Is The MR-2 Spyder Better Than The Mazda Miata?

The Mazda Miata is the holy grail of cheap two-door roadsters, but it’s not the only one. The Miata isn’t the only good one either, which is the lesson I learned from the 2001 Toyota MR-2 Spyder.


The 2001 Toyota MR-2 Spyder has a 1.8L inline four-cylinder engine which is mounted over the rear axle, and a 5 speed manual transmission. The MR-2’s mid-engine design plays a large role in the experience of the car. While the 1.8L is small when compared to the rest of the engines for sale in the world, it is mounted behind your head which gives you amazing engine sounds throughout your entire experience behind the wheel. This specific MR-2 has a standard 5 speed manual transmission, but some MR-2s were offered with sequential transmissions which was rather advanced for 2001.


The interior of the Spyder lacks any sort of luxury besides power windows and air conditioning. The roof is manual, but can be lowered by one person in less time than it takes an old man to sneeze. Since the engine is in the rear, there is a front truck but you could duct tape a grocery bag to the hood and that would give you more storage space. The lack of creature comforts is the result of keeping costs low. That is part of the MR-2 charm.


The MR-2 Spyder is often pitted up against the Miata for many reasons. They both feature 1.8L engines paired to manual transmissions. Both cars have easy-to-use convertible tops. Both cars are rear-wheel-drive and fun to drive. So where’s the difference? The difference comes in the aftermarket. While the MR-2 Spyder is a Toyota and has a good amount of support, it does not compare to that of the Miata. Miata’s are a dime a dozen. You can probably throw a rock in any direction at any time and you will hit someone that can work on a Miata. The MR-2 is mid-engined, and that scares a lot of people, myself included. Simple tasks like oil changes and spark plug replacements are no longer familiar to the backyard mechanic. So for that reason alone, the MR-2 Spyder suffers from a lack of support unlike the Mazda Miata.


I loved driving the MR-2. The mid-engine setup creates an engaging experience that front engine cars cannot offer. If you are stuck between a Miata and a MR-2 Spyder, give both a drive. You might be surprised.




Written by Zack Pradel