Car Buyers' Guide: Hard or soft — get that top off
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AA Motoring says convertibles now smarter and more robust
Dropping the top and cruising along the beach is a nostalgic notion many of us daydream about, particularly when stuck in traffic on a dreary day and on the way to work. But, with summer just round the corner, there is still time to turn that daydream into a reality.
Convertibles really are summer cars but, over time, the improvements in their technology have led to developments that have resulted in smarter and more robust designs.
Types of convertibles
Convertibles are available with hard top or fabric hoods. Fabric hoods are the lightweight option and usually they’ll have a flexible plastic screen instead of a rear window. These fabric covers don’t last forever and over time they can deteriorate, so it’s always a good idea to check this type of hood on any used convertible before buying.
Fabric hoods are great for small cars as they can maximise the storage on offer by folding into small spaces. They’re also often cheaper to make than hard tops and have a lower maintenance cost because of their easier folding system. This is mainly manual but some — the more expensive hoods — are also power-operated as well.
2104 Audi A3 Cabriolet S Line. Picture / bwmedia
Hard tops use ridged panels that fold and retract into the boot, or compartments that sit just in front the boot. They tend to provide better protection from the elements and use a more complex retraction system than that of fabric hoods, mainly controlled through electrics or hydraulics.
Hard-top roofs can usually be operated only when the car is stationary, not in gear and with the handbrake on. These systems are more complex, so can prove to be more costly to repair. If you’re buying a used car with a hard-top roof, always test it out especially if you’re looking at older models where more wear and tear is likely.
Convertibles need to have more rigidity built into their floor pans to be able to hold the weight of the car.
Their structure doesn’t have the additional support of a roof or pillars, as a typical car does, and this can change the driving characteristics of convertibles.
The temporary roof of convertibles means they are less efficient at blocking out general road noise and provide less insulation.
Before you decide to buy a convertible, we’d recommend taking one out for a test drive on the motorway.
By doing so, with the hood up and then down, you’ll really be able to compare both driving experiences, and discover whether a convertible is really the right car for you.
Buying a convertible that’s brand new does have its advantages. You’ll have a clean slate, everything is new and you can start carefree driving as soon as you pick up your new set of wheels.
These vehicles are now more reasonably priced. For example, the economical Holden Cascada is a convertible that won’t break the bank.
Of course, there are models for those who are after their dream car or want a real head-turner, but convertibles can be a great, everyday car, and the biggest budget isn’t necessarily needed to give you the thrill that comes with dropping the top on the open road.
If you are thinking of buying a convertible, there’s no better time to spring in to action.
You’ll beat the summer rush of sales and be able to plan so you get the car that meets your needs.