2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder

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2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder
Available in 1 styles:  2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder 2dr Convertible shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

25 city / 30 hwy

Expert Reviews

2002 Toyota MR2 Spyder 4.9 19
$ 3,453-13,537
July 30, 2002
Toyota's MR Spyder is a four-wheeled doodlebug. A doodlebug is kin to the ant lion, a name that seems descriptive: big and small at the same time.

The MR Spyder is small. It has a 96.5-inch wheelbase, an overall length of just 153 inches and it weighs a scant 2,195 pounds. Even though it is physically small, it has the performance of a much larger car because it weighs so little. The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder cranks out a modest 138 horsepower, but in a light car that is sufficient to make this tiny two-seater scamper to 60 miles per hour in 6.95 seconds. Performance is a reflection of power and weight, not just outright power. A side benefit, of course, is that you can scoot around town and still not have to stop at every gas station. The only downside to this engine is that it gets rather vocal at maximum rpm.

A bit of history. The original Toyota MR2 came out in 1985, and it, like this car, was a pocket rocket with a reasonable price tag. Through various iterations, the MR2 grew larger and more expensive. Production was discontinued in 1995. In 2000, the MR Spyder came back, and it reflected the philosophy of the original: light, small, quick and reasonably priced.

The MR Spyder is a basic sports car. You don't get into it as much as you put it on. You sit low and close to the ground. It handles like a big go-kart. It has a manual top and almost no luggage space. Driving fun is its primary job.

The test car was equipped with a most interesting option: a sequential manual transmission. The SMT is a sophisticated system that uses computer-controlled actuators to work the clutch and gearshift. It is as convenient as an automatic, yet it has the interaction of a manual. It adds $780 to the base price of $23,735.

Slip the gear lever into neutral to start the engine, then slide it to the right. Ease down on the throttle and the car moves as the clutch is automatically engaged. Shifting gears can be done by nudging the lever forward or backward, or by using tiny buttons on the steering wheel. Similar but more sophisticated systems are used in Formula One race cars, for example, but they shift in a split second. The Toyota system shifts about like a normal person. It is smoothest if you feather the throttle slightly between shifts. The computer even revs the throttle for smooth downshifts Zipping through a succession of corners, going up and down through the gears with the steering wheel buttons, is quite fun.

All things considered, I would choose the standard manual transmission instead of the SMT. Drivers who haven't learned how to drive a manual transmission, however, or those who want to play racer, will find the SMT right up their alley.

Balance and light weight are what give the MR Spyder a high fun quotient. The engine that powers the rear wheels is located right behind the driver's back, so the car has good front-rear weight distribution. The suspension is firm enough to keep the body flat in turns and the ele ctro-hydraulic steering has great feel. Four-wheel disc brakes, with standard anti-lock, scrub off speed impressively.

The cockpit is small but well finished. Those of us past 50 may find ingress and egress a bit challenging because the seats are so low to the ground. Once in, however, the seats are most comfortable.

The biggest complaint I have with the MR Spyder is lack of storage space. There is no trunk, front or rear. Small bins behind the front seat are the only place to carry things if there are two people.

Putting the manual top down is a breeze. It stows behind the front seat with a click. A little windblocker helps reduce wind turbulence in the cockpit.

The base price of the test car was $24,515. Options included leather seats, power locks, carbon fiber dash trim and floor mats. The sticker price was $26,150.

Three years or 36,000 miles.

Point: Toyota's MR Spyder is an inexpensive, lightweight wo-seater that has the handling of a go-kart. It darts through turns with glee and stops fast. The 138-horsepower engine gives good performance because the car weighs only 2,215 pounds.

Counterpoint: The lack of luggage space means this is almost strictly a city car. If two people are in the car, even bringing home a couple of sacks of groceries can be a challenge.

Engine: 1.8-liter, 138-hp 4-cyl.
Transmission: Sequential manual Rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 96.5 inches
Curb weight: 2,215 lbs.
Base price: $24,515
As driven: $26,150
Mpg rating: 25 city, 30 hwy.
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