It may have just been the Mazda MX-5's most fierce competition ever.
Automakers often hesitate to build two-seat roadsters. They may have a loyal following, but they’re still a hard sell overall. Aside from now defunct UK brands like Triumph, Austin-Healey and MG (before China bought it), only Mazda has been successful in producing a roadster for years on end. The MX-5 has been with us now for 25 years. It’s had a few competitors along the way, but they’ve all faded away. Perhaps its most direct and formidable foe was the mid-engined Toyota MR2 Spyder.
This was actually the third generation MR2, built from 1999 until 2007. Power came from a 1.8-liter inline-four with dual overhead camshafts. Although it only produced 138 horsepower, the car was quite light, weighing in at 2,195 lbs. Unlike the MX-5, the MR2 Spyder had a heated glass rear window instead of a plastic one. Some even say the MR2 was a competitor to the Honda S2000, but the latter was really a more aggressive car. The MR2 Spyder instead, was more of a poor man’s Porsche Boxster. It even competed in motorsport, but because of dwindling sales, Toyota dropped it from the US market in 2004. In 2007, it was discontinued in both Europe and Japan. It’s a shame Toyota didn’t develop it even further.