What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Open-top contenders

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Best buy less than £20,000
Mazda MX-5 1.8i SE AC (soft-top)
List price £17,262
Target Price £15,843

For-wind-in-your-hair fun for less than £20,000, you can’t go wrong with a Mazda MX-5.
The lightweight, rear-wheel-drive chassis is near-perfect for any weekend fun you’ll want to have on country roads, especially when you push the lively (if a little gruff) 124bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine. Yet the MX-5 is just as happy blasting along at 70mph or tootling through town.

Refinement is pretty good for a car with a fabric roof, too, and you shouldn’t look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards if you lower the roof: the high-backed sports seats and tiny wind deflector will keep draughts from disturbing either you or your passenger.

There aren’t many toys to play with, but the MX-5 has most of the basics. It comes with electric windows, a CD player and an iPod socket, while this version also has air-con. Traction control will help to keep you on the road, while twin front and side airbags are
on hand should you end up off it.

Running costs aren’t ridiculous, either. This MX-5 has average fuel economy of more than 40mpg and CO2 emissions of 167g/km – so you save a few pounds.

Think reliability may be an issue for such a sporty car? You needn’t worry. Mazda’s reliability record is exemplary and the MX-5’s simple mechanicals mean there are few things to go wrong.

Mazda MX-5 performance
0-62mph 9.4 seconds Top speed 122mph
Running costs
Economy 40.4mpg CO2 167g/km Insurance group 22

What the testers thought...
I drove the new MX-5 in Italy last February. With the roof down and a bit of sunshine, it was an antidote to the British winter. That’s what these cars are all about. Leo.Wilkinson@whatcar.com


Best buy £20,000–£30,000
BMW Z4 2.5 sDrive23i
List price £29,272
Target Price £27,537

Mean, muscular looks, but with levels of luxury found in the best limos: BMW’s latest Z4 is pretty much spot-on when it comes to making classy roadsters with plenty of zest.

Things get even better once the 201bhp 2.5-litre petrol engine is fired up; it sounds absolutely great when you give the accelerator a hefty prod, and that makes a playful drive on twisty roads even more enjoyable.

Combine that experience with the Z4’s entertaining handling, and you’ll be smiling so much you’ll have an achy jaw.

Having to do a steady plod up the motorway isn’t an issue, either. Even if you pick the optional adaptive suspension and stick it into the firmer settings, the ride is still wonderfully supple, so long-distance treks are less arduous than they would be
in some of the Z4’s rivals.

Being a BMW, you’ll get all the gadgets that you’d expect in a car with a premium badge: alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a CD player with an MP3 point
and xenon headlights are all included as standard, although this model does without the electrical seat adjustment.

Still, it’s easy enough to get your ideal driving position, so you’ll be able to enjoy your Z4 with few complaints. The sumptuous cabin materials underline the car’s luxurious credentials.

BMW Z4 performance
0-62mph 6.6 seconds Top speed 151mph
Running costs
Economy 33.2mpg CO2 199g/km Insurance group 40

What the testers thought...
It’s not cheap, but I always think the Z4 looks more expensive than it actually is. I love the slick folding roof; and the interior puts those of most supercars to shame. Steve.Fowler@whatcar.com


Best buy more than £30,000
BMW 325i SE Convertible
List price £34,514
Target Price £32,198

Yes, another BMW makes our contenders list in the open-top categories – it seems the German manufacturer knows a thing or two about convertibles.

The 3 Series has always been one of our favourite cars in saloon form, so for those who want to enjoy the sun when it makes a rare appearance, adding a folding metal roof can only be a good thing. It’s also a belter to drive, with a supple yet comfortable ride and agile handling, despite the roof mechanism’s added weight.

The engine is as sweet as a nut: with 215bhp under the bonnet, the car is swift, yet the engine is also wonderfully refined and has a tantalising exhaust note without being raucous.

There’s also an air of cultivation in the cabin whether you have the top up or down. The metal roof will keep the outside world out when you need it to, making the Convertible as hushed as the saloon. Yet when you want to lower the roof and enjoy the rays, passengers won’t be buffeted about too much by the wind, or bothered by road- or engine noise.

There are cheaper convertibles to run, but compared with similar rivals in this price band, the 325i is easily one of the best, and with a light foot, you’ll manage more than 37mpg on average. Thanks to CO2 emissions of 181g/km tax rates are also fairly reasonable for private and company car drivers.

BMW 325i performance
0-62mph 7.6 seconds Top speed 152mph
Running costs
Economy 37.7mpg CO2 181g/km Insurance group 35

What the testers thought...
We’ve seen new challengers from Audi and Lexus this year, but neither got close to the mighty 3 Series Convertible. This is the best four-seat drop-head you can buy. Alex.JennerFust@whatcar.com


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What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Open-top winner


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