Summer’s on the way and that means owners of drop-top cars will be rubbing their hands together with glee. A convertible makes the most of the admittedly short British summer, allowing you to have the wind in your hair and a million miles of headroom at the touch of a button.
If you’re considering taking the plunge and buying a convertible car, it’s best to hurry. Prices of used soft-tops skyrocket in the summer months, just like the prices of off-roaders do in winter, so getting in early is the best way to secure a bargain.
Meanwhile, if you place an order for a new convertible now, chances are you may be taking delivery just as the weather begins to get into its stride.
You’ll of course want to value your car before chopping it in for a drop top – either to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal on your trade-in or, if you’re buying a used model, to make sure the dealer’s not ripping you off.
And to help you select a model to buy, we’ve rounded up some of the most fun and affordable convertible cars below.
The quintissential two-seat roadster, the Mazda MX-5’s been around for more than 30 years and it’s only got better with each new generation. The latest model has resisted the bloat that’s hit so many other cars and is in fact no larger than the 1989 original, but it still packs in a peppy engine, comfortable if snug cabin and hour after hour of summer fun.
There are two engines on offer as well as two roof styles. The 1.5-litre engine is perky enough but you’ll want the 2.0-litre for the best performance. Meanwhile, you can have a manually-operated fabric roof, which we reckon is far better than the electric hard-top found on the RF (retractable fastback) model.
It’s the perfect car to ease you into the convertible lifestyle and ideal for summer or wrapped-up winter motoring.
You can’t get much more fun than a MINI – with the brand’s characterful go-kart-like handling and a choice of engines ranging from the sedate to the genuinely rapid, the MINI is brilliant to drive in all of its forms.
Even taking the roof off doesn’t spoil the fun – in fact, it enhances the feeling, at the expense of a small amount of chassis rigidity. The MINI is one of the smaller convertibles you can buy that has four seats, so it’s great if you’ve got a couple of kids. Just don’t expect adults to ride in the rear seats for very long…
A wide range of colours, stripes and myriad other personalisation options make it easy to tailor your MINI Convertible to you, which makes the ordering process really entertaining.
Here’s another tiny car with a fabric roof and four seats. Like the MINI (above) the Fiat 500C isn’t ideal for transporting adults in the back but it does lend an additional degree of everyday usability to this dinky little hatchback.
Unlike the other cars here the Fiat’s roof doesn’t fold away totally. Instead, it acts like a giant sunroof, sliding back all the way to the base of the rear window and leaving a wide open space – but with the roof pillars and windows still in place. It’s a good halfway house solution that limits the buffetting you might feel at speed in other convertibles.
Having most of the roof structure still in place also means the 500C drives exactly like its hard-top cousins, and you can even have it as the highly entertaining Abarth 595C or 695C hot hatchbacks.
If performance-per-pound (of weight, that is) is the most important thing to you then there’s nothing to match the Caterham Seven. This tiny little car might look like something from a bygone age with its exposed suspension, separate headlights and old-fashioned styling, but it’ll outpace just about any hot hatchback you care to mention around a race track.
The Caterham’s roof is more of a temporary fixing for emergencies than a permanent weatherproofing solution, but save this car for high days and holidays and you’ll be totally unable to keep the grin off your face.
Value for money can mean different things to different people, and in the case of the Caterham it means performance and driving pleasure over fancy equipment.