A case for con­ver­sion

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - WHICH CAR? -

THE QUES­TION

My part­ner and I have just turned 60 and, af­ter pre­vi­ously buy­ing con­ser­va­tive and prac­ti­cal cars, we’d like to have a lit­tle fun — a cabri­o­let is very ap­peal­ing at the mo­ment. We’re won­der­ing whether a soft-top car is a nov­elty that the new owner uses on any sort of day at the start but, af­ter a while. it’s not used very of­ten at all. Are we bet­ter off with a coupe with sun­roof? It doesn’t seem as much fun as the wind flow­ing through our grey­ing hair. We have a bud­get of $50,000. AJ, email Noth­ing matches the open-air ex­pe­ri­ence of a full con­vert­ible, which goes well be­yond even the big­gest and bright­est sun­roof. A sun­roof will brighten your life and ruf­fle your hair but a proper con­vert­ible is the nextbest-thing to a mo­tor­cy­cle ride through the coun­try­side. When you have a drop-top you’re far more likely to use it and it’s hard to beat a sun­set drive in spring or au­tumn. Open-air choices run from an af­ford­able Mazda MX-5 at $33,340 to an ex­ot­i­cally out­ra­geous Roll­sRoyce Phan­tom Drop­head Coupe at more than $1 mil­lion. Sales of the Mazda MX-5 con­tinue to boom. There is its Ital­ian clone, the Abarth 124 Spi­der, if you want some­thing that looks a lit­tle chunkier and adds a tur­bocharged en­gine.

CHOICES

Audi A3 Cabri­o­let, $49,000 A smooth looker that only just sneaks into your bud­get, the A3 is a tidy lit­tle run­about that’s prac­ti­cal and fun. An Audi al­ways has more bling than an equiv­a­lent VW but the ba­sics of the A3 come from the Golf and that means it’s a sound ve­hi­cle. It’s been around for a while but the value is good and the fold­ing can­vas roof works well. Mazda MX-5 RF, from $38,550 It’s not a full cabrio but if you want some­thing a touch more re­laxed than the MX-5 road­ster the RF could be the an­swer. The new­comer has a re­tractable hard­top, so it’s more like a targa-roof coupe than a full-on sports car. There is more pro­tec­tion and less noise than in an MX-5 with the top up and the only real draw­back is the shared tiny boot. Mini Con­vert­ible, from $37,900 The com­plete op­po­site of the MX-5, the Mini is a four-seater that puts fresh air ahead of driv­ing en­joy­ment. If you want to go quickly there is a John Cooper Works model with plenty of punch but the best thing about the Mini is its cruis­ing abil­ity. As with the MX-5, boot space is cramped but there is al­ways the rear seat.

WILDCARD

Used VW Golf Cabrio No, not the Eos. For a time, Volk­swa­gen had two fresh-air mod­els of the Golf and the Eos had an overly com­pli­cated roof that was a com­bi­na­tion sun­roof, targa roof and cabrio. Nice when new but a po­ten­tial night­mare over time, which is why the Cabrio is a far bet­ter choice. Good-look­ing used Cabrios come in un­der $30,000 — but check the car care­fully.

VERDICT

It comes down to a choice be­tween a sports car and a cruiser. If you re­ally en­joy driv­ing, the MX-5 is the way to go and the RF is a lit­tle more re­fined than the full drop-top. If you’re a cruis­ing cou­ple, the A3 makes the most sense.

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