If you’re the type of person that enjoys driving, there’s a good chance that somewhere along the way you’ve considered owning a convertible. The classic postcard ideal of sunny Sunday afternoons spent cruising along country lanes with the top down might not always be the reality here in grey-old Blighty, but owning a convertible still carries plenty of appeal.
If you’re new to convertible buying, there are a few questions to ask yourself before selecting the winning model. In this blog, we’ll run through everything worth thinking about when it comes to cabriolets, from the best convertible cars for UK driving through to picking the right style of roof for your new motor.
Probably the biggest decision you’ll need to make in your convertible-owning life is whether to go for a hard or soft top, as this will play a huge role in which model you end up with. The obvious choice may be to go for the seemingly better rigidity and security of the hardtop, but there’s a case for both choices, as we’ll detail here:
The case for a hardtop:
Helps maintain the structural rigidity of the vehicle, therefore creating a sense of better safety and security over a soft-top.
Offers better insulation than a soft-top and is, therefore, quieter on the road.
Offers the best of both convertible and normal, fixed roof coupes.
The case for a soft-top:
Lighter than a hardtop and takes up less boot space, enhancing practical features.
Quicker and easier to be opened and closed than a hardtop.
Depending on your opinion, can offer a more ‘authentic’ convertible experience and offer a more premium convertible look.
It’s worth bearing in mind that both roof choices have their cons too. Hardtops are heavier, bulkier and take longer to open and close, while soft-tops don’t feel as secure or insulated and are also more complex to maintain. There’s no such thing as a bad choice when picking between the two, but the qualities of one format or the other may suit you better.
One thing to bear in mind, particularly if you’re looking into the older end of the convertible market, is the matter of manual and automatic roofs. All hardtops are automatically powered, while virtually all modern soft-tops are also controlled at the press of a button.
With older soft-tops, however, you’ll find a lot of manual options. This is by no means the end of the world, but depending on a few factors like accessibility, your physical strength levels, and your general appetite for manually fixing a roof whenever required, you may wish to steer clear of a manual roof model.
When you’re buying a convertible, you’re undoubtedly doing so with the driving experience in mind. No one buys a convertible for its boot storage or family features! Instead, it’s important to establish whether a particular model has that ‘fun factor' come Sunday afternoon that’s going to make it worth the money you shell out. This is something to bear in mind when buying new or used and is a question you can only really answer via a test drive.
Do pay a thought to practicality and what your requirements are around that, though. For example, how much boot space you need may steer your choice of getting a hardtop or soft-top. Additionally, if your new convertible is to become a staple rather than an auxiliary vehicle stowed away for weekend cruising, you’ll have to ensure it offers suitable everyday characteristics alongside its more obvious drivability traits.
With the important ifs and buts of buying a convertible out, it’s time to think about which model to go for. We’ve broken down your potential shopping list into three key categories: top-tier models, the best classics, and the best affordable convertible cars on the market today.
BMW 4 Series Convertible: typically accomplished throughout and a true four-seater, the 4 Series Convertible is more a less a carbon copy of the outstanding fixed roof 4 Series.
Porsche 718 Boxster: the latest 718 release brought back the much-loved six-cylinder engine alongside the turbocharged four-cylinder options. Boasting unrivalled handling and a beautiful chassis build, it’s still considered by many to be the best roadster on the market.
Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet: Always refined, always stylish – the E-Class cabrio offers plenty of class and comfort that can be found with the similarly impressive standard E-Class.
Jaguar XK8 Convertible: arguably the best of British in modern classic convertible terms, the XK8 Convertible was the pick of the roof-down bunch in the late nineties and early noughties. The naturally aspirated, 4.0-litre 290hp V8 engine makes it a beautiful motor for all-day touring.
BMW Z4: The Z4 is still going strong, but older generation models represent modern classics. Reliable and stylish in equal measure.
Mercedes SLK: Although not so old with the last generation finishing production in 2016, the SLK looks the part, offers a great cabin and provides excellent everyday usability.
Porsche Boxster 2.7: You can get your hands on a naturally aspirated, flat-six, mid-engine Porsche for under ten grand. Need we say more?
Mercedes SL: The Mercedes SL is a high-class option that may well be a steal. 10 years ago, a new SL would cost you £70,000. That same SL used costs as little as £12,000 today.
MINI Convertible: Adding an additional element to the already fun MINI, you’ll find a variety of used MINI convertible options, ranging from the budget-friendly MINI One to the sporty MINI Cooper S.
Logic would suggest that the best time to buy a second-hand convertible car, or indeed a new one, would be when the prospect of driving one is at its least appealing. However, convertible prices tend to rise with the sun, so you’ll want to target the colder, wetter seasons if you’re looking for the best deal on a car.
Likewise, if you’re on the selling side, the warmer months of the year – somewhere between April and September – are when you’ll get the highest price on a sale.
What’s the best convertible car for you? At Jardine, our range of new and used models from the world’s leading luxury manufacturers means there’s a good chance you can find your dream weekend cruiser with us.
Don’t forget to visit our YouTube channel, where you can find all sorts of car reviews and expert advice.