Toyota MR2 sports car, the latest reports out of Japan claim.

According to reputable Japanese publication Best Car, Toyota is considering two design styles – which the magazine describes as ‘single deck’ and ‘double deck’ – both using the 1.6-litre turbo three-cylinder engine from the GR Yaris hot hatch.

The double-deck concept has separate compartments for the engine and luggage area – and is closer in shape to the first and second-generation MR2 from the 1980s and 1990s.

Meanwhile, the single-deck has a single tailgate which opens to the luggage compartment and the engine, under a cover – similar to a Porsche 718 Cayman and most modern mid-engined cars.

The single-deck design was used by the Toyota FT-Se electric concept – which has no engine – shown at the 2023 Tokyo motor show.

Best Car has previously reported the MR2 would return to showrooms in 2026.

However the publication says Toyota is yet to finalise which design direction it will take. Given the number of rear openings in the body will have a significant impact on the structure of the car – and how the engine is packaged in the vehicle – it is unclear if the 2026 launch date is feasible.

Toyota FT-Se electric concept.

Best Car says it has been told by sources (translated) “the front hood is low and the thickness of the fenders (vertical width) is also small, but the A-pillar is surprisingly tall.”

The car reportedly measures 4400mm long and 1850mm wide – similar dimensions to a Porsche 718 Cayman – and has a “rear air duct … placed above the rear fender, indicating that the focus is on intake efficiency”.

The FT-Se concept is similarly proportioned to the previous MR2 – which was last sold in 2007 – but has been confirmed by Toyota as an electric sports car due in showrooms in 2026.

While the FT-Se may point to an electric MR2, Best Car says Toyota the MR2 will be petrol powered.

Adding weight to the theory, Toyota boss Akio Toyoda recently reaffirmed the car maker will not leave motorists behind in the switch to electric cars – and maintain a choice of petrol, diesel, hybrid, hydrogen and electric vehicles – acknowledging electric vehicles do not suit every buyer.

The Japanese car giant says it will continue to invest in new petrol and diesel engines for future vehicles.

The 1.6-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine fitted to the recently-updated Toyota GR Yaris – as well as the GR Corolla – has been suggested as the powerplant for the upcoming MR2.

In the updated GR Yaris, the engine produces 224kW and 400Nm – and perhaps significantly for the MR2 project, was introduced with an eight-speed automatic transmission where it was previously only available with a six-speed manual.

Best Car has also suggested this engine will be offered in the next generation of the Toyota GR86 sports car, with hybrid assistance.

In 2022 Toyota Australia was seen to have listed parts for an ‘MR2 New’ on its website – however they proved to be components dating back to 2006.

Introduced in Japan three years earlier, Toyota built three generations of MR2, which was the first mass-production car from Japan to have a mid-mounted engine.

‘Mid-mounted’ refers to the engine being behind the passengers but ahead of the rear axle. It’s more expensive to build, but benefits weight distribution and handling, and is most often used in exotic sports cars.

The MR2 was also rear-wheel drive, which was unusual for its small size, but was another deliberate decision made by Toyota in the name of creating a fun-to-drive sports car.

MORE:Search Used Toyota MR2 Cars for Sale
MORE:Search Used Toyota Cars for Sale
MORE:Search Used Toyota MR2 Cars for Sale
MORE:Search Used Toyota Cars for Sale
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