22nd May: 1984 Toyota MR2
The first-generation MR2 was the project that Toyota’s engineers famously got so enthusiastic about that they gave up their summer holidays to complete.
Joining the Celica and Supra in Toyota’s sports car line-up, the MR2 was seen as the spiritual successor to the diminutive Sports 800 model of the Sixties. Its mid-engine layout delighted enthusiasts but meant that it had to be developed with a total of five high-strength bulkheads. Despite this, the MR2 weighed just 977kg and had a remarkable 44:56 bias from front to rear.
Allied to the iconic and rev-happy 1.6-litre 4A-GE engine, the MR2 was unanimously praised for being lithe, athletic and possessing an overriding sense of fun.
Read more: History of the MR2
15th May: 1994 Toyota RAV4
The Toyota RAV4 celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, so we thought this was an appropriate moment to relive its arrival and the subsequent creation of the compact sports utility vehicle segment.
Launched in the UK in June 1994, the RAV4 was the culmination of an idea that had been percolating among Toyota’s development team for eight years. Since the new car filled a niche that didn’t exist at the time, production volumes were initially very modest, Toyota predicting a total of 4,500 vehicles being sold worldwide. However, the RAV4 smashed every expectation, achieving 53,000 sales in its first year on sale, double that in the second and triple that in the third.
Four generations of RAV4 models have now accumulated more than five million sales throughout the world, and more than 90 per cent of them are still on the road!
Read more: History of the Toyota RAV4
Read more: The latest Toyota RAV4
8th May: 2001 Electronic Traffic Avoidance system
Toyota was not only the first major vehicle manufacturer to offer satellite navigation systems as standard in some UK models but it also debuted the first dynamic navigation version in 2001.
Appropriately titled Electronic Traffic Avoidance, or ETA, this useful new technology fed live traffic information from FM radio signals and nationwide traffic monitoring services into the satellite navigation system. It then decoded this information to provide the driver with advanced warning of potential hold-ups and proposed alternative routes around the jams. Later updates of this original system, such as the TNS 310 Plus pictured, added full mapping in place of turn-by-turn directions.
On its launch, ETA was praised for its ability to save time and petrol and reduce stress. Click on the following link to discover another way in which Toyota aims to make people fall in love with driving again.
1st May: 1998 Toyota Starlet SR
You don’t often see official press shots like that any more!
However, with a number of key components developed by Toyota Team Europe, Toyota’s European motorsport arm at the time, the three-door SR model was definitely the ‘looker’ within the Starlet range. We thought it deserved to be treated that way photographically, too.
The 1.3-litre SR joined the range in 1998 and was equipped with lowered suspension, 15″ alloy wheels, rear spoiler and sports exhaust system, as well as subtle WRC-inspired graphics on the bonnet, rear quarter panels and rear hatch. Thanks to its good looks and sparkling performance, the SR remains the most sought-after UK model of its generation.
In fact, the fifth-generation Starlet was voted the most satisfying small car to own in the 1999 Top Gear/J D Power Customer Satisfaction Study, the first time it had been able to appear in the results. Performing beyond its size and price point, the Starlet also achieved joint second place overall, with a satisfaction index equal to that of the Jaguar XJ and Subaru Legacy.
Read more: History of Toyota Racing Development
Read more: Toyota’s Rally Stage cars
Read more: Latest J D Power survey
See more from the Toyota archive here