The used car-buying conundrum I was set the other day is more interesting than it first appeared: a four-year-old, four-seat, sporty convertible for £15k. It sounded like a tall order, not least the ‘four-seat open-top’ part. You usually have to compromise when it comes to carrying rear-seat passengers in a cabriolet, but the great news is that the car makers’ dash to fill every conceivable niche is starting to pay off in the used market.
The obvious choice is a BMW 1 Series Convertible. For £15k, you can get a fairly new (2013) example that’ll be fun to drive, and a 120d will also provide impressive fuel economy, with a claimed 60mpg combined. It’ll be a main agent example, too, so there shouldn’t be much to worry about.
Although there are plenty of 1 Series options, an Audi A3 2.0 TDI Cabriolet is equally good to have. A 2012 example with S line goodies and 50,000 miles is a fine option, or alternatively, a 1.6 TDI delivers even better economy and £30 VED. These soft-tops keep on getting better, although not much bigger.
Well, the BMW 3 Series Convertible is bigger than the 1 Series, and with a big 100,000-plus mileage you could be looking at a 320d M Sport. Or if those miles are scary, here’s a wild card: the Vauxhall Cascada 2.0 CDTi SE. It will be a 2014 example and barely run in with less than 7000 miles on the clock.
A Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet also makes sense — specifically a 2014 example with a 1.4 petrol engine and in TS trim. You wouldn’t go wrong with one of those. Again, the mileage will be relatively low and there seems to be a few in circulation at the moment.
However, I also enjoy the distraction of something that doesn’t seem to go with the status quo, such as a Lexus IS250 Convertible. I had completely forgotten they made those. Indeed, I’m not quite sure why they bother, but at least it would never break down. There aren’t many around at all, though.
Talking about rarities, we come to the utterly obsolete: a 2012 Saab 9-3 1.8 T Linear SE. This isn’t everyone’s favourite drop-top, but it has more style than so many. Some may think that £15k would be very strong money, but as far as I know no one is making them any more, so maybe that could be considered a bargain for a future classic.
And finally there is the Mini Convertible. You could get a 2014 Cooper D, which is around in enough numbers to make it a first choice for many, but is it really a four-seater? It'll be a squeeze. Does it fit our buyer’s convertible conundrum? Possibly.