Top 3 used convertible petrol cars for £3,000
“Dear Carbuyer: I want a stylish petrol convertible that is reliable, fun to drive with daily driver ability. What does £3,000 buy?”
Despite the often unpredictable weather here in the UK, the convertible car remains popular with car buyers. There’s a good number and a wide variety of used models available, but our particular buyer’s list of essential requirements asks that this car should be fun to drive, with a petrol engine, a roof that’s easy to operate and enough luggage capacity for the occasional weekend trip. Let’s see what we can come up with.
The majority of convertibles fall into three distinct categories. There are those that are specifically designed as a convertible from the start, then you have drop-top conversions of fixed roof hatchbacks or coupes and finally there are standalone convertibles that share the underpinnings of a standard model but get their own distinct bodywork and model designation.
What lies underneath a convertible car can be crucial to the way it drives because the extra strengthening of the fixed roof is removed and the loss in rigidity has to be compensated for. In purpose-designed drop-tops, that strengthening is built into the chassis but convertibles based on fixed-roof cars have to have it added - usually in the form of extra bracing underneath that adds weight.
There’s also the important issue of packaging; convertibles designed as such from the outset tend to do a better job of accommodating that roof mechanism without compromising too much on passenger or boot space. The amount of room in your convertible will also depend greatly on whether it has a folding hard-top roof or a canvas arrangement, the latter taking up much more room when folded. It’s important when buying a used convertible to pay particular attention to the roof, making sure it’s in good condition and works as it should and repairs can be expensive.
There are two-seat and four-seat convertible models to choose from but many of the variants with 4 seats aren’t particularly generous with their rear legroom. If you plan on sitting adults in the back of your convertible, it’s best to focus on cars from the larger end of the scale or things could get a little cramped. Boot capacities vary across model types with some 2-seaters giving plenty of luggage space and some 4-seat cars forcing you to pack very light.
Convertibles may be a small part of the overall UK car market but there are still plenty of used ones about and the good news for our buyer is that the vast majority are petrol powered. Diesel engines still tend to be perceived as a little too dirty and unrefined for convertibles, even if some of the most recent diesel drop-tops do a great job of confounding those expectations. Whatever the fuel being used, most convertible models carry a premium over the equivalent hatchback or coupe, despite invariably offering less interior space and practicality.
For a relatively small budget of £3,000, you do have the pick of some of the very best budget convertible cars. All our picks have a reasonable level of equipment with enough luggage space to cope with shorter trips and are comfortable enough to act as daily drivers, while still being enjoyable to drive...
Top 3 used convertible petrol cars for £3,000
Mazda MX-5: The driver’s choice
For: Fantastic handling, engine and gearboxAgainst: Only two seats, manual roof
If you want a stylish convertible and really enjoy driving, the Mazda MX-5 is the car to have. It follows the classic British sports car format of a front-engined, rear-driven, compact two-seater, so it’s huge fun along a twisty road.
Your £3,000 budget is enough to get into a third-generation model from 2006 with around 90,000 miles on the clock. A 2.0-litre version falls within the price limit but, if looking good is the main concern, the 1.8 litre is more than adequate – and cheaper to fuel and insure.
A low-slung driving position makes the MX-5 feel sporty, and provides a good connection between car and driver. The design and quality are smart, but the dash is unapologetically driver-focused, and this is the only two-seater car here.
The Mazda isn’t designed with practicality in mind – which is only too obvious when you see the tight packaging in the cabin and the small boot. To make matters worse, this 150-litre space has quite a tight opening, too, so it’s best to pack just soft bags when you’re planning a weekend away.
MINI Convertible: The stylish choice
For: Small, fun to drive, stylish interiorAgainst: Wind noise, tiny boot, poor rear visibility
In terms of pose value per pound, little will come close to the loveable MINI Convertible. The cute styling of the hatchback transfers well to a drop-top; and when the roof is folded away, it looks like an old-fashioned pram.
When it comes to handling, though, the MINI is more go kart than baby buggy. Three grand gets you a 2005 Cooper, which has a lively 1.6-litre engine mated to an agile front-wheel-drive chassis. Claimed fuel economy is 38.7mpg, so it shouldn’t cost the earth to run, either.
The MINI has the funkiest design here, full of neat details; the small toggle switches and big central speedo add plenty of charm. Rear legroom is tight, but Isofix child-seat mounts are available if you want to share the fun with young passengers.
At just 125 litres, the MINI Convertible’s boot is the smallest of this trio. The opening is more of a letter box than a bootlid, too – so it’s a space best reserved for briefcases and small bags. Still, on the positive side, how much you can squeeze in is unaffected by whether you have the roof up or down.
Volkswagen Eos: The spacious choice
For: Roomy cabin, secure folding hard-topAgainst: Not many around, roof can be unreliable
The Volkswagen Eos is the laid-back cruiser of this trio. Unlike the other two cars, which feel a little sporty, this Golf-based model has a comfortable, easy-going nature; it’s more about looking good than going fast.
We found a 2007 2.0-litre example with a DSG auto box and 85,000 miles for £2,990. Thanks to its folding hard-top roof, when the bad weather comes, the Eos is the most secure and refined choice here. Just be sure to check for leaks, because roof repairs are very expensive.
Inside, the Eos shares its dashboard with the Mk6 Golf. That means it’s sensibly laid out, well put together and uses high-quality plastics, but it’s far from the most exciting design – which is something to consider if style is important to you.
With the folding metal roof up, the VW provides a generous 380 litres of boot space. Fold the top down, though, and that drops to 205 litres. This is still bigger than in either of the other two cars, however, and there is far more space inside for adults than in the MINI Convertible, especially in the rear.