The entry-level 20i version has a 181bhp 2.0-litre engine which pulls strongly from low revs. The more powerful 28i model uses a tuned version of the same engine to deliver 242bhp and a sub six-second 0-62mph time. The 35i and 35is versions offer true performance car pace.
The Z4 delivers a great mix of comfort and control, combining a slick ride with agile, grippy handling. Every version comes with Drive Dynamic Control, which lets you tailor the responses of the steering, throttle and stability control system to suit the situation. Avoid the M Sport versions, though – the firmer suspension ruins the ride and adds nothing to the handling.
The Z4 has a folding metal roof (rather than a fabric hood) which means it’s quieter than most of its rivals. There’s less wind noise than in an Audi TT, for example, and there isn't much buffeting in al fresco mode, either. A fair amount of road noise does find its way into the cabin, though. Engine noise only intrudes when you want it to, which is exactly what you want from a roadster.
The Z4 isn’t cheap, but you pay about the same as you would for an equivalent Audi TT Roadster, and less than you would for a comparable Porsche Boxster. Choose a four-cylinder version (the 20i or 28i) and fuel consumption and emissions are surprisingly low, while the Z4's leading-lady looks and blue and white badge should ensure strong resale values.
The Z4 has a smarter cabin than any other roadster in its price bracket, with gorgeous materials and a flawless fit and finish throughout. The folding roof mechanism is also one of the slickest and smoothest we’ve seen. BMW has a good reliability record, although it didn't do so well in the latest JD Power survey.
Great handling isn't always enough to keep a powerful car in check, so stability control is fitted as standard to help you stay out of trouble. If you really make a hash of things, there are four airbags to cushion you from harm. The list of security kit includes deadlocks, locking wheel nuts and an alarm.
The 35i versions have electric seats, but lesser Z4s make do with fiddly manual controls. Even so, you should be able to get comfortable with a bit of effort, and there’s a great low-slung driving position. The various buttons and dials on the dashboard are clearly marked and easy to find, and cars with sat-nav have BMW’s excellent iDrive infotainment system.
You don't buy a two-seat sports car if you want to shift wardrobes, so it's of no real relevance that the Z4 isn't the most practical car. There's plenty of space surrounding the two seats, though, and the boot is a good size in coupe mode. Drop the roof and you have to squeeze all your stuff under a small load separator: there's room for a couple of bags, but not much more.
All Z4s come with plenty of standard equipment, including dual-zone climate control, leather seats, automatic xenon headlights, Bluetooth, and a USB socket (for your MP3 player). The electrically folding hard-top is also included as standard.
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This entry-level 20i is the pick of the Z4 range, thanks to its flexible performance, agile handling and low running costs. It’s well equipped, too.