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Japan's affordable sports cars aren't done! Return of the Toyota Celica, MR2 and a new generation of Mazda MX-5

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Toyota Chairperson hints again at the Celica comeback, while Mazda teases the next MX-5.
Toyota Chairperson hints again at the Celica comeback, while Mazda teases the next MX-5.

Lamenting the demise of the accessible sports car? Maybe it's a little too early to call time on those just yet, as Toyota and Mazda seem intent on keeping relatively affordable sports cars around for some time yet.

While the march of the former's GR brand has been steady, most of its cars have been based on existing models - the GR Corolla and Yaris, plus the GR86 platform shared with Subaru and the Supra with BMW.

But there are two more cars in the pipeline to further bolster the GR family, and both should have the Toyota faithful excited thanks to a bit of nostalgia-induced naming.
Only a couple of months after Toyota's new CEO Koji Sato spoke about a wish to bring back the Celica, former CEO and current Chair Akio Toyoda - the man who essentially made GR what it is today - spoke to Toyota Times magazine during Rally Hokkaido about the Celica again.

When asked if a new Celica was coming, Toyoda attempted a couple of side-steps of the question, before saying: "I'm not just saying this because we're at a rally event, but Kankkunen (who was invited to the demo run) is Mr. Celica."

Toyoda is talking about Juha Kankkunen, former rally driver who won the last of his four WRC titles with Toyota, driving a Celica GT-Four ST185.

"Now you can all have a think about why I'm using Kankkunen so much. See if you can guess!"

Lamenting the demise of the accessible sports car? Maybe it’s a little too early to call time on those just yet. (Image: Best Car)
Lamenting the demise of the accessible sports car? Maybe it’s a little too early to call time on those just yet. (Image: Best Car)

Toyoda also said he had put in a formal request for the company to build a new Celica, though noted people aren't always willing to do exactly what he asks when it comes to new models.

This news alone should be exciting to fans of older Toyota nameplates, but the much-rumoured return of the MR2 has also within the last week come up again, with Japanese magazine Best Car reporting that the new baby sports car won't be an EV as initially expected.

While it's possible the MR2 - expected to be released in 2026 as the brand's final mid-engine sports car - could end up rocking a version of the 1.6-litre engine turbocharged three-cylinder engine the brand's two GR hatch models use, we've previously reported that a small sports car built in partnership with Suzuki and Daihatsu could be on the way.

Mazda’s preview information for the upcoming Japan Mobility Show is very MX-5-heavy.
Mazda’s preview information for the upcoming Japan Mobility Show is very MX-5-heavy.

Earlier reported by Best Car to be based on the GR Yaris platform and using a 996cc three-cylinder petrol engine, the car is also expected to be about 4.2-metres long and just 1.2m tall.

Speaking of small sports cars, another brand is joining in on the tease. Mazda's preview information for the upcoming Japan Mobility Show is very MX-5-heavy.

"The Mazda stand will focus on the MX-5, the well-loved Mazda icon," Mazda said in a statement.

"A variety of MX-5 models will be on show including the first-generation MX-5, an enduring symbol of Mazda's original commitment to the joy of driving.

The new MX-5 concept is likely to give us some more concrete information about what to expect from the model’s next generation.
The new MX-5 concept is likely to give us some more concrete information about what to expect from the model’s next generation.

"Additionally, the new concept car designed to symbolise the exhibit theme will be unveiled as the world premiere at the show."

Announced along with a shadowy image of what would likely be its rear, the new MX-5 concept is likely to give us some more concrete information about what to expect from the model's next generation.

Given Mazda's current progress on electrification, it's unlikely that we'll see a fully electric MX-5 too soon.

Chris Thompson
Journalist
Racing video games, car-spotting on road trips, and helping wash the family VL Calais Turbo as a kid were all early indicators that an interest in cars would stay present in Chris’ life, but loading up his 1990 VW Golf GTI Mk2 and moving from hometown Brisbane to work in automotive publishing in Melbourne ensured cars would be a constant. With a few years as MOTOR Magazine’s first digital journalist under his belt, followed by a stint as a staff journalist for Wheels Magazine, Chris’ career already speaks to a passion for anything with four wheels, especially the 1989 Mazda MX-5 he currently owns. From spending entire weeks dissecting the dynamic abilities of sports cars to weighing up the practical options for car buyers from all walks of life, Chris’ love for writing and talking about cars means if you’ve got a motoring question, he can give you an answer.
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