Price: £28,650
Top speed: 151 mph 0-60mph 6.6 seconds
Consumption: 33.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 199g/km
Best for:
Also worth considering? Audi TT, Mercedes SLK, Porsche Boxster

Triumph. Perhaps you remember the name. The last time it graced – if that is the right word – a new car, was in 1984, when production ended of the Triumph Acclaim, a dreary Honda saloon built under licence by British Leyland.

But back in the Sixties and Seventies, it was all so different. Triumph's open-topped Vitesse, Stag and TR6 cut a real dash, while the rakish 2000 and the Dolomite Sprint were some of the first cars to show that saloons didn't need to be dull either. In those days, Triumph was, perhaps, a sort of British BMW. In fact, you could argue that today's BMW is a German take on Triumph; with the 2000, for example, the British company devised the recipe for the 5-Series, the mainstay of the BMW range, 10 years before the Bavarians did. And, if my amateur automotive genealogy is correct, the current owner of the now-defunct Triumph badge is none other than BMW; like the current Mini, it is a relic of the Germans' ill-fated involvement with Rover.

Anyway, I was reminded of all that history when I drove this car, the latest Z4, recently. Why? Because although it has a BMW badge on its bonnet, it is, without a doubt, a Triumph. It's a roadster, a category of car we British invented, and just like a typical Triumph, it has a straight-six engine. Above all, the Z4 simply feels like a Triumph; it's quite sporty but it's also quiet and comfortable, and not all that intense.

That's why you can probably safely ignore the larger-engined versions, including the impressively rapid sDrive35i, with its 300 horsepower-plus twin-turbo engine; the Z4 just isn't the sort of car in which you feel compelled to go chasing Porsches, so the least powerful sDrive23i, with about 200 horsepower, and a much lower price tag, does just fine.

My testing done, I headed home, my head full of warm thoughts about the Z4. Triumph may be dead, I reasoned, and BMW may be successful, but British car fans could still be proud that the Germans perhaps couldn't have done it without the templates that poor old Triumph provided for today's BMW roadsters and executive saloons. Interesting company, Triumph, I thought – I'll read up about it in Wikipedia. And there it was in black and white, the final twist; Triumph wasn't quite the thoroughbred British outfit I had supposed. It was founded in the UK in 1885 by a Mr Bettmann and a Mr Schulte – and I'm sure you can guess where they came from.

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