If you’re looking to add glamour to your day-to-day comings and goings, a sleek new convertible can accomplish that for you in very short order. In fact, few things in life are more decadent than driving around in a car with no roof. Particularly if that car is really good looking (which most topless cars have a tendency to be).
One of the reasons for this is convertibles have a tendency to be a bit on the spendy side. Still, as new car pricings go, there are some affordable convertibles out there. Of course, with the average new car transaction price hovering around $30,000 as of this writing (August 2012), the term “affordable” is relative today, more than ever before. After all, when you start talking prices, affordable to some, is “Oh-My-God! How-Much?!? to others.
Particularly when prices start climbing above the $30,000 mark.
For this guide to the most affordable convertibles for 2012, we used a starting MSRP of $31,000 as the uppermost cutoff point. When you examine the ramifications of that, it eliminates cars such as Volkswagen’s EOS, Infiniti’s G37, the John Cooper Works MINI models, and the BMW 1 Series.
However, that cutoff point did leave room for some truly desirable models, as Autobytels’ guide to the best affordable 2012 convertibles will reveal.
Is there anything more romantically American in the automotive spectrum than cruising around on a late August evening around sunset in a Camaro Convertible? With the seductive curves defining the Camaro’s body accentuated by the removal of the roof, a drop top Camaro is one seriously sexy ride. That its base MSRP of $30,180 allows it a spot on the list of affordable convertibles is a serious blessing. Now, we hasten to add, you won’t get one of Camaro’s fire breathing V8’s for that price. But, with a 323-horsepower V6 under the hood, you won’t miss any performance potential, only the classic burble of a high performance V8.
The darling of rental fleets everywhere, if you live in a sunny town frequented by tourists, you’ll see fleets of Chrysler’s newest drop top gliding around your way. Still the Chrysler formerly known as the Sebring has a lot going for it. One of the reasons the tourists favor it is the spaciousness the Chrysler affords. Swallowing four passengers and their luggage is child’s play for the 200 ragtop. Plus it offers decent performance from its V6 engine, reasonable handling, and a comfortable ride. If you’ve been looking for something “mature” in an affordable convertible, your search just ended. You’ve been looking for the Chrysler 200 Convertible.
The only convertible Italian car available in North America with a price tag below $137,000 is the FIAT 500 Convertible. Granted those other Italian models herald from storied builders such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati—however just as those megabuck convertibles will do, the diminutive Fiat also exudes an Italian flair while permitting motoring with the wind flowing through your hair. OK, its granted, you can set the wind to flowing through your hair a lot faster with those other Italians, but that also means the people on the sidewalk will have more time to see you enjoying your Fiat.
Chevrolet may have coined the phrase baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, but we submit the Ford Mustang Convertible is the car most people think of when they hear the phrase sporty American convertible. That the Mustang’s heritage goes uninterrupted all the way back to 1964 helps as well. As one of the best affordable convertibles for 2012, the Mustang offers up a high protein 305-horsepower V6, a comfortable ride, resolute handling and outstanding good looks. With all of that in mind, perhaps that phrase is due a rewrite; it should be baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, Chevrolet—and Mustang
Any list of affordable convertibles without an MX-5 on it is a less than complete list. In fact, a huge part of the Mazda sports car’s appeal is the fact that it is a highly affordable convertible—albeit one that is amazingly fun to drive. The two-seat roadster will be found on every list of favorite sports cars too, for the exact same reasons. When Mazda brought the affordable convertible sports car back in the form of the Miata, the company ignited a revolution in that segment of the marketplace. It also provided those of us with a love of driving more than a few good reasons to take the long way home every afternoon.
The only way any car can possibly be more extroverted than a MINI is to be a MINI convertible. Dominating our list of the most affordable convertibles with two models on here, MINI’s mission in life is to provide driving fun. Interestingly, when you remove the roof, you actually add in even more fun. Miles and miles and miles of smiles are waiting behind the wheel of a convertible MINI. And, to show you just how serious the company is about top-down motoring, every convertible MINI model features a meter next to the tachometer dedicated to measuring the number of hours the car is driven with the top down.
OK, so you’re looking for something affordable in a MINI that’s even more fun than the standard Cooper Convertible? The MINI Cooper Roadster is, in all possibility the car you’re looking for. While all MINI models are sporty, the Cooper Roadster (and its hardtop sibling, the fluidly named Cooper Coupe) actually classify as sports cars. Offering even better handling than the standard Cooper models, and of course the smiling face which is standard equipment on every MINI, the MINI Roadster solidly earns its place on the list of the best affordable convertibles for 2012.
The Smart fotwo is a deceptive car—small on the outside, but big on the inside. When it comes to transporting two people around a metropolitan area, few cars can come close to the benefits of the diminutive size of the fortwo. Parking is a breeze, heck even the sidewalk will do in a pinch (OK we’re kidding about that, but only barely.) It’s good for 36 mpg, and while some would think it should do better, given its size, that’s still better than most cars around town. As a convertible it has no peer. Nothing else this small offers a convertible top. Thus, despite its quirks, the Smart fortwo makes our list of affordable convertibles for 2012.
OK, here’s something to try to wrap your brain around; for 2012, the New Beetle Convertible is actually the old New Beetle Convertible, because the new 2012 Beetle is an all-new Beetle—but the convertible is based on the old New Beetle. Except, the 2012 Beetle isn’t called the New Beetle, it’s just called the Beetle. So the convertible, since it’s still based on the old New Beetle, even though it’s the old Beetle, is called the New Beetle Convertible. But really, there is no new Beetle Convertible on the most affordable convertibles list for 2012, because it hasn’t been introduced yet. But the old New Beetle qualifies, so that’s the one we’ve listed here. Got it?