10 used convertibles for under £3k we found this week
Time to enjoy the sun while you can – and while this ropy selection of soft-tops still can too
Ah, the summer is finally here, the sun is blazing and what’s the first thing we like to do in the UK? That’s it, sit in traffic while everyone else heads off in the same direction. But that same journey in a convertible, it just hits different. You can keep your head cool (and slathered in something with triple-digits SPF) while everyone else is losing theirs.
But what to choose? We’ve set ourselves a £3k limit this week, because we’re not made of money. If we were being particularly economical we’d go for something like this delightful Smart Roadster, in alluringly summery yellow. It doesn’t have the extended glass hatch, it’s not a full top down, wind in your hair experience, but we’d be having fun at whatever speed we were driving. And that is very important.Advertisement - Page continues below
Given that no one really bought these when they were new, it’s always a surprise and delight to see one on the secondhand market – like this one in a fetching shade of blue. Wasn’t really a surprise that no one bought them, they were like useless Twingos. But we would never fail to be delighted by the ostentatiously weird roof opening. Press a button and the whole thing just flips up and backwards. And the Wind was surprisingly fun to drive, too, but then you would always have a niggling thought in the back of your head about you didn’t just go for a...
For many keen drivers the MX-5 is the default choice – the only choice. It drives in a suitably exciting manner that’s just as engaging at low speeds as it is at the meagre speeds the car can work its way up to. It’s difficult finding one that hasn’t been messed with (sorry – fettled, modified, improved or gentrified), but this nice silver example with a hardtop has been modestly upgraded over the years and will probably last to the end of the summer.
The particularly nice thing about the MX-5 among all these complicated mechanisms is how great it is to be able to put the roof up and down with one hand while you’re sitting inside the car. Take that, the weather.Advertisement - Page continues below
You can pick almost any generation of the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet and it will be a charmingly inoffensive addition to the long weekends and extended summer evenings. The do anything, go anywhere hatch lent itself perfectly to a roof chop. None of that fuss about having to drive anywhere fast or enjoyably, just two people (and maybe a third or fourth the first two didn’t like very much) living their best lives.
The only danger with having a restrictive budget is that you limit yourself to less than optimal examples of the species, but this blue number from 1998 looks perfect for chips by the seaside.
For a long time in the late Eighties and early Nineties the only real choice for the boulevard cruiser was the Audi Cabriolet. It was so distinct and special that its model name was just Cabriolet. It was the Audi cabriolet. Princess Diana had one for a little while, though her celebrity endorsement power has probably waned in the last decade or two.
The one we found is in the same shade as hers if you’re really into recreating scenes from The Crown. Meanwhile we’re parking ours outside a B&B on the Suffolk coast but leaving the wellies in the boot for now. No point carrying them in.
If we’re talking something really cool, then look no further than the Z3. Its Bond car claim might be slightly tenuous, but it’s the sort of thing we might have lusted after as whippersnappers if we were old enough to be young enough when it was first around. Ahem.
This is one of the original controversial BMW designs, a tame effort by today’s standards but it has a timeless cool to it that means no one will assume you’ve bought on a budget. They’ll assume you’re behind the wheel because that’s where you’re meant to be. And you are. You’ve got this.
Timeless cool is something else entirely, though – because then you need to be searching for something along the lines of the Jaguar XJ-S convertible. It probably won’t work that well, to be honest, and the option we found will need a considerable amount of effort and money invested into it. But is there a more glamorous way to wait for the recovery truck to arrive and take you home? Is there anything you’d rather have schoolchildren doing double takes at on the drive?
The Jaguar is sinuous, elegant and just right. It’ll no doubt prove ruinously expensive, but if you’re thinking about the money there’s always that Smart Roadster.Advertisement - Page continues below
Alfa Romeo Spider
Speaking of bottomless money pits, did someone say Alfa Romeo Spider? The Giulia’s alright and all, but this is the last time that Alfa did a properly desirable, properly decent looking car and we can fight about that. Loser pays the bodywork bills.
We found a nice little Spider for sale, and while we wouldn’t normally go for a convertible in black (where’s the festive spirit?), we can’t resist that saucy red leather interior. Doesn't get more idiosyncratically Italian than this... Another car to be seen on the hard shoulder in.
This is not the StreetKa named desire, but it had a certain appeal at one point. We know that it will drive in an entertaining fashion, but this is another car that sits at the sedate end of the summer enjoyment scale. Possibly the least exotic convertible that’s ever been made – even the Nissan Micra C+C has a charm and rarity about it that the Ford can only dream of.
Thankfully we’ve managed to find one that a) hasn’t rusted in half yet, and b) has a luxurious light leather interior. It’s a head-scratcher on both counts.Advertisement - Page continues below
They spent years trying to convince us that Saabs had the vaguest thing to do with jet fighters other than the badge (funny that they’ve never done the same over at Rolls-Royce), in what was surely one of the most egregious examples of mass automotive gaslighting. Actually, marketing is the word they prefer, isn’t it.
You’ll never have such pretensions in your 9-3 convertible, with its flabby chassis and laidback demeanour. That is, until the turbo kicks in and the car tries to throw you across the road. We found a suitably perky example in bright yellow, because we’d want our last summer to be full of colour.