The BMW Z3 has its critics, but 007 loves it. Will the updated version leave our readers shaken or stirred?
Ever since I took delivery of this new-look BMW Z3 Roadster I have been winding up for an almighty carp at its expense. I have always loathed the Z3, from its needlessly long bonnet and clumsy retro detailing, to the cynical way BMW product-placed a Z3 into GoldenEye.

The trouble is, any criticisms which I might have about this perfumed ponce of a car are rendered redundant in the face of one single statistic: while sales of the original Z3 may be tailing off, it still accounts for one fifth of the roadster market in Britain.

This faintly revised version comes in response to increasing competition from Honda's new S2000, the Alfa Spyder and the Mazda MX5, but it also seeks to address some of the criticisms aimed at it from the motoring press when it was launched. The original car's big, brawny bonnet lacked cohesion with its petite rump, so the new version has inflated, more muscular rear arches with a wider rear track. It is an improvement. The boot lid has been slightly sculpted, but not so you'd notice, and similarly imperceptible changes have been made to the interior.

Engine options have also been re-jigged. In comes the all-new, entry level 1.8-litre four-cylinder (from pounds 19,995) and a two-litre straight-six (the version we tried, which is expected to be the most popular, from pounds 23,000), while the range is topped by a 2.8-litre with 193bhp (pounds 28,350).

In 150bhp, two-litre form, the Z3 is a capable, if unexciting, performer (its 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds is easily beaten by, say, a Vauxhall Astra SRi). For something masquerading as a sports car it is a little too quiet and anodyne. The Z3's grip is remarkably good, however, and it is a refined motorway cruiser. Where it isn't so proficient is over bumpy A-roads, where the old problem of body flex continues to rattle your dentures.

So the Z3 is still a more of a sex toy than a sports car. While it is well made and people do like it, I'd choose an MX5 and pocket the pounds 6,000 change.

Captions: Lee Newham

28, graphic designer, from Nottingham. Currently drives an MGB GT

"I couldn't get used to driving this at all, the pedals were really strange. It's built for long-armed, short-legged people. I thought it'd have a little more oomph, be more torquey, but it feels like a saloon car in a sports car's body. In my MG you are at one with the car, you feel everything, but this cossets you; I stalled five times because I couldn't hear the engine. It is well put together and it looks great from the outside, but I don't think Bond should have driven one. I'd probably buy an old E-Type Jag for that kind of money."

Ali Day

33, comedy producer, from Streatham, London. Currently drives a Volvo 480

"It has a perfect driving position, I could get in and drive it easily. I loved the low gearing - it was very relaxed cruising. I really enjoyed going up through the gears quickly, it hugs the road very well. I would definitely buy one in preference to an MGF or an MX5, it's a beautiful shape. One thing that gives this away as being designed for women is the vanity mirror in the driver's sun visor - they think all we do is touch up our make-up in traffic jams! It's the kind of car readers of Red magazine would buy."

Penny Terndrop

30, legal recruitment consultant, from Putney, London. Currently drives a Seat Toledo

"This has always been my dream car and it was really lovely to drive. It was fast but not as fast as I expected. It felt expensive. People did turn and look - it does make you double take - but I also noticed more people were keen to overtake you while you are driving it. It's not practical for me, as it's cramped and the cats wouldn't fit in the back. The interior isn't super plush, a bit plasticky, but no bits fell off and I'd feel perfectly happy investing in one. Give me six months and, you never know, I might do. If I have a mad day!"

Roger Pickett

54, retired, from Isleworth, Middlesex. Currently drives an Alfa Romeo 155

"It was a lot quieter than I thought it would be, and I really liked it. Straight away you are impressed. There's good vision, the boot is bigger than you'd think, it obviously has an unburstable engine and the acceleration is smooth. In fact the whole car feels solid. My wife wouldn't have liked it because it is too enclosed. I think this would appeal to a young couple with taste - they've got to have taste, otherwise they'd go for a Japanese car. It's not a poser's car, it's understated. In 2.8-litre form this would be really rapid." n

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