Winter motoring in a Toyota MR2
About three months back I realised that you could buy a Mk3 Toyota MR2 for around £2000. Two weeks later there was a blue one on my driveway.
I’d been thinking of buying a new car anyway because the 1993 BMW 520i that was my shed of choice at the time was sucking up most of the world’s resources (and my financial ones) via the fuel pump.
That wasn’t acceptable because the BMW was my boyfriend’s everyday wheels and a new job meant more mileage than we’d expected it to be covering when we gleefully handed over £700 for it in mid-2010, fully taxed and MOT’d.
We did agonise over a Smart Roadster, but it was a little more expensive and has an alarming reputation for allowing rain water to drown vital electronic components. So, the 1990s retro Beemer was sadly part-ex’d and we went from a cushy leather-lined 5-Series to a tiny, high-revving, two-seat Toyota roadster.
And it’s been utterly brilliant. There’s a very minor oil leak and it needed a new battery, but given that it was bought with a brand-new MOT and six month's tax for £2400 I’ll forgive it that.
The only other expense has been winter tyres. The 2001, 100,000-mile MR2 that I bought came with better tyres than most of the budget cars I’ve bought, which invariably arrive on the most dangerous tyres you can buy. But as two were imminently going to need replacing and winter had arrived, I shelled out almost £400 online for four ContiWinterContact tyres, fully fitted. Cheap, thanks to the MR2’s small 185/55 R15 tyres, and Kwik Fit’s tyre sale.
This is the first time I’ve bought winter tyres, and it’s very much influenced by the fact that the featherweight, mid-engined MR2 is a lively car in icy conditions, to say the least. Some of you will have seen the ‘winter tyres in the wet’ video that we produced in November and I’ve found a very similar benefit on the Contis as on the Michelins that we tested. It’s not only improved the ride but the wet-weather stability has increased massively, and so far the braking response seems to be very good now that the temperatures have dropped.
You still need to pay attention in icy conditions, and it remains to be seen whether the Toyota will move at all in snow, winter tyres or not (though it should be fun finding out). But I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to winter in the MR2 with more relish than I’ve felt in any of my previous cars, which is saying something since they include a Peugeot 205 1.6 GTi, a Mercedes 190E, a Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 and a 1.0-litre Renault 5 (no laughing – it cost £50 and was hugely entertaining).
I’ve discovered the joys of top-down motoring in all weathers and I can’t deny that the wagging-tail attitude of the MR2 is also a large part of the appeal. If it can maintain the 38mpg economy we’re consistently returning at the moment, and live up to its reliability reputation, I think this could be one of the finest budget cars an enthusiast can buy at the moment. I’ll let you know if I still think that after a few months of proper winter motoring and an imminent service.