Fair-weather friends

Con­vert­ibles have a short shelflife — pick your sum­mer out­fit from these drop-tops

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - craig.duff@news.com.au CRAIG DUFF

is here and with the warmer weather comes a new wave of open-top cruis­ers de­signed to make the most of the Aus­tralian sum­mer.

Con­vert­ibles have al­ways been more fash­ion ac­ces­sory than mere trans­port, so it’s vi­tal to know what’s new and what’s not when shop­ping for your next drop-top.

It’s worth not­ing that — su­per­car vari­ants apart — con­vert­ibles have a short shelflife. They may look stun­ning when new but they only hold the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion un­til the next model rolls into town. Then they’re as old as last sea­son’s sum­mer wear.

Carsguide has pulled to­gether a drop-top guide for any bud­get.

MAZDA MX-5

The ac­claimed MX-5 is still the cheap­est ticket to open-air thrills. The Ja­panese maker has added a more pow­er­ful 2.0-litre en­gine that takes the price to $34,990, but you can still get the 1.5-litre for $31,990.

If straight-line power isn’t the be-all and end-all, the Mazda ex­cels as a sports car. It is old-school mo­tor­ing with light but pre­cise steer­ing and a sus­pen­sion set-up bi­ased to­wards cor­ner­ing over com­fort. In­te­rior space is min­i­mal and there a bit of noise with the top down but that only adds to the ap­peal.

Mazda Aus­tralia has sold more than 1100 MX-5s so far this year and spokesman Tony Mee says warmer weather cus­tom­ar­ily causes a spike in con­vert­ible sales. Mazda is look­ing to cap­i­talise on that with the ar­rival of the hard­topped RF (re­tractable fast­back) ver­sion, which should sneak in be­fore the end of sum­mer.

MINI CON­VERT­IBLE

Mi­nis are all about ex­press­ing your in­ner child and the con­vert­ible takes that to new heights. It still comes with all the cus­tomis­able in­te­rior and ex­te­rior bling (the fab­ric roof can be op­tioned with a Union Jack mo­tif ) yet in base guise is com­pa­ra­bly priced to the Mazda at $37,900 for the 1.5litre Cooper. The 2.0-litre fourSPRING Cooper S hits $45,400 and the per­for­mance-ori­ented John Cooper Works ar­rives in Oc­to­ber priced at $54,900.

ABARTH 124 SPI­DER

Italy’s take on the Mazda MX-5, the Spi­der gets a 1.4-litre turbo that de­liv­ers an on-pa­per per­for­mance ad­van­tage over its Ja­panese cousin. Power is up, from 118kw in the 2.0-litre Mazda to 125kW, but more im­por­tantly peak torque, or pulling power, in­creases from 200Nm to 250Nm and ar­rives much lower in the rev range.

Off­set­ting that is big­ger body­work and a more spa­cious cabin fit­ted with more gad­gets, which is ex­pected to push the price out to the mid-$40,000 range when the car of­fi­cially goes on sale next month.

In keep­ing with the Abarth her­itage, the 124 Spi­der is fit­ted with a lim­ited-slip diff, beefedup anti-roll bars, Brembo brakes and Bil­stein dampers.

FORD MUS­TANG

Overnight, the Mus­tang has be­come the most pop­u­lar con­vert­ible in the coun­try but the down­side is there’s a big wait­ing list. The wait for a 5.0cylin­der

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