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Five Great Used Convertibles

Despite the rubbish weather that we have to put up with in the UK, we buy more open-topped cars than any country in the world, apart from North America. Perhaps we’re all blind optimists, or maybe we just need something fun to counter all of the traffic jams, potholes and speed cameras.

Or perhaps it’s because we’ve never had such a brilliant crop of convertibles to choose from. If you’re in the market for a used convertible, no matter how small your budget, you’ve got your pick of great convertibles. You can choose from two- or four-seaters, soft tops or hard tops, petrol or diesel. And when you’re buying used, there’s even more choice, so it’s hard knowing where to start.

If you’ve long fancied a convertible but you think they’re too compromised, it might be time to take a closer look. Nowadays they’re often as refined as saloons and hatchbacks, and they tend to be just as good to drive thanks to modern construction techniques. Practicality will always be an issue as boots tend to be small, but if you’re resourceful it’s amazing what you can fit into even a small two-seater roadster.

Coupé-cabriolets feature a folding hard top so you get the security and refinement of a closed car with the roof in place. However, cars with a soft top tend to have more interior space and bigger boots, while they also normally look better than coupé-cabriolets when the roof is up. Convertibles with a cloth roof are also usually lighter, which helps when it comes to cutting fuel consumption.

Now, read on and discover our five favourite convertibles. We’ve kept the budgets fairly low, but if you’ve got more to spend you’re going to really be overwhelmed with options. Which is a nice position to be in!

Mazda MX-5Mazda-MX-5

Our pick: MX-5 1.8i Sport
You get:2003 (03-plate), 70,000 miles

It looked as though the affordable two-seater roadster was on its way out when Mazda launched the original MX-5 in 1989. At a stroke the Japanese company breathed new life into a segment that would flourish throughout the 1990s. The MX-5 Mk1 lasted until 1998 when a new model took over. Now, values for the two models are similar, and while the earlier cars with the pop-up headlamps have the purest design, corrosion can be an issue which is why the Mk2 can make more sense to buy. Whichever one you go for, find a good one and you won’t be able to drive it enough.

BMW 3-Series
Budget: £5000
Our pick: 330Ci Sport
You get: 2004 (04-plate), 100,000 miles

Ever since the first drophead 3-Series arrived back in the 1980s, BMW has carved out its own corner of the convertible market. We had four generations of open-topped 3-Series before the model morphed into the 4-Series, and all of them have provided fabulous build quality with a sublime driving experience, especially if you opt for one of the super-smooth six-cylinder engines. We’d opt for a 3-Series Mk4, known as the E46 and produced from 2000. It looks stylish, seats four and is still great to drive – but best of all it’s eminently affordable.

Porsche BoxsterPorsche-Boxster
 Budget: £10,000
Our pick:Boxster 3.2 S
You get: 2005 (05-plate), 70,000 miles

We’re now on the third generation of Porsche Boxster, which means that a budget of anywhere between £5,000 and closer to 10 times that will get you into one of these hugely desirable rag-tops, depending on whether you buy a Mk1, Mk2 or Mk3. Porsche got it right from the start with a mid-engined roadster that handles beautifully, comes with superb build quality and is surprisingly usable. The best first-generation Boxsters are now worth just £7,000, but you can secure a second-generation car from just £9,000, which looks sharper and is even better to drive.

Vauxhall VX220Vauxhall-VX220
Budget: £15,000
Our pick: VX220 Turbo
You get: 2005 (05-plate), 50,000 miles

Built on the same production line as the Lotus Elise – and sharing much with it – the Vauxhall VX220 is better value and significantly rarer. You get an engine with more low-down torque (a normally aspirated 2.2-litre unit or a turbocharged 2.0-litre) along with standard anti-lock brakes. The VX220 is pretty hard-core, so practicality is poor and and so is refinement, but in turbocharged form the Vauxhall is unbelievably quick, handles like a dream and if you find a good one at the right price it should be a sound investment.

Audi A5Audi-A5
Budget: £20,000
Our pick: 3.0 TDi quattro S line
You get: 2011 (11-plate), 50,000 miles

When the Audi A5 cabriolet arrived in 2009 it was pitched squarely against the BMW 3-Series; before this the Audi A4 had the same task. Both are excellent cars but the A5 took things to a whole new level with its diesel engines, improved safety, refinement and driving experience plus a much sharper design. You can buy an early A5 cabriolet for just £12,000 but for £20,000 you can snap up a six-cylinder diesel which offers muscle with economy, with the security of four-wheel drive too. If you don’t like the idea of diesel, buy a 2.0 TFSi edition instead.

Buy with care

If you decide to take the plunge and buy any of these, the usual rules apply. That means get an HPI check before committing, as well as reading our guides on how to avoid getting caught out by fraudsters, what to look for when buying a used car , and if you’re thinking of buying at auction, we’ve also done a guide on how to do just that, without getting caught out.

Richard Dredge
August 2015