Best cheap convertibles

Sunshine at a sparkling price: these are the best cheap convertibles that give you drop-top glamour for an affordable price

John Evans
Oct 29, 2019

Cheap convertibles - also known as cabriolets, soft-tops and drop-tops - not only have many names, but also make going the long way home irresistible when the sun is shining.

The number of gloriously sunny days may be limited in the UK, but even still, those few rays justify every penny you have to spend to get a convertible. You don’t even need that many pennies, as we’ve found a brilliant range of cheap convertibles - all available for less than £200 per month with a typical PCP finance quote.

The types of convertible in this price bracket range from the sleek but practical four-seat Vauxhall Cascada, to the fun-focused two-seater Fiat 124 Spider. There are also low budget options such as the DS 3 Cabrio and Smart ForTwo, which could be yours for barely £100 per month in many cases.

The majority of the convertibles below come with a fabric roof, but you can find a metal-roofed car for this budget, too, with the more luxurious Mercedes SLK appearing below. A metal roof might seem like the perfect answer to all-season drop-top motoring, but all the cars on this list can survive winter weather in the UK – all you need to do is crank up the heater up once in a while.

 

Best cheap convertibles

1. Citroen DS 3 Cabrio

Best cheap convertible for low prices

Our pick Citroen DS 3 Cabrio 1.6 VTi DStyle

'DS' used to be the name given to Citroen's more upmarket offerings, but now it's a standalone brand. So if you look for an older Citroen DS 3 Cabrio, you'll get lower prices than for the more recent (but virtually identical) DS 3 Cabrio.

These models are based upon the Citroen DS 3 and DS 3 hatchback respectively, so have five seats and a reasonable size boot. Rather than folding up or down, its canvas roof slides on roof-mounted rails either halfway, to the rear window or down ontop of the bootlid, where it sits folded.

Regardless of the position it’s in, the window frames remain in place so viewed from the side, these models look like a conventional hatchback. If that’s not a problem to you then a used Citroen DS 3 represents remarkable value for money, giving you wind-in-the-hair motoring for far less than you might expect.

Citroen buyers' guides

2. Vauxhall Cascada

Best cheap convertible for value

Our pick Vauxhall Cascada SE 2.0 CDTI
Latest Vauxhall Cascada deals from £9,689
Monthly finance from £161

The Vauxhall badge, chintzy name and styling that resembles an oversized Vauxhall Astra could easily put you off the Cascada, but look beyond and you have a competent, comfortable convertible for an extremely reasonable price.

The Cascada's fabric roof folds neatly away to leave a clean, sleek profile. The interior looks much like a mainstream Vauxhall but it is very roomy, at least in the front; the rear is a little short on legroom, but still pretty good for a convertible.

Prices start at around £10,000 for entry-level SE cars but you're better off with a better-equipped Elite model. Its heated front seats, steering wheel and windbreak make it much more comfortable to drive with the roof down, no matter what the temperature. Also standard are specially-designed leather seats, which stay cooler for longer in warm weather.

Vauxhall buyers' guides

3. Fiat 500C

Best cheap convertible for fun city driving

Our pick Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge
Latest Fiat 500C Lounge deals from £7,498
Monthly finance from £130

Like the Citroen DS 3, the roof on the Fiat 500C moves on rails. However, unlike that car, when opened it isn't limited to just three positions, so you can position it exactly as you like it.

It may be based on a city car but the 500C is surprisingly roomy. Four adults can squeeze in and the boot is the same size as the hatchback’s, at 185 litres. If you need more - and you might, as this isn't a particularly large boot - the back seats can be lowered.

On paper, the cheaper 1.2-litre petrol engine isn't as efficient as the turbocharged 0.9 TwinAir motor, which offers greater acceleration, but in the real world there’s little between them.

Fiat 500 buyers' guide

4. Mini Convertible

Best cheap convertible for retro style

Our pick Mini Convertible 1.6 Cooper
Latest Mini Convertible Cooper deals from £8,497
Monthly finance from £136

Adding a folding roof to the Mini Hatchback's nippy feel only serves to make the Mini Convertible even more fun to drive and virtually guaranteed to bring a smile to your face on a summer's day.

At this price, you'll be looking at a previous-generation car which is a lot smaller in the back than the current version that went on sale in 2016. 

Unlike the Citroen DS 3’s roof, the Mini’s roof opens entirely, so you have the full open-topped experience. The best choice is the Mini Cooper, for a reasonable balance between power and fuel economy, but if your budget only stretches to the less-powerful Mini One, you'll still have a blast.

Mini Convertible buyers' guide

5. Smart ForTwo Cabrio

Best cheap convertible for tight city roads

Our pick Smart ForTwo Cabrio 0.9 Prime Premium
Latest Smart ForTwo Cabrio Prime deals from £8,895
Monthly finance from £145

The Smart ForTwo is an unconventional-looking car – and that’s before you add a folding roof. It’s probably the smallest convertible you can buy and perfect for city dwellers who want to cut a dash.

Its electric folding roof can be operated at any speed, and folds in just 12 seconds. It also takes up no boot space when stowed away, leaving the 260-litre boot unchanged.

To go with such a small car is an equally small, rear-mounted engine which is zippy at slower speeds. All-in-all, this is a fun car for darting around town with the roof down.

The two-seat interior is roomy enough with good storage space and wide-opening doors. It's bright and individual in style but some of the materials are plasticky and easy to scratch. Fortunately, the radio is powerful and easily up to the task of belting out your favourite sounds when the roof’s down, though.

Smart ForTwo buyers' guide

6. Mazda MX-5

Best cheap convertible for affordable driving thrills

Our pick Mazda MX-5 1.8 Roadster
Latest Mazda MX-5 deals from £10,000
Monthly finance from £162

The Mazda MX-5 gives you a choice of roof: the traditional fabric soft-top, shown above, or an electrically-powered folding metal roof on the Roadster version. The latter feature makes the MX-5 the perfect all-weather sports car and quieter when the roof's up, too.

The hard-top roof's extra weight doesn't have much of an impact on the MX-5's ability to dart through corners - meaning its lightness and agility enables it to change direction sharply.

Roadster or convertible, this version of the MX-5 has a quite a cramped interior offering very little elbow room. However, this cosiness is appealing in a car that's designed for driving fun, rather than outright speed, as the snug seating position makes you feel completely connected to the car.

Mazda MX-5 buyers' guide

7. VW Golf Cabriolet

Best cheap convertible for everyday usability

Our pick VW Golf Cabriolet 1.4 S TSI
Latest Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet deals from £10,250
Monthly finance from £175

All the virtues of a Golf (solid build quality, comfortable ride, reasonable running costs) but with extra fresh air. If you like the Golf but think it's just a little dull, this convertible could be just what you’re looking for.

The car is based on the last version of the Golf, which was replaced in 2012, so it's not at the cutting edge of technology. However, it still excels at cruising along sunlit lanes with the roof down.

The fabric hood folds quickly and neatly away without robbing the 250-litre boot of any space. If you need more load space, the rear seats fold - they are a bit cramped for passengers anyway. Whether you're carrying a couple of passengers or a little bit of luggage, though, it should be spacious enough for most journeys.

Volkswagen Golf buyer's guide

8. Audi TT Roadster

Best cheap convertible for stylish sun-seekers

Our pick Audi TT Roadster 1.8 TFSI Sport
Latest Audi TT Roadster deals from £15,980
Monthly finance from £197

The current-generation of Audi TT can't yet be described as cheap, but the car that it replaced is a relative bargain, given that it still looks fresh and is good to drive.

Extensive use of aluminium in its construction means it’s also very light, so the 1.8 TFSI petrol engine that we'd recommend is easily powerful enough. The body is also very stiff, so you shouldn't feel any shocks or vibrations on poor roads as you might with cheaper convertibles.

The fabric roof lowers or rises in 12 seconds, allowing you to easily take advantage of the first ray of sunshine, or avoid the first drop of rain. A deflector helps to reduce wind buffeting in the cabin when the hood is lowered.

A two-seater it may be but the TT’s boot is a generous 250 litres, easily enough for a weekend away.

Audi TT buyers' guide

9. Audi A3 Cabriolet

Best cheap convertible for a high-quality cabin

Our pick Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI Sport
Latest Audi A3 Cabriolet Sport deals from £12,995
Monthly finance from £199

The Audi A3 Cabriolet is a car that looks much more expensive than it really is. The current car went on sale in 2014, with long, sleek lines that are more sophisticated than the dumpy model that it replaced.

The fabric hood stows away quickly and the car feels almost as solid as the standard Audi A3 - which is impressive, given that a metal roof - a major structural component - is missing. The interior feels well made, with high-quality materials - particularly if you can find a car with the suede-like Alcantara upholstery.

Avoid sportier S line models for the most comfortable ride, and pick the 1.4 TFSI petrol engine for good performance without any gruff diesel noise.

Audi A3 buyers' guide

10. Mercedes SLK

Best cheap convertible for luxury on a budget

Our pick Mercedes SLK 250 CDI AMG Sport auto
Latest Mercedes-Benz SLK deals from £11,640
Monthly finance from £171

The Mercedes SLK really is two cars in one: a convertible when the top is down, it converts to a two-door coupe thanks to the complex metal roof that rises into place precisley, giving it a neat and stylish look.

Neat and stylish is the SLK's mantra, thanks to classic Mercedes design and sporty-looking touches, such as the air vents that look like crosshairs. It can be pretty luxurious too, with options including Mercedes' Airscarf, which bllows warm air around your neck, for toasty open-topped motoring in winter.

The SLK was updated in 2016 and renamed SLC, but the older cars aren't much different, despite their lower price. The 250 CDI diesel engine is a popular choice. It’s a powerful but economical, and not too noisy as diesels go.

If you plan to drive in central London or go into the centre of many larger cities, however, be aware that earlier versions of the diesel SLK may not meet the Euro 6 emissions standards required to avoid the ULEZ emissions charges. Read our guide to understand which cars dodge the ULEZ emissions charges.

Mercedes-Benz buyers' guides

  

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