Five cool convertibles for the Kiwi summer (and yes, one's definitely a Mazda MX-5)
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Summer is very much here (you might remember it from the phrase "summer holiday"). And 2020 is very much behind us, which means a fresh start for a new year.
So why not some fresh air courtesy of a new convertible? There actually aren't as many to choose from as there used to be, a global decline in drop-top sales correlating roughly with the rise in SUVs over the past decade. That's right: people are now spending their discretionary car money on high riding "lifestyle" vehicles instead of convertibles.
Still, that means the drop-tops still with us are the quality ones, so let's go shopping. And yes, we've tried to keep the cost at least in the realms of reality (it's not easy with open-air cars).
How much? $49,595-$54,395
The MX-5 is the utterly predictable answer to the convertible question and yet also one you can't possibly ignore. It's been a brilliant (and brilliantly affordable) rear-drive roadster for over 30 years and the latest fourth-generation model is the best yet - even smaller and lighter than the one that came before.
Right at the end of 2020 we tested the 100th Anniversary Edition of the MX-5: the best model in a range of celebration Mazdas that were launched to celebrate the brand's beginnings as a cork-maker in 1920.
All came in white with special red detailing and trim (an homage to the colour scheme of the R360, the company’s first passenger car).
Even if you can still find one, the 100th MX-5 is now officially out of date. It's more a 101 Edition. Luckily, any MX-5 is pure joy and there's a comprehensive range of soft-top and Retractable Fastback (RF) models available. But we still love the white and red.
How much? $234,000
Lexus doesn't always hit the mark with its sporty models, but it's hard to think of the LC as anything but a sensational coupe. Now, two years in from launch, Toyota's luxury brand has taken the top off the LC to create a flagship convertible.
None of this hybrid business with the LC convertible: it comes only with the 351kW/540Nm V8, giving 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds. It's rear drive, with a Torsen limited-slip differential. A showy car for sure, but also one with plenty of dynamic substance.
Ford Mustang GT
How much? $87,990
Call it cheesy if you must, but it's hard to ignore the emotional and aural delights of a summer drive in a convertible Mustang.
It has to be the V8, because Ford NZ doesn't offer the turbo-four Mustang without a roof. The 5.0-litre makes a healthy 339kW/556Nm and you still get all the regular drive modes, including Sport, Drag and Track.
So it still delivers even when you're not simply cruising, although your Mustang convertible will have to be automatic - the manual is reserved for the hard-top "fastback" GT.
Mini Cooper S
How much? $58,270
Cute as a button, right? And while Minis are never exactly cheap, a sub-$60k price for the Cooper S seems like good value in a convertible context.
It's a fun car in a front-drive way (which is what Minis are supposed to be) and suitably brisk: the Cooper S serves up 141kW from its "TwinPower" turbo engine and you can even still have it with a manual gearbox. A dual-clutch automated transmission is the two-pedal option.
The rear seats are minuscule, but better than none. And they do mean you have extra practicality and load-through when you fold them down.
How much? $79,990-$92,990
Remember how we said off-road lifestyle vehicles were eroding the sales appeal of convertibles? Well, wouldn't it be great if those two things could come together?
Oh hang on, they have. Like the closely related Wrangler, Jeep's Gladiator double-cab ute can go into full convertible mode, with a removable roof. And then way beyond, if you choose to fold down the windscreen and remove the doors ("tube" gate-type things are a Mopar option, or you can just go naked).
Maybe not the machine you first think of when when somebody says "convertible", but you can get more air in the Gladiator than anything else on this list.