Convertibles Overview

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Convertibles are fun, even if they tend to be less practical than their sedan or coupe counterparts. But when you have the sun on your shoulders and the wind in your hair, you probably won’t mind.  

Convertible Performance

As with everything, it’s best to start your search by considering your budget. With 345 horsepower in its base engine, the powerful Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet starts at $90,100 and has the performance that makes that price worth it. But most convertible shoppers aren’t looking in that price range. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t take a Porsche budget to find a new convertible with great driving dynamics. Convertibles are nearly always priced higher than comparable coupes or sedans. However, convertible shoppers who want to spend $30,000 or less have some options. In that price range, you can find the 167-horsepower Mazda MX-5 Miata (starts at $23,110), the 121-horsepower Mini Cooper Convertible (starts at $25,550), the 305-horsepower Ford Mustang Convertible (starts at $27,310) and the 162-horsepower Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder (starts at $27,999).

If you can’t accept anything short of a V8 engine, expect to pay a premium for it. One of the top-performing V8 convertibles is the $54,045 Chevrolet Corvette. Beyond that, your options are mostly super-luxury and exotic convertibles that can cost $100,000 and up.

Convertible Fuel Economy

The fuel economy you can expect to get in your convertible varies depending on the engine you select. If you opt for a V8, don’t expect stellar ratings. If fuel efficiency is more important to you than performance, the Mini Cooper Convertible may be your best bet. It averages 27 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission. While the Cooper’s four-cylinder engine makes only 121 horsepower, that’s plenty to power this little car. For a blend of power and fuel efficiency, consider the Ford Mustang Convertible (30 mpg highway) and the Mazda MX-5 Miata (28 mpg highway). On the luxury side, the Porsche Boxster Spyder is a reasonably fuel-efficient option, averaging 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission.

Convertible Tops

As you shop, you’ll find that you’ll have to choose between soft-top and hardtop convertibles. Hardtop convertibles have removable metal roofs, while soft-tops have vinyl or canvas roofs.  

Choosing between a hardtop or a soft-top depends on where you live and how much you can spend. Hardtops tend to cost more, but they’re great if a convertible is your primary mode of transportation because they keep moisture out and keep the cabin warm during colder months. Soft-tops are generally cheaper, but they aren’t as durable. Some models, such as the MX-5 Miata, offer both hardtop and soft-top options. Others, including the Ford Mustang Convertible, offer only one. The Mustang Convertible is only available with a soft-top.

The bottom line is that if you live in a cold area and can afford a hardtop convertible, such as the $39,950 Volvo C70, you will probably be happier driving it year-round. But, if you have a garage, live where it’s warm or will only drive your convertible when the sun is shining, a soft-top could be a fine option.

Convertible Safety

Before you buy any new car, you need to review the safety ratings and warnings issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The organizations have different scoring criteria, but each is well-respected and a great resource. Unfortunately, the IIHS and NHTSA don’t test convertibles extensively, so few of the convertible models have safety scores available in all of the scoring categories.

The Ford Mustang Convertible, Volkswagen Eos, Volvo C70 and Saab 9-3 Convertible receive the highest score of “Good” in front-, side- and rear-impact crash tests with the IIHS and have standard electronic stability control. The NHTSA hasn’t tested the latest model year for most of these vehicles.

Comfortable Convertibles

Finding a convertible that seats four or five comfortably is nearly impossible. Convertibles typically have tight rear seats. Most buyers use them as two-seaters, even when there is a backseat. That said, the Volvo C70 and Audi A5 Cabriolet are your best bets if you’re looking for a convertible with enough rear seating to closely resemble a family car.

Practical Convertibles

People don’t buy convertibles because they’re practical, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all comfort and utility in order to drive one. A few options couple fun with comfortable seats (at least in front), comparatively good trunk space and decent fuel economy. Roomier convertibles include the Ford Mustang Convertible, BMW 3-Series Convertible and Volvo C70. Car makers even have a few convertible SUVS and crossovers up their sleeves. The Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet have removable roofs and SUV space. Ultimately, what you consider practical depends on your needs.

Finding the Best Convertible for Your Lifestyle

(Examples of different convertible styles)

 

Volvo C70

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Style

4-Seater

Roadster

Sports

SUV

MSRP

$39,950

$23,110

$54,045

$25,545

Maximum Seating Capacity

4

2

2

5

Hard/Soft-Top

Hard

Soft (standard)

Hard (optional)

Soft

Soft (standard)

Hard (optional)

Cargo (cubic feet) with rear seats up/down

12.8

5.3

11.0

46.4/86.8

Base Engine

2.5L 5-cylinder

2.0L 4-cylinder

6.2L V8

3.8L V6

     Horsepower

227

167

430

202

     Torque 

236

140

424

237

Fuel Economy (city/highway)

20/28

(manual)

22/28

(manual 5-speed)

16/26

(manual)

15/19

 

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