10 great used convertibles for the summer
We love our convertibles here in the UK and the good news is that no matter what your budget, you can buy something open-topped to enjoy the wind in your hair. With the summer now here it’s the perfect time to splash out on a soft-top to enjoy the warm weather. Whether you’ve got just a few hundred quid to spend or tens of thousands, there’s something suitable. These are the drop-tops that we think you should be homing in on.
Launched in 1996, the F took MG back to its roots. The company was renowned for producing affordable sports cars and that’s exactly what the F was. You can choose from 1.6 or 1.8-litre engines offering up to 157bhp. In 2002 the F was facelifted to become the TF and these later cars are quite different to drive thanks to an alternative suspension system being used, so try them both before settling on one or the other. The TF tends to be worth more than the F but whichever you buy you won’t need to spend much to secure a minter.
The MX-5 was first seen in 1989 and ever since its arrival Mazda has remained focused on producing a car that’s superb to drive despite its affordability. It’s not the most powerful car around but the steering, gearchange and all of the controls provide perfect feedback and the MX-5’s light weight means agility is nothing short of fabulous. A Mk2 edition arrived in 1998 and a Mk3 in 2005, both of which remained true to the original ethos of focusing on agility over outright performance.
A style icon from the day it was unveiled, the TT is now in its third generation. The original is an undoubted classic with its Bauhaus lines and distinctive interior. It was also unique in its segment in that it was available with quattro four-wheel drive, but it’s not a permanent system and not all cars have it. The Mk1 came in 1.8T or 3.2 V6 petrol forms only; the Mk2 (launched in 2007) got 2.0 TFSi, 2.5 TFSi or 3.2 V6 petrol engines or there was a 2.0 TDi option.
It looks cute, it’s brilliantly made and it’s good to drive – qualities that have ensured BMW has sold plenty of open-topped Minis since the first one put in an appearance in 2005. The build quality and reliability are good but it’s not the most spacious four-seater rag-top and the boot is tiny. If you don’t need four seats you could be better off going for a Mini Roadster instead, which is strictly a two seater with significantly more boot space, so it’s potentially much more practical.
BMW’s first affordable mainstream sportscar was the Z3 that debuted in 1995; it was succeeded by the Z4 in 2003. That car was dynamically a big improvement on the Z3 if rather awkwardly styled. An all-new second take on the Z4 formula was launched in 2009, which was even better to drive and much sleeker, and better suited to year-round use thanks to its coupé-cabriolet configuration (the earlier cars had a cloth roof). The Z4 went out of production last summer and so far there’s no word on a replacement.
With an engine red-lined at 9000rpm and a rear-wheel drive chassis, it’s immediately obvious who the S2000 is aimed at – the serious driving enthusiast. During a decade of production there were few major changes to the S2000, but there was a steady evolution, with post-2007 editions being the best of the lot (the final cars were sold in 2009). Good examples are now becoming collectable, so track one down and you’ll love driving it plus it should prove to be a shrewd investment.
The XK8 that superseded the Jaguar XJS in 1996 was a big deal for Jaguar; the second take on the car, now made of aluminium and named simply XK (or XKR in supercharged form) was just as big a leap forward. While early XKs got a 4.2-litre V8, from 2009 there was a 5.0-litre unit fitted instead. With even the smaller engine rated at 300bhp and capable of taking the XK to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, you don’t really need anything more, although the XKR and even wilder XK-RS are the ones likely to become the most collectible.
Mercedes has produced lots of four-seater convertibles over the years but the model launched in 2010 provides the best balance of availability, affordability and usability. Featuring all of the latest safety and convenience kit, smooth and efficient engines and enough space for four adults it’s a cracking way to travel. If you don’t need four seats buy a Mercedes SL instead. As the flagship two-seater for the German brand, you get power, luxury, quality and safety at prices that can be eye-watering when new, but as a used buy the SL is far more accessible.
It’s the car that saved Porsche from oblivion, and when you drive one you’ll soon see why. The only mid-engined sportscar in its segment at the time, the Boxster’s dynamics are superb, so too is the build quality while practicality is better than you’d think. The first model was launched in 1996, known as the 986 generation; the 987 followed in 2004. Confusingly, the latest model, launched in 2012, is codenamed 981. All are ridiculously talented so buy the best you can afford and just enjoy as many miles as you can this summer.
Bentley Continental GTC
The Continental GTC is a glorious machine, but you can’t buy or run one of these fabulous machines unless you’ve got very deep pockets. Beautifully built and sumptuously appointed, the GTC can swallow vast distances four-up with ease. Launched in 2006, at first there was a 6.0-litre W12 engine only, but from 2012 there was a 4.0-litre V8 option that’s just as quick in the real world – and far more frugal. All are hugely desirable, very stylish – and expensive.