The Toyota MR2 is a two-seat, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car manufactured in Japan and marketed globally by Toyota from 1984 to 2007 over three generations:
W10 (1984–1989), W20 (1990–1999) and W30 (2000–2007). It is Japan's first mid-engined production car.
Conceived as a small, economical and sporty car, the MR2 employed straightforward design elements, including fully independent MacPherson strut front and rear suspensions, four-wheel disc brakes, and a transverse-mounted inline-four engine.
The name MR2 stands for either "mid-ship run-about 2-seater" or "mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seater".
The MR2 derived from a 1976 Toyota design project with the goal of a car which would be enjoyable to drive, yet still provide good fuel economy – not necessarily a sports car.
Design work began in 1979 when Akio Yoshida from Toyota's testing department started to evaluate alternatives for engine placement and drive method, finalizing a mid-transverse engine placement.
Toyota called the 1981 prototype SA-X. From its original design, the car evolved into a sports car, and further prototypes were tested both in Japan and in the US. Significant testing was performed on race circuits including Willow Springs, where former Formula One driver Dan Gurney tested the car.
All three generations were in compliance with Japanese government regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement.
The MR2 appeared around the same time as the Honda CR-X, the Nissan EXA, the VW Scirocco from Europe, and the Pontiac Fiero and Ford EXP from North America.
Toyota debuted its SV-3 concept car in October 1983 at the Tokyo Motor Show, gathering press and audience publicity.
The car was scheduled for a Japanese launch in the second quarter of 1984 under the name MR2.