Whether it’s for a weekend drive, or a commute to work in warm weather, convertible cars are the ultimate expression of motoring summer freedom.
However, doubts remain about the practicality of convertibles. Does the folding roof take up valuable boot space? Does the car suffer from a poor drive because of the lack of roof? Will a soft-top keep out road noise?
Most guides to the best convertible cars will toss out a list of ten convertibles with a short description of the car itself.
We’ve gone one better, by picking a convertible for every occasion; whether it’s a drop-top ride for the whole family, a sporty two-seater or even a practical car for all seasons.
Convertible for the city – Fiat 500C
This term ‘fun’ when applied to cars can be a bit vague. However, we definitely class the Fiat 500C drop-top as one of the most fun cars on the roads today for those living in urban areas.
Cheeky, stylish and cheap to run, the Fiat 500C is ideal for a young buyer. It retains the award-winning (the car was voted Sexiest Car by Top Gear in 2009) looks of the standard Fiat 500, but adds a soft-top folding roof.
The benefits of a soft-top on the small car are obvious; four can sit easily in the back and the boot keeps its healthy dimensions because of the clever folding system.
However, the real appeal of the trendy little car lies in its myriad of personalisation options. Buyers can choose from 11 body colours, three trim levels and over 100 other personalisation accessories to make their Fiat 500C completely unique.
Not to mention the engines. A 1.3-litre turbodiesel is a gutsy unit and is capable of an impressive 67.3mpg. A choice of petrol engines are also available including the two-cylinder TwinAir model offering free road tax in the UK, making it one of the cheapest drop-tops to own.
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Convertible to drive – Mazda MX-5
If handling, refinement and pure driving fun is your thing, the only convertible you should consider is the Mazda MX-5.
It’s been on the market in one form or another for 20 years in the UK, and this is a testament to Mazda’s lightweight philosophy and focus on the driving dynamics of the world’s best-selling two-seat sports car.
There’s a lot to be said for a car built purely for driving pleasure, and the Mazda MX-5, courtesy of 1.8- and 2.0-litre petrol engines, provides it in style.
Ideal for city driving, on the motorway or down country roads, the Mazda MX-5 may not be the most practical convertible on the market, but when the sun comes out on a weekend, most petrol heads will be dreaming of taking one for a spin.
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Convertible for practicality – Ford Focus CC
The Ford Focus is a prime candidate for a convertible model, and the Ford Focus CC does not disappoint.
While adding a folding top to a hatchback can often damage the ride and handling, Ford has managed to create a convertible version with all the dynamics of the hatchback version still in place.
Of course, the Focus has now been replaced by a new 2011 Ford Focus, and a convertible is sure to follow, but the Ford Focus CC remains one of the best convertibles on the market.
This is because it doesn’t sacrifice practicality for drop-top thrills and as a result can be used throughout the year and as a regular car most of the time.
It seats four with ease and the choice of a hard top is a good one because it adds to the torsional rigidity of the car and insulates the cabin from noise with the roof up.
As with the Focus hatchback and estate, the convertible comes with a choice of engines including a 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre diesel.
The Ford Focus CC is almost two cars in one; a stylish, practical family car that can be converted into a fun to drive drop-top at the press of a button.
As an added bonus, the popularity of Ford, and the Focus in particular, should see residual values fare much better than many other convertibles on the market.
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Stylish convertible – Renault Wind
Breezing past the subject of the name, the Renault Wind is actually a very good car. But can it stand up to the likes of the Fiat 500 and Mazda MX-5 in terms of style?
It can if you buy the new Gordini edition, which drapes the two-seat roadster in stunning-looking Gordini blue with a white racing stripe down the bonnet.
Based on the famous Renault track cars of the past, the Gordini version gets Gordini alloy wheels, unique badging and a attractive black interior with blue Gordini stitching.
Evoking memories of some of Renault’s racing heritage while enjoying the top-down in Renault’s latest two-seat roadster should bring a smile to the face of any driver.
What’s more, the roof is one of the fastest to open on the market – in just 12 seconds it can convert itself into an open-top car – and better still, the folding mechanism means it doesn’t take up unnecessary space in the boot.
It undercuts the likes of the Mazda MX-5 on price and its compact dimensions – it is based on the Twingo city car – are even suited to city driving.
The Renault Wind stylish, fun package and the Gordini edition adds a little extra style to one of our favourite convertibles of 2011.
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The luxurious convertible – Jaguar XK
The Jaguar XK was built to be a convertible car, and with stunning styling was the car which could easily be pointed to as the reason for the brand’s revival in recent years.
Featuring gorgeous design and a powerful V8 engine which sounds great and gives enough performance to put this up with some of the more expensive supercars on the market today.
Made in the UK, the Jaguar XK Convertible features a luxury interior synonymous with the brand.
The materials used are top quality, from the luxury leather upholstery to the massive amount of equipment.
Designed as a 2+2 seater, the back two seats are largely useless unless a child uses them, but the cabin is so upmarket, and the drive and looks so superb, that won’t matter to most.
With a starting price of £70,000, it doesn’t come cheap. However, the Jaguar XK convertible does more than enough to challenge supercars at a fraction of the price.
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