I want the MGB's modern equivalent for less than $25,000. What should I buy?
We compare the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the BMW Z4
My dad had an MGB. What's its equivalent now? The BMW Z4 looks great, but can I find a newer one for less than $25,000? – Liz, Vancouver
Roadsters were meant to entertain you on sunny days along winding roads. But today, those thrills ain't exactly cheap.
"Roadsters used to be simple, impossibly tiny convertibles low in power but high in agility. Frills were few, but fun was abundant," review site Edmunds said. "They were also reasonably priced. With a lone exception, today's roadsters hardly fill this bill."
That exception is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Brand new, it starts at $31,900 – about $3,000 less than a three-year-old BMW Z4 sDrive28i. (BMW stopped making the Z4 in 2016).
2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata
- Third generation: 2006-2015
- Average price for base: $23,043 (Canadian Black Book)
- Transmission/Drive: Five-speed manual, six-speed automatic/Rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.5 city, 8.5 highway (manual); 11.5 city, 8.6 highway (automatic), premium gas
The Miata doesn't just look like classic roadsters, it's a classic on its own. There's a reason Mazda has built more than a million of them.
"What is so appealing about the MX-5 is how Mazda has captured the traditional two-seater sports car experience and made it better," Globe Drive said in 2013. "Think of a well-sorted Triumph TR4 or MGB with much better performance, and you've got the essence of it."
Edmunds liked the precise steering and handling, quick-to-lower manual top and low price. It wasn't thrilled with the stereo's weak volume with the top down or the small trunk.
"The Mazda Miata supplies the archetypal open-top experience with the wind in your hair, all-around athleticism and an inspiring soundtrack from the engine and exhaust," it said. "What few faults that exist are minor and almost expected from the true roadster experience – there really aren't any two-seat roadsters that are either worth considering or anywhere close to the Miata's relatively affordable price."
There were three trims: base GX, GS ($26,016 used) and GT ($28,108 used).
Consumer Reports gives the 2013 MX-5 its "best of the best" rating for used-car reliability.
"It's hard to find a car more agile and fun to drive than this one," it said. "The steering is super responsive and provides plenty of feedback."
J.D. Power gave it five out of five stars for predicted reliability.
There were no recalls.
2013 BMW Z4 sDrive28i
- Second generation: 2009-2016
- Average price for base: $34,963 (Canadian Black Book)
- Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual, eight-speed automatic/Rear-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.3 city, 6.7 highway (manual); 10.8 city, 7.1 highway (automatic), premium gas
The Z4 delivers a little more style and power than the MX-5 Miata – for a lot more money.
"The Z4 exists to give you the emotional jolt that comes with open-air motoring," Globe Drive said in 2013. But its price means the "entertaining two-seater – the one with the low, long bonnet and seating just ahead of the rear axles – is an indulgence."
The Z4 came in three models corresponding to engine size – the 35i ($43,167 used) and 35is ($53,106 used) have 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinders. The 28i was the cheapest, starting new at $54,300, before pricey options. Its roadster rivals – the Porsche Boxster and Mercedes-Benz SLK – aren't cheap, either.
"We can't ignore the sky-high price tags attached to all three of these cars that frankly seem a little absurd," Edmunds said. "If you're looking for the modern embodiment of the classic roadster, the Mazda Miata is really your only bet."
Still, Edmunds liked the powerful engines, fuel-efficient base, quick-folding hardtop, comfortable ride, strong brakes and "excellent visibility for a roadster."
Aside from the price, Edmunds said the four-cylinder clatters when idling. And, it said, the car isn't as "invigorating and involving" as the Boxster.
J.D. Power didn't give a reliability rating. Consumer Reports has no reliability data for the 2013 Z4, either. And, like most Z4 reviewers, it suggested, yes, the Miata.
"Roadsters have their drawbacks in everyday driving – they don't have much cargo space, the seats are often tight and low, and the ride can be stiff," Consumer Reports said. "And if you're willing to give up some performance, features, refinement, and panache, you can get a Mazda Miata for about $15,000 to $30,000 less."
There were two recalls, including one to fix a possible loss of power braking on the road.