Is E46 M3 Convertible Better Than Mazda MX-5 And M235i?

2 Series, BMW M3 | March 31st, 2015 by 15
E30 E36 E46 E93 F83 M3 2 750x500

The E46 M3 Convertible one of the best sports cars to ever grace tarmac. But is it better than the Mazda MX-5 or BMW 2 Series Convertible?

With Mazda’s announcement of a MX-5 Club Edition, I got to thinking about small, sporty convertibles. When it comes to sporty roadsters, nothing this side of a Porsche Boxter can really top the MX-5 in terms of driving enjoyment. The MX-5 also costs under $25,000 to start, so it’s fantastic value as well. And then I got to thinking about the 2 Series, and I started to wonder whether or not I’d prefer it to an MX-5.

That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Preferring a Mazda to a BMW for a sports roadster car? Madness. Or maybe not.

BMW still makes some of the best sports cars out there, no doubt. The 2 Series is an incredible machine, one filled with the sort of fizz-inducing character missing from so many cars lately. But at what cost? The cheapest convertible BMW currently makes is the 228i convertible, which starts $37,900, or nearly $13,000 more than the MX-5. Granted, the 228i has a far more powerful, turbocharged engine, a power folding roof and an 8-Speed auto. It’s also nicer on the inside and better built. But the actual enjoyment had from both cars is far closer than that, with the Mazda possibly besting the 2er ‘vert.

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Another knock against the 228i ‘vert is the gearbox. A sporty BMW convertible with no manual option? I can see that in the M4 convertible maybe, because that’s a hardcore driving machine and the DCT improves performance. But in a 228i convertible with a 2.0 liter engine? Cmon, that’s the picture perfect car for a row-your-own gearbox. Page one, chapter one of the sports car bible clearly states that all small, sporty, rear-wheel drive cars must come with a manual transmission available. There is a manual available in the lethal M235i convertible, however, the starting price of that tire-scorching car is, wait for it…$47,700! The 435i Coupe is cheaper than that to start.

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BMW could learn a lot from little ole Mazda. Make the car as simple and pure as possible, give it a willing engine and a manual gearbox and it will live on in sports car history forever. I’m not saying that the 2 Series convertibles are bad cars, but they are a bit too expensive and complicated. Admittedly, BMW customers are used to having certain luxuries, like a power soft top and an automatic gearbox, but those things inflate the price to a level far too high for such a small car. I spec’d out a 228i convertible to how the average BMW customer would and it was nearly $50,000. If you have $50,000 to spend on a soft top sports car, the Porsche Boxter starts at $51,000. The 228i convertible may be a fantastic driving car, but is it as good as a Boxter?

So how does the everyman, like you or I, get themselves into a small, sporty roadster with a manual gearbox without having to sell a child? If you need a brand new car, the answer is simple. The Mazda MX-5. But being BMWBLOG, I’m sure that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, nor did I, frankly. So, if you’re in the market for a soft top BMW sports car, look in your local classifieds and find an E46 M3 convertible.

E30, E36, E46, E93, F83 M3-2

The E46 M3 one of the best sports cars to ever grace tarmac. It had tons of power, a wonderful, high-revving engine, the joy of three-pedal shifting and some of the best handling you’ll ever feel. It perfectly encapsulated the joys of an MX-5 but with more power, a better sound and better handling. Being able to drop the top might not make you look very manly, if you are indeed a man, but it’ll give you an open-air driving experience like no other. Plus you’ll be able to hear that glorious 3.2 liter inline-six even better. Finding one with low mileage is tough but they’re out there. You might have to spend a pretty penny for one, but it’ll be peanuts to the $50,000 of an M235i and it’ll be better to drive as well.

Just make sure to skip the SMG gearbox and get the manual.

15 responses to “Is E46 M3 Convertible Better Than Mazda MX-5 And M235i?”

  1. Nettsurfern says:

    What about Z3 roadster, Z4 roadster or the new Z4? The first two were available with S code engines, and even without the ///M badge, all three had/have some decent power plants under the hood. At least just as decent as the 228i convertible.

    I mean, when mentioning Boxster and MX-5, it’s a bit weird to compare them to full size convertibles with 4 seats…

  2. M3Jason says:

    Wouldn’t trade my E46 M3 vert for anything!! Truly love that car……

  3. Ash says:

    Really, so you are comparing a very light weight MX-5 2 seater ‘real’ Roadster, to a 4 seater BMW convertible!!??..
    One is a pig the other is a sweet and precise ride with a razor sharp chassis…which is not about “performance”.
    Trying to ‘compare’ the two brands I guess shows the reviewers motoring ignorance.
    I guess being a BMW blog why would they think any different.
    The Japanese made Roadster actually has a better reliability and cost of ownership over the German want to be Convertible, so exactly which is the ‘better made’ product.

    • A pig? Not sure which 4 seat ‘vert you’re talking about, but neither the M235i or the E46 M3 is a pig. In fact, they’re both incredible precise driving machines. Albeit expensive ones.

      Also, I clearly praised the MX-5 in this article, as I do in every article I mention it in.

      I also said this “BMW could learn a lot from little ole Mazda.”

      • Ash says:

        Yes I read this, but again these are two entirely different products.

      • frank says:

        My NC, which I find piggish, is 2500 lbs.; I think the appropriate animal-analagous term for the 235i is “bovine”.

        Precision and light weight are two very different things. It’s the bit of slop in my Miatas that make them animated, though nothing a set of Ohlins couldn’t cure, if one were so inclined.

        Anyway BMW have stated a desire to get back to basics but inevitably the formula Mazda has created can not be matched, neither by Porsche. The Germans have long focused on technology as a substitute for light weight, a guiding Mazda engineering principle since the rotary and before.

        The biggest reservation I have is with ND’s electromechanical steering and lack of bump steer. Oh well, I think I can live with it ;^)

    • Mike Vella says:

      They’re all fun convertibles, that’s the point.
      We’re not discussing US foreign policy or something..

  4. David H. says:

    I sold my 2nd Miata (highly modified) to buy my E46 M3 Vert (manual of course). Both great cars, but can’t see myself going back to a Miata, nor do any of BMW’s newer offerings excite me in the least.

  5. Johnny says:

    It’s spelled Boxster.

  6. […] E46 BMW M3 convertible – The E46 is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, M3 ever made. It’s fast, […]

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