Best hardtop convertibles

Top of the drops: the best used cabriolets with a folding hardtop roof for £30,000

James Mills
Jun 26, 2019

Come rain or shine, crisp frosty mornings or sticky summer afternoons, it’s hard to top a cabriolet with a folding hardtop roof for year-round satisfaction. At the touch of a button, you can feel the wind in your hair, be warmed by the sun on your face and, dare we say it, make your neighbours feel just the slightest pang of envy.

Best of all, when Britain’s unique weather does that thing it’s best known for, and the heavens open, a cabriolet or convertible with a folding hard-top roof can be closed and will feel every bit as snug and secure as a metal-roofed coupe. That makes them equally practical for making longer trips.

After all, even when the sun is beating down, driving with the roof down for hundreds of miles on motorways can become a little wearing. And let’s not even imagine how your hair will look at the end of the journey… When closed, cars with a folding hardtop roof are just as quiet and civilised as any other sensible runaround.

Models costing less than £30,000, or £300 a month on finance, include the desirable Mercedes SLC, one of the original modern folding hardtops, which has perfected the art of turning heads wherever it goes, from Poole to Puglia. Then there’s the nippy little Mazda MX-5 RF, a car that puts the fun into every drive, so that each Sunday morning trip to pick up the papers, some milk and bread will see you take the long way home.

And for those that would like family or friends to come along for the ride, how about a BMW 4 Series? This four-seater may be a practical alternative to most sporty cars with a folding hardtop roof, but that won’t stop you feeling good every time you glance out of the kitchen window at it.

When buying a convertible with a folding hardtop it’s wise to check that there are no outstanding recalls against the car, as the vehicle manufacturer may have made repairs to common faults - including addressing costly roof issues. It’s also prudent to buy a car with a comprehensive warranty; should any part of the roof mechanism fail, it can be expensive to repair.

 

Best hardtop convertibles

1. BMW 4 Series Convertible

Latest BMW 4 Series Convertible deals from £17,890
Finance from £244 per month

Two-seat sports cars offer as much choice as a pop-up street food stall - you either take it or leave it. Meanwhile, the BMW 4 Series convertible is one of the few cars with a folding hardtop roof that lets drivers mix and match to create their perfect recipe.

For starters, it features four seats. Proper seats, at that, so nobody will suffer leg cramps should you choose to let them come along for the ride. And there’s a decent-size boot (370 litres) that will hold more than a pair of his 'n her washbags.

Then there’s the engine range. If you prefer a mild and efficient diesel engine, you can have it. Or if a potent, turbocharged six-cylinder is more your idea of the freedom of the open road, it’s available.

Our pick, however, is the 420i petrol, a smooth and efficient petrol that makes for a great all-round performer. The electric roof adds a bit of weight to the 4 Series, but nevertheless it remains the best four-seat drop-top to drive.
BMW 4 Series buying guide

 

2. Mazda MX-5 RF

Latest Mazda MX-5 RF deals from £15,990
Finance from £235 per month

Had a bad day? The Mazda MX-5 RF can fix all that. This petite two-seat roadster can cheer anyone up in a matter of minutes. Its secret is that it is small and agile. This in turn gives the driver a sense of connection with the road that they won’t get from any other, usable sports car – even a six-figure supercar.

The folding hardtop roof tucks away elegantly beneath the racy-looking rear deck, and the stiffer structure compared with the fabric-roof MX-5 makes it slightly more precise and responsive.

The only question on used car buyers’ minds is which version to go for? There are now three petrol engines in the range - including two different versions of the larger 2.0-litre unit - and they’re all great. So don’t worry too much, because whichever you choose, you’ll have a ball.
Mazda MX-5 RF buying guide

3. BMW Z4

Latest BMW Z4 deals from £14,891
Finance from £198 per month

A new BMW Z4 has just hit the market - and it’s sorely missing one key ingredient - a folding hardtop. Luckily, the previous generation car (pictured), did have one.

This model of Z4 is one of the most well-rounded roadsters out there. Long trips are never a chore, as the noise levels are pretty low. It still looks good too, with a hint of some of BMW’s classic roadster design about it.

If you can afford it, stretch to the 30i or 35iS models. They have a six-cylinder engine that sounds almost as joyous as the birdsong you’ll enjoy as you meander along a leafy country lane.

4. Mercedes SLC

Latest Mercedes SLC deals from £18,495
Finance from £232 per month

A Mercedes roadster is the perfect complement to a Hermès scarf, Prada sunglasses and Gucci handbag. Yet if you thought this would put it out of reach, think again. The SLC makes for a surprisingly affordable used car.

There are high-powered AMG models that you could indulge yourself with, but for our money the rather more humble SLC 200 is all drivers of this sort of roadster will ever need. It’s an eager, turbocharged petrol engine that has plenty of overtaking power but won’t guzzle fuel like it’s going out of fashion.
Mercedes SLC buying guide

5. Mercedes SL

Latest Mercedes SL deals from £37,995
Finance from £514 per month

Just as John Lewis has its flagship store on Oxford Street, so Mercedes has the SL. This is the pinnacle of engineering, style and sophistication, a car that is for those who appreciate the finer things in life and have no need to rush about the place driving as if their trousers were on fire.

Rest assured, Mercedes’ engineers have thought of everything with this car. The body is made from aluminium, to reduce weight and improve the drive. Its folding hardtop incorporates a glass roof panel, so you can feel like you’re experiencing the great outdoors even when it’s closed - but at the touch of a button the glass turns opaque, blocking out bright sun or prying eyes. Then there are the seat heaters for your neck and a windscreen washer system that won’t spray water into the cockpit when the roof’s open. Clever, huh?

A tourer rather than a sports car, by far and away the best version is the SL400. It’s a twin-turbo V6 that’s nearly as quick as all the bigger motors, but more frugal.

               

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