The Toyota FT-Se Is an Electric MR2 Revival That’s Too Good to be True

Everybody wants to believe now is the time for the MR2 to come back, but there are a lot of factors working against it.

byCaleb Jacobs|
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Toyota sure loves teasing us with would-be MR2 successors. The last one, a no-name concept with sharply creased bodywork and an apparently mid-engined layout dropped nearly two years ago but has gone nowhere since. Then the giant car company debuted another at the Japan Mobility Show this week with a stout stance and, get this, a name. It's called the Toyota FT-Se and I feel like it's too good to be true.

I'll explain why in a minute, but it's important to start by acknowledging this is the most proper-looking MR2 follow-up we've seen yet. It isn't ridiculously wide and the cockpit isn't chopped to sit flush with the back deck, which is nice for a change. The MR2 was never a supercar anyway, and if you compare it to cars on sale today, it wasn't even a Porsche 718 equivalent. There's really nothing like it from a performance or pricing perspective these days.


That's what leads me to believe the FT-Se won't happen, at least not yet. I'll never say never but now doesn't feel like the time for Toyota—a famously cautious, conservative automaker—to enter the compact sports car space. The manufacturer even said in February 2020, prior to COVID lockdowns and production bottlenecks, that bringing back the MR2 nameplate wasn't a priority. Now the segment is even more costly to enter, not to mention more crowded with the Lotus Emira joining the fray.

We don't know any solid powertrain details about the FT-Se Concept aside from the fact that it's electric, which would likely drive the cost squarely into Porsche and Lotus territory. There here have been rumblings of a modern MR2 running the GR Corolla's turbo three-cylinder or even a 1.0-liter shared with Daihatsu, but those claims aren't supported by this showpiece. A lower-tier internal combustion model would be essential if Toyota hoped to land anywhere close to the same segment the SW20 MR2 Turbo existed in during the 1990s. Adjusted for inflation, that car cost around $53,000 and you can bet an electric sports car of this ilk would be well north of that.

If Toyota wants to go up-market and sell a mid-engined halo car of sorts, then hey, go for it. But that's not what the MR2 represents, at least as we know it. The FT-Se is undeniably attractive as a concept, but in practice, now might not be the time for such a project to reach fruition.

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