Best convertibles: top five picks
* Five great choices for open-air motoring * Cars from Mini, Audi, VW, Citroen and Porsche * We name our stars of each range...
British car buyers here are renowned for their love of convertibles, despite the fickle summer climate. The ability to take advantage of even a slightly warm evening - or, indeed, a crisp, clear winter's morning - clearly has appeal for UK buyers, who have kept some convertible models on the market almost single-handedly over the years.
There's still a reasonable selection of drop-tops out there - but which should you choose? You'll almost certainly have accept some compromise on practicality, given that the roof is likely to be stowed in an area that would otherwise be used for luggage space. However, if you choose carefully then it is possible to pick a convertible that offers the sort of usabililty that you need for everyday use. Here are five of our recommendations:
The Mini Roadster won the Best Open-top Car gong in our 2013 Car of the Year Awards, and with good reason. It feels every inch the little sports car, thanks to its sharp steering and grippy handling. Go for the Cooper S version and you'll get performance to match, too, with 181bhp from a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine.
The Roadster is a two-seater, of course, but both driver and passenger will have plenty of space and even the boot is a useful size, at 240 litres. Throw in a quirky cabin with a lot of high-quality materials, and rock-solid resale values, and you have that rare combination: a thrill-a-minute drop-top that's also a sensible proposition.
Our pick: Mini Roadster Cooper S
Audi TT Roadster
The Audi TT Roadster is getting on in years, but it's still an awesome car for the money - and a better offering than rivals from BMW and Mercedes. Choose the front-wheel-drive, 208bhp TFSI turbocharged petrol model and you'll get flexible power delivery, more than enough performance for everyday use and steering that keeps you informed on what's going on.
The rest of the TT package remains strong, too; it's still a striking design, the cabin remains one of the most stylish and classy around, and you may even be pleasantly surprised by resale values and fuel economy. As much as any convertible can be a great all-rounder, this is it.
Our pick: Audi TT Roadster 2.0 TFSI 211 Sport
Citroen DS3 Cabriolet
The Citroen DS3 has been an enormous hit across Europe, and the open-topped version of the car deserves to build upon that success. Note the word 'open-topped' instead of 'drop-top', because the DS3 Cabrio isn't a convertible in the traditional sense. The side pillars and rear glass remain in place; you just push a button and the fabric roof slides back, then gathers where the rear hatchback is on a regular DS3.
The 1.6-litre turbocharged model has 154bhp, enough for pleasingly rapid performance, and the chassis set-up offers decent agility. Only vague steering and crashy low-speed ride let the side down. Still, you do get a chic, classy cabin, and more rear cabin space and boot space than you'll find in a Mini Cab or a Fiat 500C. Throw in the DS3's personalisation options and you end up with an appealing, customisable model.
Our pick: Citroen DS3 Cabriolet 1.6 THP 155 DSport
Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet
Buyers of convertibles can be more focus on style than on-road dynamics, and the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet is a prime example of a vehicle designed to appeal to that thought process. Its handling set-up is refined but unrewarding, and compromises have undoubtedly been made on rear passenger space and rear visibility in the name of those classic Beetle looks.
Still, stick to the more modest models - in particular the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol edition - and you can get an open-topped cruiser with bags of style, a roomy front cabin and a surprisingly large boot. It won't be a thrill a minute, but it will be a comfortable, refined companion that offers open-air motoring when Britain's weather allows.
Our pick: VW Beetle Cabriolet 1.2 TSI 105 Design
The winner of the Sports Car category in our 2013 Car of the Year Awards, the Porsche Boxster is one of those rare creations: a convertible that's also sensational to drive. The Boxster's six-cylinder engines (2.7 and 3.4 litres) are both flexible and powerful, and the car's handling is a delicious blend of agility and supple ride quality.
You get a beautifully built interior, two small load spaces that can cope with enough luggage for a weekend away, and impressive residuals. Sure, the standard kit list is a little stingy and things can get silly money-wise if you start playing around with the options list - but keep it simple and the Boxster is unbeatable at this price.
Our pick: Porsche Boxster 2.7