Most of you that follow me closely know that the miata has been replaced with a third gen MR2. But since it's a convertible the hardcore MR2 guys wont allow me to call it that. So technically its the MR-S, or MR2 Spyder, maybe MR Spyder? What ever, I call it the MR2. I sold the blue car back in March and ever since I have been through a slew of cars....another miata, subaru legacy, rsx, wrx, just take a long scroll back on my instagram. I've had the MR2 for a few months now and it is one of the few that I really liked, despite putting it up for sale a time or two.
The MR2 is a rare gem within the Japanese car scene. When you mention AW11 or SW20 most already know the first and second gen MR2 chassis codes, ZZW30...not so much. In 2000 Toyota decided to resurrect the MR2 to compete directly with the Mazda Miata. The third gen MR2, coded ZZW30, took a step back to the compact lightweight AW11, but set itself apart by being a full on convertible. The ZZW30 was only offered naturally aspirated unlike its big brothers that were offered with a supercharger or a turbo. The ZZW30 focused on lightweight paired with razor sharp handling. It packed 138hp, 5spd manual transmission, and of course a midship platform. There was also a sequential "style" gearbox offered but it was garbage!
Why did you get the MR2? Is it better than the miata? These are the questions that I hear the most. I bought the MR2 because it is a car I have always wanted. I always thought it was a little more car than the miata but prices were always too high. After I had sold my wrx I was cruising craigslist looking for a ride. The price was a deal I couldn't pass up, on a car that I always wanted.
Is it better?....Yes and no. The MR2 is a completely different animal. In stock form the tiny wheels and tires were more than sketch. The shitty tires were probably a lot of it, but either way oversteer was just a turn away. After installing 15x9s and 225s it was very predictable with loads of grip. Snap oversteer was completely eliminated! Fast forward to now and you can see I've made some aero and suspension changes. The car now has BC Racing coilovers. That is the only suspension mod that has changed. I recently removed the rear sway bar and made some coilover adjustments which have allowed loads more grip, front and rear.
My fastest time at my local track in the miata was a 1:36.5. My MR2 with significantly less mods fully loaded turned a 1:36.8. Now before I say the MR2 is just as fast stock, had my miata been on the same tires it would have been faster. Either way that is pretty impressive for a mostly stock car compared to a very similar car highly modified.
The most shocking thing about the MR2.....BRAKES! My first two track events at Road Atlanta and Atlanta Motorsports Park I was on stock brakes! Road Atlanta I had no issues, AMP I began to feel some fade but still very manageable. This was absolutely amazing to me! The last miata I drove on track with stock brakes lasted about a lap and a half tops. I thought the miata had really good turn but the MR2 took that to another level. Turn in is so sharp and steering feel is just as good if not better than a miata. There is plenty of grip out back, especially considering the engine is back there, but tight corners allow the open diff to show itself. That my friends, is the biggest drawback. To my knowledge all ZZW30 MR2s were open diff. With the engine in the back its very easy to deal with unlike a miata, but not nearly as easy to fix. The miata you swap the pumpkin and roll out. Since the MR2 is more or less a fwd car in the back, you either need to open the trans or find one that has an lsd and swap the transmission.
The truth is its hard to say one is better than the other. The MR2 is a one trick pony, its very good at being a sports car. In a world of all out performance the MR2 gets the edge. Its slightly faster, ligher, better brakes, less body roll, its just a little better in all performance categories. The problem is that's all its good at. It is a terrible daily, and although the cabin is more roomy than a miata, the storage space is utterly useless. Although the miata may not have the performance edge it does have huge aftermarket support to fulfill any short comings. The miata is so playful and it always gives back a big smile even if it is slower. You can drive it with your eyes closed, slide it at will, and toss it into nearly any corner and it will never bite back. Its just a joy to drive! That doesn't mean the MR2 isn't fun to drive, it just doesn't have that same playful nature. At times I miss the miata, but the ZZW30 is slowly but surely becoming a favorite!