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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For It's a compact, good-looking two-seater that loses value slowly

Against Handling is very mediocre - it's certainly not as good as its rivals such as the Mazda MX-5

Verdict Buy it for looks and BMW-cred rather than ability

Go for…

Avoid… Z3 M

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BMW Z3 Coupe full review with expert trade views

It's a handsome roadster that sells quickly, even at high prices. It has all the upscale image you'd expect, but lacks much of the agility and driving fun you'll get from a Mazda MX-5.

It's well equipped and has a comfy cabin with terrific seats, although it won't suit long-legged drivers. It looks pretty dated, too, but there's plenty of kit and it's well screwed together. It seats just two and boot space is tight. The suspension set-up is a 1980s design, so the Z3 feels stiff and elderly compared with a Mazda MX-5.

However, the engines and gearboxes are as good as you'd expect. The most popular 1.9-litre engine found in most Z3s isn't sports car-quick, but it suits the car well enough. The 2.8- and 3.2-litre units are much more powerful, but their chassis struggle to cope.

Even though the Z3 is no longer made, demand remains high and this keeps prices up.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.9 Sport with leather stirs interest as does 2.2 - 3.0 harder to shift

James Ruppert
Used car guru

One with the 1.9-litre engine. It suits the car well and keeps insurance and other costs sensible. This model outsold its bigger-engined brothers, so it is also the cheapest and easiest to find.

Manual and automatic transmissions are available, and both are good. Alloy wheels, twin airbags, anti-lock brakes and remote locking come as standard, but air-con and a powered hood were options. Cars without them should be priced cheaper by several hundred pounds. The 2.8 and M models had both as standard.

Most first owners indulged in the long list of factory-fit options, so it's rare for two Z3s to have the same spec.

Cars bought on the Continent and personally imported may not be to UK specification, though, so watch what you buy and only take one of these if it's cheap and otherwise good.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Seldom breaks down but when it does the bills are big

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

It'll be dearer to buy and own than a Mazda MX-5, but it shouldn't lose much of its value while you've got it.

Like all BMWs, servicing intervals vary according to driving style and whether you take motorway trips or just short hops - an on-dash indicator tells you when work is due. BMW dealers offer discounts for regular work on cars over four years old, or else use one of the many reputable BMW independent garages.

Spares are expensive but the car's engine and transmission are tough and last well. A new hood will cost a four-figure sum, although they rarely need replacing unless damaged.

Insurance for the 1.9-engined cars is group 14, but the 2.8 and M models fall in groups 18 and 19 respectively. The 1.9 promises up to 35mpg overall, while the 2.8 can manage up to 30.1mpg and the M 25.4mpg.

Trade view

James Ruppert

1.9 Sport with leather stirs interest as does 2.2 - 3.0 harder to shift

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Driving hard over speed bumps can damage the fuel tank, which is expensive to replace. The soft-top should last, but will need renewing if it's torn or mildewed - replacing one costs well into four figures, although going to a hood specialist should save plenty compared to main-dealer prices. Hard tops, if fitted, sometimes leak. Damage to seats is also expensive to fix.

Some 1.9-litre engines fitted to 1990s car suffered premature engine wear. Most will have had their engines fixed or replaced, but watch for excess exhaust smoke on any test-drive, which will signal if there's a problem.

The dash indicator showing when the next service is due can be reset easily, so ask to see bills for recent work, rather than trusting what you see.

Rust is possible on earliest cars, so check the rear wheelarches and sills for bubbling.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Seldom breaks down but when it does the bills are big

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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