Summer is finally upon us, and many petrol heads are out enjoying the great weather in their cars. This naturally leads to the question: what is the best car for summer driving? It’s a question that is hard to answer because there’s so much choice out there. Could it be the BMW Z4? Let’s find out.
Right now there’s a lot of competition in the open-top car space. There’s particularly strong competition from the Far East in the form of the Mazda MX5. When it comes to summer driving, Mazda has been at the top of their game for well over a decade now. Ever since the release of the original open-top MX5, Mazda has been making a killing, especially in the UK. The MX5 was a car that offered open-top driving to the masses on a budget.
Now Mazda has upped their game again and released a new version of the car. It has upgraded looks, new engine options, summer tyres and rear wheel drive. In other words, it’s the perfect car to take out on a sunny summer’s day. But does it compete with the Z4? In terms of price, yes. You can pick up a new MX5 for around £18,000 in the UK. Second-hand, you can expect to pay half that. But that’s the only place where the MX5 really competes with the Z4. Though the performance of the MX5 is good, it just doesn’t have the ability to compete with the Z4 in a straight line. You can pick up an MX5 in either a 1.5 or 2.0-litre variant. But neither can muster enough power to go head-to-head with BMW’s offering.
So what about the Mini Convertible? Can that compete with the Z4? There’s no denying that the Convertible is a popular car. Ever since Mini came back with a vengeance over a decade ago, the brand has gone from strength to strength. It’s become a staple on British roads. And the car is much better looking than ever before. In fact, being made by BMW, it has all of the modern technologies you’d expect from a brand new, 2016 car. Add to that the fact that it comes in for around the same price as an MX5 and it’s a compelling proposition.
Yet the Z4 still pulls away in some important respects. For starters, the Z4 has superior trim on the inside. You’d expect this sort of thing from a premium car. The cabin has premium appeal and an impeccable finish - ideal for summer evenings. And the car also has a convenient, fold-away metal roof that tucks into the boot.
But perhaps more important than all of this is the power that the car offers. BMW have a passion for making great rear-wheel drive cars. And this is evident in the Z4. The Z4 comes in a variety of engine types. But the most popular is probably the sDrive20i. This engine outputs around 181bhp but is surprisingly fast in a straight line. BMW has also included a variety of settings, including ECO PRO mode which reduces fuel usage. What’s cool about BMW’s engines across the range is their ability to respond the throttle in the low and high rev ranges. This makes for effortless acceleration in tight spots on country roads.
One of the things that lets the Z4 down is its overall fuel consumption. This isn’t a car that’s meant for the daily commute. It’s a car for experiencing the joy of driving. Yes, that might mean you get great experiences every once in awhile. But it also means you’ll end up with some rather large bills. This is an area where the Mini really pulls ahead, thanks to it’s lower running costs.
Like the MX5 and the Mini, the Z4 is not built for practicality. This car is designed for one thing, and one thing only: the joy of driving. And in many respects, this is what it delivers. But if you’re looking for things like boot space, you’re going to be disappointed. Boot space in the Z4 is severely restricted, thanks to the presence of the folding roof. In fact, it’s even more restricted than it is in the MX5’s main competitors, the Audi TT and Mercedes SLK. For this reason, it’s not a car that’s suitable for holidaying. And ultimately that’s probably what lets it down. Here we have a car that is capable of creating great summer driving moments. But if you want to go anywhere, things start to become a lot more challenging. No, it’s not impossible to use this car to go on holiday, but it’s difficult.