Though it has been on the market only since 1985, the two-seater ToyotaMR2 suddenly has grown old. Mazda`s two-seater Miata aged the MR2 veryquickly.

The Toyota MR2 survived a challenge from the Pontiac Fiero, but to keepup with the big boys in the little car league Toyota has to bring out a fresh new MR2. That`s what it will do in February.

The MR2 is a nice car, but unlike Miata, no one has walked into ashowroom in the last couple of years with a briefcase full of money (Business,July 25) and asked for an MR2.

So this February, sports car enthusiasts will be treated to a larger,restyled and reportedly more expensive $20,000 MR2 in an attempt to break the spell Miata has on the motoring public.

Until then, there are a few `89 MR2s in showrooms that dealers have tomove, so expect some bargaining to clear the shelves and make room for the newmodel.

In a farewell of sorts, we test-drove an `89 MR2, one of our favoritecars when it was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February, 1985.Incidentally, Toyota plans to introduce the new model at the Chicago Auto Shownext February.

The two-seat MR2 coupe is offered in hardtop, T-bar roof and supercharged engine versions, all built on a 91.3-inch wheelbase and measuring 155.5 incheslong. We drove the T-bar roof model.

To understand the shortcomings of the `89 MR2, you need only look at what Toyota has planned for the new model-it will be longer, wider and lower.

Those changes will mean the addition of much-needed arm room foroccupants confined between a jutting armrest housing the power window controlsand a massive center console with 5-speed gear selector, hand brake andashtray that opens onto the driver`s lap.

The change in dimensions also means stylists will come up with a morerounded, aerodynamic-looking machine. The MR2 now features removable T-barroof panels (not quite the same effect as the Miata convertible), plasticlower rocker extensions from wheel well to wheel well, a plastic deck lidspoiler, louvered quarter panel to allow air to the engine mounted in the rearand retractable headlamps. All items look good, but the sum total is lots ofchoppy lines. A smooth aero finish also will provide an overall impression of power.

The MR2 is powered by a 1.6-liter, 115 h.p. twin cam, 4-cylinder engineteamed with a short-throw, smooth-shifting 5-speed. An automatic transmission is optional, as is a supercharged 1.6-liter engine that generates 145 h.p. Thesupercharged edition hasn`t sold well, thanks in part to hefty insurancerates. For next year, twin turbos reportedly will be offered in one of two MR2versions to be marketed.

When comparing the performance of the MR2 to that of the Miata (Autos,June 19), the MR2 gets the nod. The MR2 comes to life off the line, and Miata springs into action once you reach 6,000 revolutions per minute.

But the Miata is the choice for driving fun and for han dling corners,turns and twisting roadway. The MR2 has four-wheel independent suspension,gas-pressurized shocks, quick ratio power steering and four-wheel disc brakes,but Miata is more nimble when the road isn`t straight or level. Despite thequick ratio power steering, MR2 seems a bit heavier in the wheel than theMiata.

MR2 standard equipment also includes electric rear window defogger,tinted glass, dual power mirrors, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM stereo andreclining bucket seats. Among the popular options, air conditioning runs $795,power windows/door locks $390, AM/FM stereo with cassette and five speakers$280 and aluminum alloy wheels $435.

The MR2`s base price is $15,268, or $1,468 more than a Miata. With thebig demand and limited supplies of the Mazda and consumer willingness to spend$1,000 to $5,000 more than full sticker, you can be sure a Miata priceincrease is coming that will narrow the gap between the two.