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Looking to choose from a range of great convertible cars? Here, our experts bring together a selection of the best convertibles and cabriolets on the market.
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Despite our dodgy weather here in the UK, we buy a huge amount of convertible cars. There’s something better about driving with the roof down and the wind in your hair, right? If you’re in the market, we’ve got together this list of the best across a range of budgets.
The Mazda MX-5 convertible offers some of the sweetest handling you’ll find anywhere, but when buying one you have the choice of a standard cloth-roofed model or the metal-roof Mazda MX-5 RF. The RF’s folding metal roof weighs a little more and costs a little more but it still handles superbly. So, take your choice.
The MINI Convertible comes with a complete folding roof that tucks away leaving no metal roof bars behind. It feels very upmarket inside – for such a small car – and comes with an infotainment system that’s a doddle to use. It’s good fun to drive, too, and comes with absolutely masses of customisation options.
If it’s style and quality you’re after, few convertibles do it better than the Audi TT Roadster. All three generations of the TT have been stylish two-door, two-seat models. The latest car has a superbly well-built cabin, fantastic infotainment system and tidy handling that makes it one of the best open-tops on sale.
The Audi A3 Sportback is a very good premium hatchback, so it’s perhaps little surprise that its cloth-roofed cousin the Audi A3 Cabriolet is a strong choice of convertible. There space for four adults, who’ll enjoy Audi’s typically superb cabin quality. Audi’s brilliant MMI infotainment system also features, as do a choice of strong petrol and diesel engines.
You’ll struggle to find a more luxurious open-top experience than the Mercedes S-Class Cabriolet. It’s extremely comfortable to drive and its interior is both brilliantly built and fantastic to behold. There a choice of silky-smooth engines, too.
It’s no secret that we love our convertible cars here in the UK, but what if you love yours so much that you want to use it everyday, in town and on longer motorway journeys? Well, for a quieter cabin at high speeds it’s worth investigating a hardtop convertible. Their roofs are metal rather than cloth, but fold away with the touch of a button in the same manner. We’ve rounded up five of the best.
xThe Mazda MX-5 RF has a metal folding roof which means it weighs a little more than the soft-top, but still is just the best fun to drive. It also costs a little more, too, but it’ll be worth it if you’re after a quieter cabin on the motorway.
If a Mazda MX-5 focuses on fun, the Mercedes SLC focuses more on luxury. It’s a two seat convertible with a folding metal roof that comes with an upmarket interior and the choice of either petrol or diesel engines. It’s more expensive than the MX-5, but does feel it inside, and does an even better job of keeping wind and road noise outside with its roof up.
There are very few choices when it comes to hardtop cabriolets with room for four passengers. In fact, there’s just one: the BMW 4 Series. Folded away, that heavy roof hanging over its rear end does hurt the 4 Series’ handling a little, but with it up it keeps noise out better than its cloth-roofed Audi and Mercedes alternatives.
The BMW i8 Roadster combines a three-cylinder petrol engine with batteries and electric motors. It means startling performance, yet low CO2 emissions. Its small folding roof is very light, so you’ll enjoy handling that’s every bit as engaging as the coupe’s.
If you’re looking for a convertible with seating for five, you aren’t exactly spoilt for choice. There are only two drop-tops currently on sale with enough seats inside for you to bring four passengers along for the ride.
The DS 3 Cabriolet is a small but stylish convertible with a plush interior and a range of perky petrol engines that make it good fun to drive. There’s room (just) for three passengers in the back. Rather than a full folding soft top, it comes with a fabric roof that slides back between two metal rails.
The Jeep Wrangler is a retro-styled 4x4 that’s pretty much unstoppable off-road thanks to its lofty ground clearance and low-geared five-speed automatic gearbox. You can get it with either a hardtop or with a fabric roof that’ll let you and four passengers make the most of even the briefest sunny spells.
Having a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the thrills of wind-in-your-hair motoring. Here our experts name the top five best cheap convertible cars you can currently buy.
The Citroen C1 Airscape is a convertible version of the Citroen’s compact city car. It’s easy to drive, cheap to run and affordable to buy. It comes with plenty of personalisation options, too, and just enough space in the back to carry two adult passengers – for short journeys at least.
The Peugeot 108 TOP is based on the Citroen C1 Airscape, so shares a similar back-to-basics interior, a range of economical engines and an all-important opening fabric roof. The 108 TOP’s small size makes it dead easy to park and drive around town, and there’s just enough space in the two back seats to bring some passengers along for the ride.
The Fiat 500C costs a little more than the Citroen and Peugeot, but its folding fabric roof extends beyond just the top of your back-seat passengers’ heads. It looks great – both inside and out – and comes with a range of perky engines that’ll cost pennies to run.
Unlike the other four cars on our list, the MINI Convertible comes with a complete folding roof that tucks away leaving no metal roof bars behind. For the price, it feels very upmarket inside and comes with an infotainment system that’s a doddle to use.
The DS 3 Cabriolet is a quirky small car with a folding fabric roof and an upmarket interior with plenty of plush touches. It’s roomier than the first four cars on our list, comes with five seats and will cope better with the odd long motorway journey. It’s a little more expensive, but still decent value.
According to the dictionary of Google... there’s not much difference between a convertible and a cabriolet. A convertible is “a car with a folding or detachable roof”. A cabriolet means a “car with a roof that folds down”. Then there are roadsters, which are two-seater convertibles and are also sometimes called spiders - or spyders. Sounds confusing but essentially they all mean the same thing - a car that can drop its roof.
Interestingly, originally a cabriolet was a type of horse drawn carriage. It was a two-wheeled carriage with a soft hood and was pulled by a single horse. Cabriolet is from the French word cabriole which means ‘goats leap’, so called from the motion of the carriage.
Types of convertible cars
Convertibles come in a range of shapes and sizes. You can get two-seat convertibles, four- seaters, five-seaters and even off-road convertibles.
You can get convertibles with diesel engines, but they are more enjoyable with petrol engines as these have a nicer exhaust note.
Convertibles with fabric roofs
Many convertibles have a roof made from fabric. Fabric roofs like the one on this Audi A5 are multi-layered to keep the cabin as serene as possible with the roof up but in general they aren’t usually as quiet as a convertible with a metal roof.
Convertibles with metal roofs
A metal-roofed convertible feels just as quiet and secure as a regular hard-top car with the top up, and watching the steel origami unfold looks pretty cool. However, the mechanism adds lots of weight, which affects fuel economy, and significantly eats boot space.
What’s the boot like in a convertible?
Folding roof mechanisms usually eat into boot space. For instance the Audi A5 Convertible’s boot is 85-litres less than the coupe’s with the roof up and you have to lower a compartment before you can retract the roof and this takes up a further 60 litres of space.
Driving a convertible
Convertibles don’t feel quite as sharp to drive as fixed roof cars. That’s because removing a car’s roof reduces its rigidity. Extra bracing is added to make up for this, but often a convertible will still shake a bit more over bumps and a hard topped car.
Performance of a convertible
The extra weight of the bracing and roof mechanism affect performance. With the 190hp diesel engine, the A5 Cabriolet takes 8.3 seconds to get to 62mph, but the coupe version is a full 0.6 seconds faster. The weight affects economy too - the Convertible is 6mpg less economical than the Coupe.
Safety of a convertible car
Convertibles are built to offer similar safety as hard-top cars. They often have strengthened windscreen pillars and either fixed rollover bars to protect your head, or ones which pop out the back of the cabin area within milliseconds of an accident being detected.
Convertibles are almost always pricier than hardtop coupes. For example an A5 Cabriolet costs over £4000 more than an A5 Coupe with a fixed roof. It’s more expensive to insure too, and it’ll use a little more fuel. So there is a price to put on a little extra fun, but do you think it’s worth it?