Open-top What we were looking for: People buy convertibles for those long summer days, but still have to live with them in winter. Our winner will be a joy to own in all weathers
The contenders Best buy under £16,000 Mazda MX-5 1.8i List price £15,420 Target Price £14,062 Best web price £13,148 (www.carfile.net)
Best buy £16,000 – £30,000 Volkswagen Eos 2.0 TSI Sport List price £23,720 Target Price £21,963 Best web price £21,079 (autobytel.co.uk)
Best buy over £30,000 Porsche Boxster S List price £39,599 Target Price £39,599 Best web price na
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The winner is… Open-top Volkswagen Eos 2.0 TSI Sport List price £23,720 Target Price £21,963
True to Volkswagen's 'people's-car' philosophy, the Eos is an open-top that anyone can enjoy.
The Eos has won this award for the past two years, and it now completes the hat trick. While the Porsche Boxster S is a sensational sports car, and the Mazda MX-5 offers fresh-air fun at a low price, neither can compete with the Volkswagen's combination of driving pleasure, everyday practicality and affordability. For starters, the Eos is actually a realistic option for families because you get four proper seats. Its boot is also big enough to take small cases when the roof is folded, and much bigger loads when it's not, plus there's useful stowage space in the cabin.
That cabin is a great place to while away the miles, too. The plastics and fittings have a quality feel to them and all of the controls are simple to use. There's even a sliding glass sunroof that gives a welcome sense of airiness on those grim winter days.
It's all good Plenty of convertibles drive well enough with the roof in place, only for things to go wobbly once it's stowed — but the Eos bucks this trend.
While it isn't totally immune from body shake, there's a suppleness to its ride that most rivals can't get close to. Even our favoured Sport model, which comes on slightly lowered and firmed-up suspension, makes light work of any potholes and speed bumps.
The Eos is equally soothing on the motorway by feeling extremely stable, but it can still mix it with the best on country roads. There's little body roll and plenty of feel through the steering wheel, while the grip on offer would put a piece of week-old chewing gum to shame.
Performance To add to the fun, our pick of the range is hot hatch-quick. Then again, this is hardly surprising because it uses the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from the previous Golf GTI. This peach of an engine produces 197bhp and 207lb ft of muscle, which helps the Eos effortlessly leap forward when you flex your right foot.
Refinement is another of the car's many strengths. That folding metal roof is better at shutting out wind noise than a soft-top, and there's little buffeting in the cabin when the roof is stowed.
Value for money There are cheaper coupe-cabriolets around, including lesser versions of the Eos, but you get more than what you pay for with the 2.0 TSI Sport. In addition, the Eos is a relatively safe place to invest your cash, because the residuals are comparatively strong.
Volkswagen's convertible is a cracking car to buy, then, as well as a hoot to own. What more could you ask for?