We’ve had numerous gen1 MR2’s and several gen2’s, but to the best of my knowledge, never a gen3 (W30), known in the US as the MR2 Spyder. It was a considerable change from what had come before, due to being a roadster. Undoubtedly the great success of the Miata influenced that decision. And it was smaller and lighter than the gen2 version, in that regard it was closer to the brilliant little wedge that started the lineage.
I always thought it was something of a 7/8ths Porsche Boxster, which had arrived in 1996 to a lot of acclaim and strong interest. Like the first Boxster, the MR2 Spyder was not exactly brimming with power, given its 138 hp 1.8L four mounted transversely midships. But like the Boxster, the MR2 Spyder was was superb handler, the best of the line and about as good as any sporty car of its time. It wasn’t much of a sales success, but it did had devoted fans that couldn’t get enough of its fun-to-drive qualities.
I was rather strongly attracted to it in its day, significantly more so than a Miata. I liked its proportions and stance, and have always been a fan of rear and rear-mid engines. Bring out the tail! All it needed was swing axles to really make it a modern reincarnation of the very first Porsche 356.
The fact that they were so much less common than the ubiquitous red Miata, the generic mid-life sports car of our times, was of course another reason I liked it. It’s an outsider.