Best and worst convertibles 2016

We name the best open-top cars you can get for your money right now, and which one you should steer clear of, come rain or shine

Words By

Melanie Falconer

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Sun or no sun, cabriolets still have to offer more than just good looks to cut it. Sure, a drop-top is never going to be the most practical choice, but it still needs to be refined, comfortable and economical enough to drive every day, whatever the weather. Of course, all this is pointless if the car isn't any fun to drive, so the best open-tops out there need to strike a good balance between performance and practicality.

The best

Audi A3 Cabriolet

The A3 is our reigning open-top of the year. It's not only great to drive, but it can seat four adults in comfort with the roof up and the cabin oozes class-leading quality.

There's a range of strong, flexible engines to choose from, but we'd go for the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol because it offers the right blend of performance and economy.

All versions come with plenty of kit, but we'd recommend speccing the more comfortable standard SE suspension for no extra cost on the sportier trims. Not only that, but the A3 Cabriolet holds its value well, so you'll get a lot of your money back when you decide to sell it on.

Our pick: 1.4 TFSI 140 Sport

The best of the rest

Porsche Boxster

This fun and feisty roadster won What Car?'s best sports car of the year 2014, and rightly so. If you want a car that's amazing to drive, looks fantastic and is impressively quiet with the roof either up or down, then choose this.

The entry-level 2.7-litre flat-six engine does the 0-62mph sprint in 5.8sec, which should be fast enough for most folk – not only that but it feels faster thanks to its impressive pulling power and sounds great while doing it. Opt for the seven-speed PDK semi-auto 'box and you'll enjoy the performance even more.

Despite the Boxster's awesome amounts of grip and tightly controlled body, the ride still manages to remain smooth and fairly comfortable. The beautifully built cabin is a truly great place to be.

Our pick: 2.7

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

If your open-top budget is around the £35k mark and you're looking for a more relaxed wind-in-your-hair motoring experience, the Merc E-Class Cabriolet should definitely be on your list.

The best bit is that you don't have to go for a range-topping model either; the fairly economical entry-level diesel engine provides enough power for you to waft serenely along, while SE trim offers sat-nav, a DAB radio and an Active Parking Assist system, as well as more comfortable suspension. The seven-speed auto 'box shifts smoothly, too.

Last but not least, the excellent Mercedes' Aircap wind deflector system does a great job of shielding occupants from excessive buffeting, including those in the back.

Our pick: E220 CDi SE auto

Citroen DS3 Cabriolet

Style plays a big part in the drop-top class, and the DS3 Cabrio definitely has plenty of it, both inside and out. The cabin has a high-quality dashboard plus the colour-coded panels and decent switchgear throughout help lend the interior a premium feel.

There's plenty of space up front, and there's enough room for five, with three seats in the back.

On the move, occupants are well protected from the wind thanks to a decent deflector and the electrically operated fabric roof can be closed at more than 70mph.

We would go for the cheaper 118bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine because it performs well and pulls strongly from low down. DStyle trim gives you pretty much everything you need kit-wise, too.

Our pick: 1.6 VTi 120 DStyle

Mazda MX-5

There's a reason why the MX-5 is so popular: this compact two-seater roadster offers stacks of style, fun and great handling all for a wallet-friendly price.

The entry-level 1.8-litre SE models bring air-con, electric windows, remote locking and alloy wheels, and MX-5s enjoy an enviable reputation in the reliability and build quality stakes.

Work the 124bhp petrol engine hard and it'll reward you well enough, but it's the MX5's handling that sets it apart. It's agile, balanced and there's loads of grip through corners; it's impossible to keep a smile off your face when you're in the low-slung, spot-on driving position.

It's simple, but oh-so effective.

Our pick: 1.8i SE

The one to avoid

Audi A5 Cabriolet

Looks can be deceptive, as the Audi A5 Cabriolet proves.

This should be a good open-top; it's classy and desirable as befitting the Audi badge, with a strong range of engines to choose from, decent equipment levels and reasonable practicality.

However, there's no getting away from the fact that the A5 Cabrio is not enjoyable to drive, due to inconsistent steering and a fidgety, unsettled ride. The excessive body shake means that the suspension struggles to keep things in check; the sportier the model, the more uncomfortable the ride gets.

The nail in the A5's coffin is the amount of wind noise present when the cloth roof is either up or down; occupants will also get unpleasantly buffeted around in roof-down mode.