Forever the poor man's Boxster.
The third-generation Toyota MR2 was different from its two predecessors. Instead of sticking with the coupe body style, Toyota made a bold decision to make the last MR2 a two-roadster only. In the US, it was called the MR2 Spyder, while in Japan it was the MR-S and in most of Europe, the MR2 Roadster.
Toyota's goal here was to create pure driving enjoyment by removing unnecessary weight and opting for a mid-engine design. Both the exterior and interior design were nothing exciting. They were basic and functional. That's it. But the result was one of Toyota's best all-around driver's cars and, in many ways, an instant classic.
Located directly behind the driver and passenger was an all-aluminum 1.8-liter inline-four producing just 138 horsepower and 126 lb-ft of torque. Power was directed to the rear wheels through either a standard five-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual transmission.
Despite that low output, the MR2 Spyder weighed just 2,195 pounds for manual-equipped models. To compare, the second-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata was heavier at 2,348 pounds and offered similar power. Also, the MX-5 was (and still is) front-engined. Performance was not outstanding, but that wasn't the MR2 Spyder's specialty. Zero to 62 mph happened in either 6.8 or 8.7 seconds. Opting for the manual let you go faster because, at the time, humans could still shift faster than an automatic gearbox. There was one benefit automatic MR2 Spyders had over the manual cars: cruise control.
A heated glass rear window was also standard along with the manual soft top. A removable hardtop was offered for Japan and Europe only.
Despite its niche market appeal, the MR2 Spyder managed to remain on sale from 1999 until 2007, which was quite impressive. In many ways, it was the poor man's Porsche Boxster. Perhaps it still is. Even in the used market, the MR2 Spyder remains affordable.
This accident-free 2003 example is currently up for sale at Gamblin Motors in Washington state. Although it's had two previous owners, only 46,831 miles have been clocked. And yes, it's a manual car. The black on black exterior and interior seems to be in overall solid shape. Even the leather bucket seats have aged nicely. The asking price? A darn reasonable $10,792, definitely a lot less than Toyota's current sports car, the $50,000 Supra.
Whether the MR2 Spyder will be a future classic or not isn't the point. It's all about fun behind the wheel on a budget.