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Best used convertibles (and the ones to avoid)
Sunny weather is a fleeting phenomenon in this country, so we’ve put together a list of our favourite used convertibles to save you precious decision-making time...
We’re not used to seeing the sun because it’s usually masked by low-flying cloud, so when it is revealed we have to enjoy it while we can. That’s what makes convertibles great – they let us bask in the sunshine, even on the way to work.
You might think that UK drivers wouldn’t particularly care for open-top cars but, despite the climate, we actually buy more than most European countries. That's good news if you want one as it means there’s a welter of very affordable used examples available.
What’s more, there’s a used convertible to suit everyone – from practical and efficient four-seaters that can easily serve as family cars to elegant and luxurious grand tourers that are perfect for wafting around, and even small, sporty two-seaters that are perfect for a sunny weekend.
So, if you're picturing yourself catching some rays on your school run or commute, check out these fabulous cabrios – we’ve done all the hard work for you and put together a list of our favourites. If you’re tempted, follow the links to our classifieds and go for a test drive in any of the examples in this list.
The BMW 4 Series Convertible follows in the footsteps of a long line of classy BMW cabriolets. It replaced the 3 Series Convertible in 2013, and in SE spec it’s very much a comfortable cruiser, with soft suspension giving it so-so handling but a smooth ride. M Sport is a popular trim and one that does feel sportier to drive, especially when paired with the 326bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine in the range-topping 440i version.
The driver and front-seat passenger are well protected from wind rush with the roof down, but anyone in the back will find it cramped and rather exposed to the elements. However, you get a classy dashboard, one of the best infotainment and navigation systems around, and a leather-lined interior that feels very posh indeed. The automatic is the gearbox to go for due to its smooth yet quick shifts.
- Lots of equipment
- Comfortable ride
- Security of folding hard-top
- Small boot with roof down
- Not as sharp to drive as coupé
- Limited space in rear seats
Elegant yet purposeful, the Jaguar F-Type is one of the most desirable used convertibles around. This soft-top sports car is available in turbocharged four-cylinder, supercharged V6 and V8 form. All variants, especially six and eight-cylinder cars, sound amazing and drive like a dream, with fun handling and impressive performance.
The premium nature of the vehicle does result in higher prices than a lot of the other cars on this list. However, plenty of bargains are out there, offering great value for money – just make sure you can stomach the F-Type’s appetite for fuel and tyres. Plus, as its a two-seater with a small boot, look elsewhere if practicality is a priority.
- Good performance
- Attractive styling
- Lots of fun to drive
- Tiny boot
- Fiddly infotainment
- Not cheap to run
The BMW 2 Series is a great all-round small convertible. The model is comfortable and fun to drive, comes with good petrol/diesel engines and packs sharp handling. It’s also reasonably practical, with four seats available.
The 2 Series feels classy and sporty throughout, with buyers able to choose from variants such as relaxed SE versions and M Sport variants that come with stiffer suspension. These days, the model offers really good value for a premium convertible. It’s also proved rather reliable, coming first out of 10 cars in the coupés, convertibles and sports cars class of the 2020 What Car? Reliability Survey.
- Compliant ride
- Sharp handling
- Strong performance
- Cramped rear seats
- Diesel engines noisy
- Mid-spec trims not so well equipped
A drop-top with the three-pointed star on its nose is a covetable thing indeed, and the Mercedes E-Class Convertible is no exception. Clever aerodynamics and an innovative heating system that blows warm air at your neck to help prevent the chilling effect of wind buffeting helps to keep occupants warm. It’s well-built inside and supremely smooth and wafty, especially in SE spec.
There have been reports of injector issues with diesel engines and there was also a voluntary recall to reprogram the car’s emissions software in a bid to cut NOx output. The E-Class Cabriolet is well-equipped, refined to drive with the top down and has a big boot for extended holidays.
- Well equipped
- Low levels of wind buffeting with roof down
- Decent boot for a convertible
- Some models have pricey tax bills
- Not the sharpest to drive
- Rear seat space not as good as some rivals
The Mini is one of the more accessible convertibles on the market, with some of the lowest prices of the lot. But, of course, that’s because it’s also one of the smallest, and while it’s a full four-seater, space in the back is pretty tight. That said, if you can live with that, those compact dimensions also mean it’s very easy to drive around town.
With excellent build quality, great looks and some of the most fun driving dynamics around – not to mention a choice of impressively efficient engines – the Mini is a compelling cabrio.
- Nice to drive
- Rather efficient
- Strong image
- Some diesel reliability issues
- Very small boot
- Rear visibility
You can’t knock the value offered by the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet. Soft suspension makes it comfortable, but it still handles tidily, and in the case of the rip-roaring R model, it goes like stink too.
Inside, there’s a solidly built interior and all the controls are easy to find. What’s more, there’s plenty of space up front and a reasonable amount in the rear, and there's a huge choice of engines to pick from. In other words, if you want the most sensible convertible out there, this is probably it.
- Good range of engines
- Neat handling
- Roof quick to lower or raise
- Stiff ride in some versions
- Not incredibly exciting to drive
It’s one of the sexiest convertibles around, but the BMW Z4 doesn’t quite have the ride or handling to challenge the best in this class. As long as you avoid the M Sport models, you’ll be comfortable enough, and the sharp steering and grippy nose mean it’s still a fun car to drive.
The Z4 looks fantastic and comes with a superb range of punchy engines. Right now it’s looking like great value as a used buy, with prices well below those of many of its rivals. Make sure it comes with a full service history and check the alloy wheels for cracks because replacements are expensive.
- Folding metal roof
- Large choice of engines
- Nice interior
- Small boot with the roof down
- M Sport suspension is uncomfortably firm
- Not as exciting to drive as some rivals
A high purchase price is the only reason the Audi A3 Cabriolet didn’t finish higher up our list. Otherwise, it’s a cracking all-rounder, offering the same sublime balance between ride and handling as any hard-top A3. The 1.4-litre TFSI is our favourite because it blends excellent performance with impressive economy.
You get a gorgeous interior that’s beautifully designed, an impressively big boot for a car of this type, and enough room in the back for two adults at a push. If you can stretch to it, it’s one of the best used convertibles out there. Make sure the hood mechanism works as it should and that the infotainment screen comes out of the dashboard without creaking.
- Beautifully finished interior
- Ride and handling balance
- Well equipped
- Sport and S Line are more refined than SE cars
- Poor rear room
- Optional automatic is jerky
You might be surprised to find out how cheap the third-generation Audi TT is these days. In fact, considering how good it is to drive, we’d say it’s something of a bargain. Pick a petrol engine for a sportier drive or a diesel for fuel economy – both are available – and enjoy agile handling, quick, direct steering, and, on higher-spec models, the grip and traction of four-wheel drive.
True, you’ll have to make do with two seats – but if that’s all you need and you want a premium feel, the TT is about the best there is. Check with the previous owner if you can that diesel models have been taken out on the motorway regularly because fixing diesel particulate filter (DPF) issues can be expensive and time-consuming.
- Fabulous interior
- Crisp handling
- Efficient engines
- Stingy equipment
- Some wind noise at speed
- Not the cheapest convertible
OK, so you probably won’t pick a Mazda MX-5 if practicality is a prime requirement. But if you can live with just two seats, there’s little to dislike here. The MX-5 is great fun to drive, as you might expect, but it’s also cheap to buy and run, and extremely reliable.
Its compact dimensions make it great around town but it never feels out of its depth on a motorway and the soft suspension gives it a brilliant ride. There’s even enough room in the boot for two decent-sized overnight bags. As long as you make sure the MX-5 you’re looking at has been treated to regular servicing, you’ll have a reliable and fun little sports car.
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- Great to drive
- Neat roof
- Excellent reliibility
- Limited boot space
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