I did not have any major problems during the time I owned the car, there were a few things that had to be fixed, which is probably acceptable for what was a 15 year old car at the time I owned it.
The automatic antenna did not work when I got the car, upon inspection the nylon spine had snapped. Obtained a brand new replacement antenna and spine from Toyota, for a healthy $103.50 NZ. Quite easy to replace, which I did myself. The easiest way to do this is to turn on the radio (so the antenna is up), feed the spine in a bit, then simply turn the radio off - and it reels in all by itself!
Had to replace the rear tyres, which are an unusual size (205x60 14"), with each one commanding a higher price than more common 195 width tyres (which incidentally are the size for the front wheels).
Front suspension always creaked going over speed bumps... did not cause any issues at warranty of fitness checks though. Front wheels would 'skip' sometimes while turning at full lock too.
One rear wheel bearing was noisy too, it sounds a bit like having a helicopter following you down the road, never had this fixed, but its probably a few hundred dollars or so.
Targa Roof glass panels - a great extra for summer, but prone to leaking. This wasn't a huge problem on my car; regular cleaning and silicon protectant helped greatly. It only leaked on the driver’s side when I got the car; I managed to resolve the problem by realigning the window glass.
**The biggest thing though - was that the hairline cracks developed in the chassis near the front sway bar mounts! This did constitute a WOF failure, So always check here if you are thinking about buying one!! I had it fixed by a chassis repair specialist who informed me that this was a common problem for mk2 MR2's - LTSA have repair guidelines for them (The local Toyota service centre had no idea about it when I approached them though...) Black painted patches on the underside will indicate that the chassis has either been strengthened - or simply welded up, meaning that it may only be a matter of time before it cracks again.
Other than that it was only standard service stuff, most consumables are no more costly than your average car, except for the platinum spark plugs, the Nippon Denso replacements are $20NZ a piece from Toyota (with NGK's from Repco costing around $25). You can replace with normal copper plugs for around $7 a piece, but these don not last as long.
One thing though, I would imagine cambelt replacement and cooling system maintenance would be costly (It has 3 bleeding points and needs 12 litres of coolant!) due to the unconventional mid engine layout. The cambelt on my car was replaced at 50,000km when it was imported in to NZ in 1995; the need to replace it at 150,000km was minor factor that contributed to selling the vehicle.
The second generation MR2 is a very nice car, these days they are quite affordable, with most of the examples in NZ being used imports from Japan. The G-Limited models have all the gadgets – 7 speaker premium sound system (the CD player is too old to play non-commercially produced discs though) and cool yellow fog lamps that follow the road wheel steering position, to name, but a few features.
My MR2 was a bit of an impulsive buy, I was 18 at the time and didn't have a lot of money, that said I did take the time to find a tidy unmolested example. My short 1 year or so of ownership was a great experience; it was a bit of a learning curve and perhaps made me a better driver as a result.
Considering the kind of vehicle it is, I did not have any major problems with insurance (being a non-turbo variant), it never received any attention from traffic police, largely because it was 100% original (no rice/boy racer factor), being a metallic green/blue colour probably contributed too.
In terms of economy - my one returned about 500km per tank (refilling 50 litres each time) so that is about 10L/100km. I’m not sure what that is in MPG, nor do I care much in a metric world. It seemed to return about the same regardless of whether it was driven like Nana would, or driven a bit harder.
In terms of performance and handling, not many cars can top it for the few grand they cost these days, you cannot just get in one and throw it about however, the mid engine handling behaviour must be respected. You hear people rant about how dangerous they are and can just 'snap' and spin out of control without warning. I don't believe the car has a problem, it is merely a characteristic. It is more likely to do with those inexperienced and also drivers who tend to be uninterested in driving (i.e.: cars are for going from A to B types of people). What I'm trying to say is that they are a car for a 'thinking driver' not someone who gets in and tries to throw it about like a conventional FWD car, or those who could care less about driving.
These early mk2's are around 150-160HP in naturally aspirated form (2 Litre, 3SGE, Japanese domestic models, The US 2.2 Litre is a bit less), which certainly provides ample top speed and acceleration, so it certainly fulfills its intended purpose. There seems to be a lot of automatic ones knocking about though, which I've always found a bit puzzling, it just seems to defeat the whole purpose really.
People of all ages always commented on how nice a car it was, and they do look good I must admit, though they are getting on a bit now and many haven't aged well (I've seen some real dogs).
Sadly I had to let my MR2 go, lack of money was one of the main reasons, the need for something more practical was a factor too though - I remember buying new rear tyres from a discount/wholesale type place, then having to drive a short distance to have them fitted. The guy in the car on the other side of the intersection in hysterics after seeing the tyres squashed into the passenger seat still sticks in my mind!
The boot is fairly good though, you can probably fit a set of golf clubs in there - and the engine will warm them up nicely! What a bonus!
Overall there pretty ace cars, pays to sift through the rubbish and get a nice example that has been garaged and used as a second/weekend car if possible. Definitely one that has clearly been looked after and not fiddled with and 'modded' by some Muppet.
There is an increasing cult following for them that is well deserved, much like the Mazda MX5/Miata. There is abundant information available for them on the net via forums and such.