2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible review

* New Chevrolet Camaro Convertible driven * Priced from 40,025 * On sale now, left-hand drive only...

2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible review

The Chevrolet Camaro is an old-fashioned American muscle car.

The Camaro's history stretches back to the mid-60s, but this new version is the first to be sold in the UK for over 10 years.

Here we're testing the convertible, although a cheaper hard-top model is also available.

What's the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible like to drive?
The convertible version of the Camaro weighs almost two tonnes 125 kilos more than the coupe but with a 399bhp 6.2-litre V8 under the bonnet it's still pretty rapid.

The 0-62mph sprint takes 5.6 seconds. However, the V8 engine finds its voice only when you have your foot down flat at which point it sounds fantastic. It's a real shame it's so quiet at all other times a little more burble at low speeds wouldn't go amiss.

Our test car was fitted with an optional automatic gearbox. This adds 1500 to the price, and is rather slow-witted, but it's better than the standard six-speed manual 'box, which is incredibly clunky and vague.

The Camaro might be quick in a straight line, but it isn't so keen on corners. Turn the wheel and there's a brief pause before the body slops sideways. The tyres do hang on pretty well after that, but the car feels heavy and clumsy when asked to change direction quickly, so it never really encourages you to push it hard along a B-road. The brakes also need a very firm push if you need to stop in a hurry.

The poor handling wouldn't be such an issue if the Camaro was a comfortable cruiser, but it isn't. The ride is crashy over poor surfaces, yet the body still feels unnervingly floaty over crests and dips in the road.

The Camaro is also rather wide, so it is't all that easy to drive on narrow urban streets, particularly when there's a bus or a lorry coming in the other direction.

What's the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible like inside?
American cars aren't famed for their cabin quality, and the Camaro is a perfect example of why. Most of the materials used would disappoint in a car costing half as much, and there's little finesse to the way the switchgear works.

Folding down the Camaro's fabric roof is also a bit of a faff; while the majority of the work is done by an electric motor, you first have to unclasp the hood by twisting a lever. Most modern convertibles take care of the whole job for you.

Worse still, your view forward is badly restricted by the thick windscreen pillars, and the small rear window hampers your view behind. Pulling out of junctions is made even harder by the fact the Camaro is available in left-hand drive only. When the roof's down, too, there's loads of wind blustering its way around the cabin, so don't lower it if you need to arrive looking neat and tidy.

On the upside, the Camaro is reasonably spacious; a couple of adults will be comfortable in the back as long as your destination isn't the south of France, and the boot is bigger than a BMW 3 Series Convertible's.

You also get quite a bit of kit as standard, including 20-inch alloys, leather seats, cruise control, a fancy head-up display and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics stereo system.

Should I buy one?
The Camaro's stand-out styling will be enough to persuade some buyers to part with 40k.

For us, though, the car has too many flaws to recommend over similarly priced European drop-tops, such as the BMW 330i Convertible.

True, none of the Camaro's sub-50k rivals can boast a V8 engine, but that also means they're able to promise a lot more than its 21.5mpg and wont cost you 475 a year in road tax.

BMW 3 Series Convertible
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet

What Car? says...

Will Nightingale