Roof-down motoring doesn’t have to be the preserve of slick GTs and cool boulevardiers. Here are our six favourite soft-top off-roaders

The great British summer has finally arrived, and that means convertible owners are going everywhere with their tops down. If you fancy venturing off road, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy the panoramic view too. Here are six examples which will allow you to do just that.

1 - Citroën Mehari (1968-1988)

The definition of utilitarian design and simplistic engineering, the Mehari was based on the popular 2CV. Most examples were front-wheel drive, but in 1979 Citroën introduced a version with four-wheel drive. Power came from a 602cc flat twin engine connected to a seven-speed manual gearbox.

The Mehari, which achieved a cult status among fans, was exported around the world, even forming part of the Irish Defence Forces in the 1970s, although today it retains its most significant following in southern France.

Restored examples can be found online for as little as £5000. Watch out for a rotting chassis on well-used models, however.

2 - Suzuki Vitara Cabriolet (1989-1998)

The rough and ready Vitara, which was available in both convertible and hard-top forms, was first introduced to Japan with the Escudo badge and sold as the Sidekick in the US. For the 4x4 models, dubbed JX and JLX, the sole engine was a 79bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit. The Vitara may not have been particularly refined or sophisticated, but it had decent levels of off-road ability.

High-mileage Vitaras can be found for as little as £700, but £1500 will net you a low-mileage model in good condition.

3 - Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-2014)

An object of some confusion from customers, the short-lived and US-only Murano CrossCabriolet was reportedly pushed through to production by Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, who was keen to follow up the spectacular introduction of the Nissan Juke with another quirkily styled crossover. 

Launched as part of the second-generation Murano line-up, the soft-top used a 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine.

Problems focus around the car’s roof operation. Some owners report malfunctions with the roof mechanism, as well as the opening/closing action leaving scuff marks on the seats. US dealers list used examples for around $28,000 (about £18,000).

4 - Jeep Wrangler (1987-1995)

The Wrangler has a reputation for being a true go-anywhere off-roader. Engines included a 2.5-litre four and a 4.2-litre V6. Soft-top Wranglers had ‘half doors’ as standard; full-framed doors were optional, as was a hard-top roof.

The classifieds are full of Wranglers of varying quality. We found a left-hand-drive example in good nick for £4795; low-mileage cars will cost from £6000. Watch out for rust and stay away from any cars that have been modified.

5 - Land Rover Series 2A (1961-1971)

Soft-top Series 2s came with a 2.5-litre diesel engine, although long-wheelbase models had the option of a 2.6-litre six.

The Series 2A dominated the world’s off-road markets. It’s said that in the 1960s Land Rover accounted for 90% of Australia’s 4x4 market.

We’ve found Series 2As for as little as £2000 online, with decent examples for around £4000. While the body seems to age well, it’s worth checking out the car’s electrical systems for any defects.

6 - Mercedes-Benz G-Class Cabriolet (1997-2013)

The open-top version of Mercedes-Benz’s luxury off-roader was introduced in 1997 and featured a powered soft-top roof. Engine options included a 2.9-litre turbodiesel and a petrol V6, although a 340bhp V8 option was added for the G500 in 1998.

The G-Class Cabriolet continued until 2013, when Mercedes released the limited Final Edition to mark the end of production.

Although few early examples are still around, models in Europe are being sold online for as little as £14,000. Thanks to the G-Class’s reputation for near-indestructible build quality, issues are rare, but do check the operation of that powered roof before buying used.

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Our Verdict

Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wrangler is the classic all-American heavy-duty off-roader. It is brilliant off road, but compromised on the tarmac

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Comments
6

289

4 August 2015
....sorry Darren, but if you are going to put articles out like this giving advice, you either need to know what you are talking about or at least do your research!
Without reading the article in full there are glaring errors-
i.e. you suggest in the wording of the article that series 2 Land Rovers were all diesels...this is incorrect the majority were 4 cylinder petrol. Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen's did not have V6 engines...they were straight sixes and fours in the early days other than the awful diesels which included a 5 cylinder engine. The Wrangler was also a straight six, not a V6 (that was much later).
Finally I think the days of a £5k Mehari in good condition are long gone!

4 August 2015
...but wouldn't this serve nicely as a warm-up article for the launch of impending Evoque Cabrio? Just sayin'...

289

4 August 2015
....You cynic, you.... but I follow your drift! ;-)

4 August 2015
The SJ/Jimmny would better meet your title as they can be had for very little and were respectable off road

4 August 2015
Why head the article "cars from £1,500" when only one of the six can be had for that much, and most are considerably more - Merc £14.000, and a decent Mehari is five figures too? I'm with uk_supercar_fan on this!

5 August 2015
I liked the Land Rover Freelander Softback. Not a full-on convertible but a lot of fun.

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