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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.