Naturally, I’m talking about cars and more specifically, convertibles. Summer 2015’s not been upto much weather-wise so far, but there’s still plenty of it left, with time to organise barbecues and maybe even buy a cabriolet, to get the wind in your hair out on the open road. Buying a new car is often expensive these days and many of the latest compact convertibles merely have roofs that partially fold back, so I wanted to take a look at some proper convertibles on the used market, focussing on ones with smaller engines, which will be a bit cheaper to insure.
The name’s a bit funny, but this French cabriolet is cute, stylish and rare – perfect if you like to stand out. The Wind was made between 2010 and 2012 so you’d be buying a car that’s only a few years old. It handles well, is well-equipped, has a large boot for such a tiny-looking car, the 1.2-litre engine will keep insurance and running costs down and, aside from poor rear visibility due to its design, the Wind is pretty good value second hand, with plenty of examples around £5,000.
For a convertible, you need to look at the second generation Tigra, produced from 2004 to 2009, with edgy styling and a hardtop roof, just like the Wind – so you won’t have to worry as much about any leaks. Metal roofs mean they are safer and more refined at higher speeds, too. It may not handle that well and refinement leaves much to be desired, but it’s a spacious two-seater, proves economical to run with a 1.3-litre diesel or 1.4-litre petrol engine, and can be found for as little as £6,000.
Cheeky, hardly ever seen on the road and with dimensions that look about the same size as a slipper, this is one cool cabriolet, again with the nice bonus of a metal roof. You can park it almost anywhere but its miniature size does mean space inside is a little cramped and the boot isn’t very practical. Produced from 2004, the Copen originally had a 0.7-litre engine. In later models, this was replaced by a 1.3-litre engine which is actually more economical. This car looks great in silver with red leather, and prices have settled in the £6,000 region for the larger engine and £4,000 for the smaller one.
The first car in my list to feature a fabric roof, the softtop version of this gorgeous Italian icon was introduced in 2009. You can choose from a number of engines, ranging from 0.9-litre, 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engines, to a 1.3-litre diesel model. The 0.9-litre TwinAir has the most character and zip to it, but is really economical at the same time. City mode makes the steering lighter, so the Fiat is easier to manoeuvre around town and to park, and it’s quite refined on the motorway. The used car market offers a great variety of Fiat 500Cs, priced from £7,500.
Some say it’s one of the best-looking compact cabriolets made in recent years, but to me, it’s an acquired taste. Jeremy Clarkson reviewed it in 2003 and said it’s girly, “the automotive equivalent of going to bed at night with a teddy bear”. My cousin’s wife and also my auntie’s sister both own a StreetKa and seem fond of them. You may mistake the large, centrally-positioned thing on the rear bumper to be the exhaust pipe, but in fact, it’s the fog light. The chrome rollover hoops look stylish, too. The StreetKa comes with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, but it only produces 94bhp so won’t be a handful for new, inexperienced drivers. A ten-year-old example can be bought for £1,500 with around 50,000 miles on the clock, so they’re nicely priced, too.
MINI One Convertible
If you’re after a slice of retro, this is a good car to consider, with its unmistakable, chunky looks. MINIs have always been known for their excellent handling and, unlike with some other cars out there, turning it into a convertible hasn’t diluted its sportiness. Forget the Cooper if you’re a new driver. The 1.6-litre MINI One is the best bet and research has shown that it’s not overly expensive to insure. At £5,000 for a cared-for, used model, this affordable route into convertible ownership will leave a smile on your face.
Mitsubishi Colt CZC
This is definitely not a car that readily comes to mind, especially when you think about drop-tops, but once again it uses a reassuring metal roof and actually looks rather sporty. Typically for a car of this size, it’s mainly for two people, and is quite roomy in the front. The back seats are better for sports bags or shopping than for people. To keep insurance premiums down, avoid the turbocharged version of the 1.5-litre petrol engine and stick to the standard unit with 107bhp. The convertible Colt is fun to drive and can be bought for an average of £3,500.
Other convertibles like the Mazda MX-5 have larger engines so although they are cheap enough to buy second hand, they will likely attract higher insurance premiums, and the Suzuki Jimny isn’t exactly the world’s most stylish convertible, so would be scraping the barrel to include. If you can think of any more small-engine convertibles for under £8,000, let us know on Twitter or Facebook – and let’s keep our fingers crossed for some sustained sunshine!