With the good times of summer just around the corner, there's no better time to start thinking about getting an open-top car. Here is our list of top 10 convertibles currently on sale in Australia, priced below $80,000.
The MX-5 is a legend in the auto industry. Literally millions of motorists all around the world enjoy its playful driving character, user-friendliness, and relatively cheap initial price and low ongoing ownership costs. With a 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine, producing up to 118kW, the MX-5 is all about balance. The new, fourth-generation model packages together even more value into the humble nameplate, with features like a touch-screen interface and MZD Connect and even heated seats becoming available. Prices have also been slashed, partly thanks to the introduction of the 1.5L engine option.
Perhaps one of the most handsomely designed open-top premium cars in the class, the latest SLC (replaces the SLK) two-door draws its design inspiration from the gorgeous SL two-door range. Australians are offered two variants, including the SLC 180 and SLC 200, both featuring a turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Interestingly, the 180 variant is available with a manual transmission which pays tribute to its sporty driving pedigree. Safety is high in all variants, with autonomous emergency braking, roll-over protection, and driver attention detection fitted as standard.
BMW 2 Series convertible
BMW started introducing a new naming structure for its showroom lineup in 2013, with the 2 Series coming in as the 1 Series two-door replacement. It's slightly longer than the 1 Series hatch, with a longer bonnet and traditional swept-back cabin design. Powertrains range from diesel and petrol, up to a range-topping M240i sports model. Does it drive like a BMW? You bet. The steering is like putty in your hands, with excellent rear-wheel drive characteristics felt right through the driver’s seat. Both manual and automatic transmission options are available, and all come with a luxurious, leather-appointed interior with a comprehensive iDrive media interface.
MINI Cooper convertible
Like a dart with seats, the MINI Cooper convertible is an extremely exciting little car for the money. It uses a spirited 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine producing 100kW, providing ample performance for open-air motoring. The handling is nothing short of sensational, gripping and swinging around corners like a kid on a clothesline. It's seriously fun. Best yet, the engine sips just 5.1L/100km in manual form. Downsides? The funky interior will take some getting used to and there is a bit of a question mark hanging over the fit and finish and overall interior build quality.
You probably didn't think of it as a convertible, but in fact, the Jeep Wrangler is a drop-top; the roof can be lifted off. It does take quite some time to unscrew the hard-top version, but the fabric soft-top models are pretty much like any lift-back roadster. If you want heritage, the Wrangler could be considered as the very first open-top SUV. It's available in a number of flavours, including two-door and four-door, with either a powerful V6 petrol or a more economical 2.8 turbo-diesel. Jeep is currently working on an all-new model which is expected to debut by 2018.
Range rover evoque convertible
Yep, you read correctly. You can now buy a sparkling new Range Rover Evoque – in open-top convertible form. How cool is that? You’ll be the coolest kid on the block, with the electric-folding roof making not only quite a spectacular scene at the beach, but it also opens completely leaving only the main windscreen and frame standing. Being based on the regular Evoque means it’s filled with exciting design flourishes, such as the dramatic rotary gear shifter that automatically rises up from the centre console on startup. Off-road performance is intact. Land Rover’s extensive all-terrain heritage shines bright here, and of course all passengers are pampered in high-quality British luxury. ANCAP has awarded the regular Evoque only four stars (convertible not tested), which means the convertible isn’t going to be as safe as most competitors.
Abarth 124 Spider
This is the Italian twin to the Mazda MX-5. And we really mean twin; it comes from the same fertilised egg, built in Japan by Mazda alongside the MX-5. This was a co-development project from the beginning, with Fiat’s Abarth department benefiting from Mazda’s extensive roadster experience and packaging. Being Italian, the Abarth 124 goes for a more flamboyant design, and it uses a bespoke 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Power and torque are slightly up on the 2L MX-5’s outputs, which means it is the quicker option. You do have to pay a premium for the Italian flair though, but only around $4000 up on the equivalent MX-5.
You may have heard of the Fiat Bambino. It’s Italy’s best-known micro car, and now it’s back. And it’s available in drop-top form (hence the ‘C’ in the name). From 2017 Fiat Australia is offering new 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre engines, with average fuel consumption figures as low as 4.7L/100km. Both manual and auto are on offer. It’s definitely a fun and funky car to drive, and being so small means it is very easy to nip around the city and get into very tight car spaces. Where it does fall a little behind the market is with cabin user-friendliness. The media interface is complex and some of the buttons are confusing. Buy hey, it’s better being an emotional motoring experience than a boring one, isn’t it?
This is a car that has taken the Australian market by storm. Since its introduction in 2016, the Mustang has been a sales sensation. It constantly tops the sales charts in its respective market segment. And for good reason. This is a brand-new Mustang, which means it’s filled with Ford’s latest technologies and driving dynamics expertise. Best yet, it’s a proper muscle car and it wears one of the most recognised nameplates in the world. Australians are offered a 2.3-litre turbo four and a snarling 5.0-litre V8, with manual or auto. Unfortunately, all of this does come at a price. And not literally. Your bank account isn’t going to be crying for mercy, however, ANCAP has awarded the beast a measly two-star safety rating. This is alarmingly low for a modern vehicle and well behind almost all rivals which are able to pass the five-star standard.
Audi A3 convertible
This is the drop-top for sensible professionals and sophisticated individuals. It’s not brash or flamboyant like a lot of convertibles in this list. Instead, the A3 convertible is about refinement, efficiency, and advanced technology. Inside is a suave décor that’s filled with luxury features, with outstanding build quality in every corner. Even the buttons feel like they are made from exquisitely-crafted metals. Based on Volkswagen’s MQB platform means it is a lovely drive too, with engaging handling, good compliance over rough roads, and sure-footed grip and high-speed stability. All models are powered by an economical turbocharged engine, promising both respectable performance and attractive fuel consumption figures. For the sporty drivers out there Audi also offers the S3 in convertible form, coming with a 2.0-litre turbo producing an impressive 213kW. This is sent through an all-wheel drive system for added safety.