Best cheap convertibles

Sunshine at a sparkling price: these are the best cheap convertibles

John Evans
Apr 24, 2018

Bright sunshine, empty roads and time to go the long way round may not come up very often. But when they do, it'll make buying a convertible worth every penny.

You may not even need as many as you think: we've found ten fantastic options, which all cost less than £200 a month on a representative finance agreement.

The convertibles (also known as cabriolets or soft-tops) include small open-topped city cars, such as the Smart FourTwo cabrio, dedicated sports cars like the Mazda MX-5, and more luxurious options, including the Mercedes SLK.

Most have a traditional fabric hood; some have a metal folding roof, that makes them more secure and weather-resistant. However, all can withstand year-round use - with the heating cranked up, even open air winter driving can be comfortable.

Citroen DS 3 Cabrio

Best cheap convertible for low budgets

Our pick Citroen DS 3 Cabrio 1.6 VTi DStyle (2013, 35,000 miles)
Typical price £6,300  Representative finance £129 per month

Before DS Automobiles became a new car brand, the vehicles were sold under the Citroen badge. So if you look for a Citroen DS 3 Cabrio, you'll get lower prices than for the more recent (but virtually identical) DS 3 Cabrio..

It’s based on the DS 3 hatchback so has five seats and a decent boot. Rather than folding up or down, its canvas roof slides on roof-mounted rails either halfway, to the rear window or down to the boot on which it sits, folded.

Regardless of the position it’s in, the window frames remain in place so viewed from the side, the DS 3 looks like a conventional hatchback. If that’s not a problem to you then a used Citroen DS 3 represents remarkable value for money.
DS 3 buying guide

 

Vauxhall Cascada

Best cheap convertible for value

Our pick Vauxhall Cascada SE 2.0 CDTI (2014, 55,000 miles)
Typical price £8,500  Representative finance £146 per month

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

Its fabric roof folds neatly away to leave a clean, frameless 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.

Prices start at around £8,000 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 exterior temperature. Also standard are specially-designed leather seats, which stay cooler for longer in warm weather.

  

Fiat 500C

Best cheap convertible for city car fun

Our pick Fiat 500C 1.2 Lounge (2015, 5,000 miles)
Typical price £8,500  Representative finance £136 per month

Like the Citroen DS 3, the roof on the Fiat 500C moves on rails. However, unlike that car, when opened it isn't confined to just three positions, so you can position it just 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, the back seats can be lowered.

On paper, the cheaper 1.2-litre petrol engine isn't as efficient as the 0.9 TwinAir unit but in the real world, there’s little between them.
Fiat 500 buying guide

 

Mini convertible

Best cheap convertible for retro style

Our pick Mini Convertible 1.6 Cooper (2014, 22,000 miles)
Typical price £8,999  Representative finance £143 per month

Adding a folding roof to the nippy driving feel that makes the Mini Hatchback fun to drive is 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, but if your budget only stretches to the less-powerful Mini One, you'll still have a blast.

  

Smart ForTwo cabrio

Best cheap convertible for city dwellers

Our pick Smart ForTwo cabrio 0.9 Prime Premium (2016, 23,000 miles)
Typical price £9,490  Representative finance £146 per month

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 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.

The two-seat interior is roomy enough with good storage space and wide-opening doors. It's bright and individual 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.

 

Mazda MX-5

Best cheap convertible for affordable thrills

Our pick Mazda MX-5 1.8 Roadster (2013, 26,000 miles)
Typical price £9,899  Representative finance £169 per month

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 makes it quieter when the roof's up.

The hard-top roof's extra weight doesn't have much of an impact on the MX-5's ability to dart through corners - iits lightness and agility enabling 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 but this cosiness is appealing in a car that's designed for driving fun, rather than outright speed.

  

VW Golf cabriolet

Best cheap convertible for every day

Our pick VW Golf cabriolet 1.4 S TSI (2014, 14,000 miles)
Typical price £11,789  Representative finance £173 per month

All the virtues of a Golf (solid build quality, comfortable ride, reasonable running costs) but with extra fresh air. If you like a Golf but think it 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 technoogy. 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.

  

Audi TT Roadster

Best cheap convertible for stylish sun-seekers

Our pick Audi TT Roadster 1.8 TFSI Sport (2013, 12,000 miles)
Typical price £12,300  Representative finance £172 per month

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, meaning the 1.8 TFSI petrol engine in our example is easily powerful enough. The body is also very stiff so you shouldn't feel any shocks or vibrations on poor roads.

The fabric roof lowers or rises in 12 seconds, allowing you to 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 A3 Cabriolet

Best cheap convertible for the complete experience

Our pick Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.4 TFSI Sport (2014, 40,000 miles)
Typical price £12,990  Representative finance £196 per month

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 looks that are more sophisticated than the dumpy design that it replaced.

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

  

Mercedes SLK

Best cheap convertible for luxury on a budget

Our pick Mercedes SLK 250 CDI AMG Sport auto (2013, 44,000 miles)
Typical price £14,099  Representative finance £188 per month

The Mercedes SLK is really 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 neatly and stylishly.

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 opotions 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.

  

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