Spring has sprung, so it’s time to start thinking about an open-top car. Matthew Griffiths picks five top buys, from less than £1000 to £17,500
12 April 2016

Everyone knows the cliché: "don't buy convertibles in spring or summer - that's when prices go up". Spring has taken a while to get going this year, however, so beat the price rise with a look at the best convertibles at any budget now.

Porsche Boxster (2004-2012)

Open-top motoring rarely gets better than a Porsche Boxster. The Mk2 model offers spectacular driving abilities and head-turning good looks in a reliable package, and it can now be had for the same price as a new Dacia. Both engine options are powerful enough, but the 3.2-litre S model is the enthusiasts’ favourite. However, the 2.7-litre version hardly leaves you feeling shortchanged and can sprint from rest to 60mph in 6.0sec.

Few things go wrong on the Boxster, but make sure your prospective purchase has a full service history. This gem can be found in 2006 2.7-litre guise with 74,000 miles showing for £10,500.

Audi S4 Cabriolet (2005-2009)

Conservative and understated styling has helped the Audi S4 to age well. In fact, you’d fool many into thinking that it remains on sale today — and for a hefty sum. It’s well made, has a classy-feeling interior and allows you to cruise along in comfort while enjoying high levels of refinement. To add to the appeal, there’s a stonking 4.2-litre V8 that sends its 339bhp through all four wheels to propel the S4 to 60mph in just 5.7sec. Speed means thirst, however, so be aware that running costs will be relatively high.

The A4 range has, to date, been reliable, but ensure that the fabric roof is in good nick and all switches work correctly. A 10-year-old S4 that has covered 71,000 miles could be yours for less than £9000. 

Ford StreetKa (1996-2009)

If you’re on a budget and want something for a bit of fun, you’d do well to take a look at the little StreetKa. Fords are traditionally great to drive and this open-top one is no exception. It handles keenly, grips well and has accurate, direct steering. The 1.6-litre engine isn’t a traffic-light champion, but it’s zippy enough to keep you entertained.

The StreetKa is cheap to run thanks to decent fuel economy figures and a low insurance group. However, watch out for suspension issues and internal water damage, both traits of careless owners. A 10-year-old, 50,000-mile example can be had for less than £1000.

Volkswagen Eos (2006-2015)

Four seats, a folding hard-top, brand kudos, handsome looks, plenty of engines to choose from, good road manners… the Eos has it all. It’s based on the previous-generation Golf, but the Eos is a better-looking alternative with roof-shedding abilities for when the sun comes out, and you can still take the family with you. It handles competently, with plenty of grip on offer, and body lean is kept to a minimum.

The impressive roof can, occasionally, be the Eos’s Achilles heel, so make sure you check for leaks, squeaks, and rattles. This all-season family car can be on your drive for less than £4000. We found a 2006 2.0 FSI model with 62,000 miles on the clock for that sum.

Jaguar XKR (2006-2015)

Picture it: the sky is blue, the sun’s dipping towards the horizon and you’re in a convertible Jaguar driving through lush green countryside, with the wind in your hair. It’s an evocative thought. Not only that, but a 4.2-litre V8 with 420bhp is at your beck and call, ready to send a throaty roar through its quad exhausts when you mash the accelerator. You’ll be treated to rewarding handling, a well-judged ride, and a luxurious interior.

Be prepared, though, to dig deep to keep it on the road, because running costs are pretty steep. Before you buy, check the electrics and roof operation thoroughly, too. We found a 2007 example with 92,000 miles for £17,500.

Matthew Griffiths

Our Verdict

Porsche Boxster

Does bigger mean better for Porsche’s third-generation Boxster?

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Comments
4

12 April 2016
Irresponsible and poorly researched article.
Suggest anyone considering a boxster googles IMS bearing failure first. It's so well known that autocar should no better than to omit mentioning it.

13 April 2016
steady84 wrote:

Irresponsible and poorly researched article.
Suggest anyone considering a boxster googles IMS bearing failure first. It's so well known that autocar should no better than to omit mentioning it.

This was certainly a problem on the 986 generation (Mk1) Boxster, but the article is recommending a 987 generation (Mk2) model, which had an uprated oil seal which largely cured the problem. I say "largely" because they often still weep a small amount of oil, but nothing to worry about.

14 April 2016
Thanks for correcting me then! A friend of mine had his fingers burned with one of the earlier cars after expecting legendary reliability!

14 April 2016
You're still right to warn people off the 986 Boxster. They may now be very cheap but, consequently, an engine failure would make it an instant write-off. The 987 is a much better bet and, if you're looking for a "Sunday afternoon" car and expect to do only small mileages, the two-year service intervals make it pretty economical to run, as long as you use a good independent specialist. I had one for six years, thoroughly enjoyed it, and was confident enough in its longevity to sell it to a good friend, who absolutely loves it. The main bearing seal always looked slightly oily, but it never dripped oil onto the garage floor and never needed the oil to be topped up between service intervals. One thing definitely worth checking on a secondhand Boxster is how the engine has been used/abused: the engine management system records each instance of over-revving and this can be accessed using a diagnostic computer. I believe that Porsche has used this data to decline warranty claims for engine failures where the engine has suffered abuse.

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