The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and all we want to do is drive around with the top down on a beautiful canyon road. But as much as we like to imagine this ideal with a Bentley Continental GTC in the picture, the reality is that you can get the same wind-in-your-hair experience from a number of more accessible droptops that come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Here are the 10 cheapest new convertibles you can buy today.
2015 smart fortwo Passion Cabriolet: $18,680
Although there’s an all-new 2016 Smart ForTwo hatchback on the way to the U.S. market, for now Smart still sells the convertible version of the old car. The quirky, tiny city car was never a huge success in the U.S. market, and we’ve never been very impressed with its lethargic 70-hp, 1.0-liter engine and clunky single-clutch automatic transmission. But the Cabriolet version is an affordable, easy-to-park choice for sun worshippers who need only two seats and minimal storage space. A convertible version of the new smart fortwo could debut in the next year or two.
2015 Fiat 500C Pop: $21,325
The Fiat 500C stretches the definition of convertible, because some traditionalists might note that it still has full-height doors and windows; only the fabric center of the roof itself retracts, folding neatly above the trunklid. Still, a cutesy affordable convertible is perfectly in sync with the Fiat 500’s mission to serve as, well, a cutesy and affordable city car. Like the regular 500 hatchback, the 500C (it stands for cabrio) packs a 1.4-liter inline-four engine rated for 101 hp. If you’re willing to spend more money, you can even get the 160-hp 500C Abarth — all the better to hear the ribald exhaust note while tearing to the gelato store top-down.
2015 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4×4: $23,990
Although many buyers like to fit hardtops to keep the SUV quieter and better protected from the elements, the Jeep Wrangler comes as standard with a folding soft top — making it the only convertible SUV currently on sale in the U.S. (the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet is deceased and the Range Rover Evoque convertible is still in utero). What separates the Jeep Wrangler from the rest of these convertibles is its breadth of capability. From the affordable Sport model to the rough-and-tumble Rubicon, there’s a type of Jeep Wrangler from everyone. Whether you’re crawling over rocks in Moab or crawling through traffic by the beach, opening the roof only makes the Jeep experience more fun.
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport: $25,735
That the Mazda MX-5 Miata is the world’s best-selling roadster of all time is helped in no small part by its accessibility. For under $30,000, buyers can have a rear-wheel-drive roadster widely accepted as one of the most fun-to-drive small cars for the money. The all-new 2016 model is lighter and quicker than its predecessor, yet it retains all the essential thrill and excitement we’ve loved since the car first hit our shores in 1989. Though the outgoing, NC-generation Miata offered a power-folding hardtop in addition to its cheaper fabric roof, so far Mazda has only introduced the new, ND-generation car with a manually folding top.
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T: $26,415
Though it’s larger than the Fiat 500C, the Volkswagen Beetle convertible essentially has the same mission: Affordable top-down thrills in a city-friendly small package. You get all the practicality and solid engineering of the Beetle hatchback, but with an easy-to-use power-operated convertible top. We spent a year driving a 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Turbo Convertible and concluded the car is best experienced with the roof lowered: ” It took only a few open-air drives for us to remember why we liked this car in the first place. Flaws and all, it still managed to charm us with its classic Beetle looks and fun-loving character.”
2015 MINI Cooper Convertible: $26,550
A brand-new version of the Mini Cooper droptop is on its way, but the second-generation version soldiers on for another year with the same retro style and diminutive size that make it a quintessential Mini. A whole range of models is available, from the base, 121-hp Cooper to the turbocharged, 181-hp Cooper S, all the way up to the wild, 208-hp John Cooper Works. A number of fun features separate the convertible from its hatchback equivalent, like a half-open setting for the cloth softtop and a kitschy “Openometer” that measures how many hours you drive with the top down.
2015 Ford Mustang Convertible V-6: $30,125
Ford’s iconic pony car has been available as a droptop since the very beginning, and the sixth-generation model is no different. The new 2015 ‘Stang convertible offers the same three powertrains as the coupe, with a 3.7-liter V-6 being the price leader, a new turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost sitting in the middle, and the rip-roaring 5.0-liter V-8 leading the charge in the GT model. To celebrate this long-running nameplate’s iconic history, there’s a 50 Years Appearance Package available on the EcoBoost and GT, though adding all sorts of niceties means the convertible can get pricey—a fully loaded GT can approach a whopping $50,000.
2015 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible 1LT: $32,200
With the new, sixth-generation 2016 Chevrolet Camaro fresh off its debut, now might be the time to get a great deal on the outgoing 2015 model while it’s still in dealerships. The base Camaro droptop comes standard with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine, with the SS model providing 426 hp from a 6.2-liter V-8. If that’s not enough, there’s also a convertible version of the supercharged Camaro ZL1, which makes a crazy 580 hp from a 6.2-liter blown V-8.
2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 1.8T Premium: $36,495
As the only luxury nameplate on this list, the new Audi A3 Cabriolet offers a lower starting price than you’d expect from the prestige of the four-ring logo. This new convertible is part of Audi’s entry-level A3 lineup, which also includes the A3 sedan and the upcoming e-tron and TDI hatchback. All are based on the Volkswagen Group’s modular MQB platform, and the A3 Cabrio comes standard with front-wheel drive and the 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine from the Volkswagen Golf. For a bit more money, you can equip your A3 Cabriolet for all-weather duty with the addition of a more powerful, 2.0-liter turbo-four and Quattro all-wheel drive.
2015 Volkswagen Eos 2.0T Komfort: $37,010
Yes, the Volkswagen Eos is still on sale, and yes, it costs more than its upscale Audi equivalent. But the dated Eos does offer a few slick features that the Audi doesn’t, like its power retractable hardtop with a built-in panoramic sunroof. The Eos, which debuted all the way back in 2006, is based on the Volkswagen Golf from two generations back, though it’s received a few minor updates since then. Sales are slow, with only 1,088 sold so far in 2015, but the Eos is still the least expensive retractable hardtop you can buy now that the outgoing Mazda MX-5 Miata PHRT is on its way out as the new, softtop-only ND Miata hits the scene.