BMW is currently in two different business: 1) Manufacturing and Selling cars. 2) Creating niche markets that didn’t already exist. BMW loves creating niches almost as much as it loves selling cars. The good news is at least the niches BMW creates are interesting. While the odd niche cars, like the X4 and X1, aren’t necessarily the most useful of vehicles, they aren’t completely useless or ridiculous (I’m looking at you Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet). But with all of this niche-busting, it seems BMW has done it all, there doesn’t seem to be room for another niche. So maybe BMW should add a model variant that already exists in the automotive world; a small roadster.
BMW is one of the best companies at making roadsters. The Z3 and Z4 models were all excellent and combined BMWs fun-to-drive characteristics with classic good looks. Even the rare but plucky Z1 was rather excellent and even had the best automotive doors in history. But at the moment, the only roadster BMW has is the Z4 and it’s practically dead. A replacement is coming, but it’s most likely going to be bigger, more luxurious and overall more in line to compete with the Mercedes SLK Class. This is fine, of course, as BMW needs a car in that segment as well. But it would be nice if BMW were to release a tiny roadster, something along the lines of a Mazda MX-5.
The MX-5 provides some of the most fun a person can possibly have in an automobile and it has nothing but a tiny, naturally-aspirated four-cylinder with rear-wheel drive, a manual soft-top and a manual gearbox. It’s the most simple automotive formula there is, yet it’s the most fun. BMW could get into that segment and would probably dominate. The great thing is, BMW already has most of the tools in place.
Let’s call our hypothetical small, BMW roadster the Z1, both for nostalgia and because it would be BMW’s smallest car, therefore it will wear a ‘1’ badge. So this Z1 could be built off of the 2 Series platform, just with a shortened wheelbase, so it could be rear-wheel drive. It would also be fitted with a power soft-top. While a manually-operated roof would be better for weight saving purposes, BMW customers most likely wouldn’t like that so power roof it is. Then, BMW could throw in its 1.5 liter, three-cylinder turbocharged engine, which is capable of more than enough power and great efficiency. Give it the option of a 6-Speed manual or 8-Speed auto with paddles, a Sport Line and Luxury Line, start it at $29,999 and BMW would have a winner on its hands.
Such a car would give us all of the fun of a Mazda MX-5 but with the added luxury, quality and performance of a BMW. Sure, it would mostly be bought by middle-aged women, but so is the MX-5 and we still love that. This hypothetical Z1 would sell like crazy, and it wouldn’t even cost BMW much to make, as all of the parts already exist. It would instantly become a cult icon.
Does BMW need such a roadster? Of course not, but it doesn’t need the X1, X4 or X6 but those exist because people want them and they sell. People would want this and it would sell. Plus, us BMW fans would have our own MX-5. To me, there doesn’t seem like much reason for BMW not to make one.