Toyota MR2 Spyder – Performance, Price, and Photos - SUV VEHICLE

Toyota MR2 Spyder – Performance, Price, and Photos


If there were one word we would use to describe the Toyota MR2, it would be – ‘cool’. When Toyota introduced the two-seat mid-engine economy sports car back in the 80s, it was a hit. There was no car like it on the market at the time. To this day, the MR2 is really the only affordable mid-engine Japanese sports car available in the U.S., and it’s still a desirable sports car.

Let’s be honest, if you are looking at MR2s, you aren’t cross-shopping with the Honda NSX. We’ll leave that one out of the discussion for now. The MR2’s true rival has been and always will be the Mazda Miata. You could refer to the MR2 as a quirkier and more unique Miata. Yet, the third-generation MR2, known as the W30 or MR2 Spyder, has always been the odd one out. Yet, could this be the very reason it’s now more desirable than ever? Well, let’s find out.

2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder in silver Posing in garage
2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder

The MR2 Spyder is not a fast car, but it can go fast. It is not luxurious, but it is durable. It is not beautiful, but it has charm. Toyota will never put a naturally-aspirated engine in the back of an economy sports car again. With modern cars averaging two tons, how will they achieve the crazy low weight? Modern safety standards and design say otherwise. So, it is safe to say the W30 is a relic of its time.

Toyota MR2 Spyder

1ZZ 1.8-liter 4-cylinder

5-Speed manual, 5-Speed SMT, 6-Speed SMT

125 lb-ft. @ 4,400 RPM

138 @ 6,400 RPM


$24,645 (est)

0-60 MPH
6.8 Seconds
  • Everything Miata, but different
  • One of the lightest sports cars ever made
  • Most affordable Mid-engine RWD layout
  • SMT transmission is not good
  • Overspending for a clean example
  • Less aftermarket support compared to its competitors
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The 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder

The 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder is a captivating sports car. It was Toyota’s take on the roadster revival trend. The mid-engine design and lightweight usually translates to a very fun drive. The compact engine offered usable performance and the convertible style just added that little bit of extra flair. The MR2 Spyder was an affordable entry-level sports car that aimed to offer a driving experience that would rival more expensive models.

Building on the MR2 Spyder’s allure, its agile handling and responsive steering made it a standout in the roadster category. The 1.8-liter engine, while modest in displacement, produced enough power to ensure a lively performance that would not scare inexperienced drivers, while at the same time being able to offer more seasoned ones a good deal of sporting fun. This was a vehicle that did its best to capture the essence of a pleasurable driving experience, creating a close and intimate connection between car and driver.

Exterior Dimensions


162.2 Inches


68.9 Inches


48.8 Inches


96.5 Inches

Front Track

58.1 Inches

Rear Track

57.5 Inches

Curb Weight

2,195 Pounds

(Source: Toyota)

Specifications And Performance

Toyota MR2 Spyder Engine
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In MR2 circles, the W30 generation goes by the doted nickname of “Frog”. Stare at the front end long enough, you’ll get it. Sold from 2000 to 2005 model years, it was a very different car compared to the previous MR2. The second generation MR2, known as the SW20, ceased U.S. sales in 1995. In California-emission states, you couldn’t even buy a Turbo model after 1994.

Although a compelling driver’s car, the SW20 had some major oversights that killed it in the long run. It was too expensive and too heavy as it used Toyota Celica parts. It was a complex car, plagued by its many idiosyncrasies. Thus, when Toyota reintroduced the model into the U.S. five years later with a new generation, changes were major. The Spyder left the Celica platform for the cheaper and lighter Corolla platform.

As a result, the W30 harkened back to the original AW11 MR2 from the 80s. It emphasized simplicity and low weight as its recipe for success. The Frog was a staggering 700-odd pounds lighter than its predecessor. At a curb weight of 2,195 pounds, it is even lighter than the original AW11 by a couple of dozen pounds. So you can understand what Toyota is laser-focused on concerning design.

Yet, there were compromises made to make this low-weight simplicity a reality. The SW20 Turbo made 200 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. Yet, Toyota got strangled by emissions regulations for the new generation. Thus, the W30 would receive a single engine configuration: the 1.8-liter 1ZZ four-cylinder. The 1ZZ in the MR2 Spyder produces 138 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 125 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 RPM.

Performance Specifications


1ZZ 1.8-liter 4-cylinder


138 @ 6,400 RPM


125 lb-ft. @ 4,400 RPM


5-Speed manual

0-60 MPH

6.8 Seconds

Top Speed

131 MPH

(Source: Toyota)

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This was an aggressive decrease from the SW20 Turbo. The 1ZZ was a better all-around engine than the non-turbo 5S-FE option found in the SW20, but it was the only choice. As a result, this left a sour taste for many MR2 enthusiasts. You always expect the newest model to be the fastest, but this was not the case with the Frog.

The SW20 Turbo would smoke the W30 in a straight line, almost a second faster in the sprint to 60 mph. Yet, because of the W30’s impressive low weight, it could still manage a 6.8-second 0-to-60 time.

While the MR2 Spyder’s power output is not its strong suit, the chassis is glorious. The Spyder retains the great mid-engine handling character of the previous generations. Yet, gone is the snap oversteer tendency made notorious by the previous two models. By far, the W30 is the most balanced of all available MR2s.

The brakes are capable of handling sporty drives of any kind. They feel strong thanks to the low weight of the Frog. As far as two-seat sports cars go, the Spyder is very easy to drive. It will be happy to hum around at 70 mph. It is a sensitive chassis that is a joy to connect to. Certainly more character than a Miata with the same size and appeal.

Interior Technology, Luxury, And Comfort

The Spyder’s interior is comfortable for a two-seat sports car. It is a Toyota after all. And in the Toyota way, excels in its simplicity. Although simple, at no point is the driver neglected. The perforated leather steering wheel is wonderful in your hands. The leather shift knob and brushed metal pedals are quality units. No, it’s not a luxury car, but both cloth and leather seat options look good and are ergonomic.

It is no surprise that the MR2 Spyder is lacking in storage space. There is a mini compartment behind the seats and in the “front”. Don’t expect much though. A comparable Mazda Miata has three times the storage. We aren’t even exaggerating. Yet, the Spyder still boasts three cupholders. That is more than one beverage per passenger!


Let’s say you want cruise control in your Spyder. You’ll need the SMT (sequential manual transmission). The SMT was available for the 2002+ model years. Shifting was possible from a chrome central knob. No clutch, but still a “manual”. This was a time before paddle shifters. If you wanted to keep your hands on the wheel while shifting, there were two steering wheel-mounted buttons. Yet another interesting feature of the Spyder.

Yes, the SMT is lackluster compared to modern dual-clutch transmissions. Even an automatic ZF 8-speed is better in every regard. Although downshifts are crisp and quick, upshifts are lacking in speed. In this case, the proper manual is faster than the SMT.

Let’s not forget this is technology from 20 years ago. There were very few W30s produced. Even less with these transmissions. Since this was the only car in the entire Toyota line-up to ever receive the SMT, it is a specialized, expensive unit. Although cool and a novelty of some sort today, the safer bet is to stick with the 5-speed manual instead.

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Toyota MR2 Spyder Versus Its Competitors

The natural competition for the Toyota MR2 Spyder is the NB Mazda Miata. Even over two decades later, this fact still has not changed. They both offer a similar appeal and attract the same audience. Let’s keep it simple, in a competition between these two vehicles, there is no loser.

How The 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder Compares To The 2001 Mazda Miata

  • 2001 Toyota MR2 Spyder 2001 Mazda Miata
    Model Toyota MR2 Spyder 2001 Mazda Miata
    Engine 1ZZ 1.8-liter 4-cylinder 1.8-liter BP6D inline-4
    Transmission 5-Speed manual, 5-Speed SMT, 6-Speed SMT 6-Speed Manual, 5-Speed Manual,
    Horsepower 125 lb-ft. @ 4,400 RPM 143 HP
    Torque 138 @ 6,400 RPM 125 pound-feet
    Driveline RWD RWD
    MSRP $24,645 (est) $21,660
    0-60 MPH 6.8 Seconds 8.1 seconds

The MR2 Spyder is a Mazda Miata for those who don’t want a Mazda Miata. If the Miata is the blueprint, then the MR2 Spyder is different enough that it feels special and has its own character. Yet, both of these vehicles only have one real purpose: enjoyment.

The only correct method of comparison is finding out which one makes you smile more. The one you dream about driving. As long as you are honest with what you want, you can’t miss between these two models.

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How Much Does A Toyota MR2 Spyder Cost?

When new, a 2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder sold for $24,645. The same year NB Mazda Miata sold for $21,280. Here is a big distinction between the two, Toyota made way fewer W30s than you think. There were only 27,941 sold in the U.S. in their five-year span. Mazda sold three times as many NB Miatas in the same time.

By the 2005 model year, sales of the Spyder had dwindled below 1,000 units. It was unfortunate that it did not sell well. These numbers led to the quick death of the MR2, marking the end of U.S. sales in 2005. Now, the average price of an MR2 Spyder is $13,929 over the last five years. A couple of years ago, you could find them a dime a dozen for under $10k. Nobody wanted them. It was “the other one”, remember?

For comparison, the rare SW20 Turbo averages prices above $20,000 in today’s market. Naturally-aspirated manual SW20s go for about $12k. If you can find a good condition W30 for under $10k, that is a good buy. As with most cars, the later model years are the most desirable option.

Trim Level


Toyota MR2 Spyder

$24,645 (est)

(Source: Toyota)

Is It Worth Buying A Toyota MR2 Spyder?

In the case of the MR2 Spyder, we recommend the 2003+ model years. The pre-cat system in early models is a known issue. Early model years also have some oil-burning issues. Looking for a hard top, i.e. a removable hard top for the Spyder. OEM hardtops are at least $2,500 if you can find one in your color. Even aftermarket options are still at least about $2,000. As with most convertibles with vinyl roofs, they are prone to cracking with age and use.

So is the MR2 Spyder a steal even in today’s market? There are rumors that even an MR2 successor may be in the works. Yet, we can guarantee it won’t be the same as the ones of old. It is likely that Toyota will never put a naturally-aspirated engine in the back of an economy sports car again. With modern cars averaging two tons, how will they achieve the crazy low weight? Modern safety standards and design say otherwise. So, it is safe to say the W30 is a relic of its time.

The MR2 Spyder is not a fast car, but it can go fast. It is not luxurious, but it is durable. It is not beautiful, but it has charm. Consider this proverb. I have a long-time friend who has owned every generation MR2. The biggest MR2 head I know by far (not to mention, a hell of a driver). He owned at least four or five AW11s and SW20s. He sold them all and now has a Spyder. He has owned it for years, loves it, and doesn’t plan on going back. Is he ahead of the curve or just plain crazy? Sometimes you have to find out for yourself.


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