In 2016, the convertible is defined by cars like the Ferrari Spider, the Dodge Viper or the Mercedes E-series, and for mere mortals, the price tag can seem a little daunting. The models mentioned come in well over $40,000, and a few even crack the $100,000 ceiling. If you look closely though, intriguing new convertibles can be found for under $40,000. Some small subcompact models and micro car convertibles actually sell in the $15,000 to $20,000 range. If you always wanted a drop top in your life, here’s fourteen 2016 model convertibles priced less than $40,000.
1. MAZDA MIATA MX5 CONVERTIBLE
When it was first developed, the Mazda Miata recalled the old MG roadsters from the ’60s and ’70s. With the light weight, double wishbone suspension and a quick engine, the car caught the imagination of the public. Nobody could resist the fun it represented. The new Miata MX5 goes after the same buyers with an all new reinvented Miata. The 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine delivers 155 hp and 148 ft/lbs of torque. While the Miata responds well to a driver’s need for speed, it won’t jump out of your hands. Ease of driving convinces a lot of buyers that the price isn’t the only thing that’s right. The straightforward simplicity in the interior and sharp aerodynamic lines in the exterior adds up to an attractive car. It’s priced much less than cars from BMW or Audi. It occupies an under-populated niche in the market with that price tag.
2. FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE
Few can doubt the Mustang’s pedigree or its muscular looks. The popular car beat the model-T sales records when it appeared on the scene in the 1960s. The Mustang’s long hood and short deck is best shown off with a drop top version, and the convertible is the most desirable model out there. But for the humble adventurers who turn to the Mustang for sustenance, the rag-top looks expensive. The good news is that it’s less expensive than the Camaro. The latest Mustang offers more interior space, a mean looking trapezoid grill and bright, fun paint schemes. The exterior compliments the 300 hp power drive. The four-wheel disc brakes and the independent rear suspension make it a fun ride. With the 2.3 liter Ford eco-boost engine option, the Mustang generates a whopping 320 ft/lbs of torque, so the car gets off the mark quickly.
3. CHEVROLET CAMARO CONVERTIBLE
The Chevy Camaro is In the same price range as the Mustang and courts the same audience. The sixth generation Camaro convertible is not just divorced from the old Firebird. It doesn’t share much in common with any vehicles in the lineup. So with an all new beginning, the Camaro easily answers the challenge that the Ford Mustangs posed. The Camaro convertible often exceeds its Spartan neighbor with its inventory of turbo-charged 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines. It has even given the Corvette a run for it’s money. The Camaro’s new sixth generation styling turns many heads. The ordinary people who love it get some convincing power. Because it’s built on a lighter chassis, the Camaro convertible responds quicker and corners faster. The suspension gives drivers one of the softest, most comfortable rides found in a convertible, according to Chevrolet engineers. Chevy is proud of it rag-top. It opens and closes mechanically, and will do so at 30 mph.
4. BUICK CASCADA CONVERTIBLE
You must reach back into Buick history for the inspiration for the new model, the Cascada. It’s the first convertible from Buick in over 15 years, and it recalls the Reatta and Riviera, both models dating from the 1990s. It was developed by GM/Holden in Australia and a German Opel team. The Buick gets more credit for its luxury cars in places outside the US. If appearances matter, it looks more luxurious than sporty, but it does offer bucket seats, twin spoke, bi-color alloy wheels and a rag top to lend it a youthful, aggressive appearance. With a turbo-charged 1.6 liter engine producing 200 hp and 207 lb/ft of torque, the Cascada is no dog taking off from a stop, and it reportedly is easy to handle on the road. It looks like the perfect convertible if you don’t enjoy your BMW.
5. VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE CONVERTIBLE
The VW bug convertible found its way into this country because people wanted it for the gas mileage. Then many believers fell for its funky counter-culture identity. VW dropped the bug completely from the lineup when they went up-market, but they brought it back. They reasoned that the old crowd got rich, but mid-life angst drove them to buy a bug again. These tales embarrasses boomers, but listen to its present marketing. “You can get a breath of fresh air before the turbo charged engine whizzes you away. There must be something green about it, though the mileage is a rather middling 24/30 mpg. VW equipped it with an automatic top-dropper, and equated it to a lot of fun. It certainly looks like fun. In the same price range, the Mini Cooper convertible looks like a bit more fun, but the Volkswagen is probably more mechanically reliable.
6. CHRYSLER 200 CONVERTIBLE
Chrysler’s mid-level entry now has a convertible, a car with a lot of speed, style and comfort. It’s one of those convertibles you can show off anywhere. It just looks good. The beautiful interior is there, with all the details. The sparkling exterior surfaces and edges with the bold, but classic lines continues a theme running through all Chrysler’s cars. As the heir to the Sebring and its convertible legacy, the 200 was bound to come out in a drop top, and it looks like a car priced twice what you will end up paying for it. That alone might be a good reason to buy. It’s powered by a V6 with plenty of pop, seats four although the back seats are pretty cramped. Remember the Sebring’s back seat? For the money, the convertible is a good buy. It’s not a car you’ll want to get in and out of quickly.
7. DODGE CHALLENGER CONVERTIBLE
The Dodge Challenger Convertible is in its third incarnation since the model started in the 1950s. It is the most best pony car to challenge the Mustang and Camaro from the Dodge/Chrysler family. You’ll get more power with this car. The current Challenger Convertible offers a monster 6.4 liter V8 engine that produces a whopping 485 hp and 405 ft/lbs of torque. The incredible power of this car makes the convertible version all the more inviting. Much of the exterior styling is based on the iconic Challenger from the ’70s. The nose of the car generates the lines that flow back to define the contours of the surfaces. In the interior, the package features a Uconnect system, a touch-screen and stellar audio system. The focus of this car is power, so it may be a sleeper in the convertible category
8. BMW 3 SERIES CONVERTIBLE
It may be more natural to think of your BMW as a convertible than a hard-top, even if most of its sales are of the latter type. The style and power that made BMW famous is best expressed in the convertible. All that means is that a BMW looks completely in its element with the top down. What you may not know is that the 3-series BMW convertibles are actually affordable, coming in well under $40,000 and worth every penny. With a 3.6 liter engine you’ll get 230 hp so you’ll be road-hugging it all the way with this nimble, perfect sports car ride. With a 3 Series convertible, nobody can argue with your taste in cars.
9. AUDI A3 CONVERTIBLE
The Audi A3 Convertible makes it into this price range, but barely. The two door cabriolet model offers buyers a luxurious interior, both significant power and good gas mileage and a generous standard package. Though the base price is only one below the $40,000 threshold, it should make most motorists happy. The gas mileage runs 24 city/35 highway. This front wheel drive convertible has a 1.6 liter inline four cylinder engine that produces 170 hp and 200 ft/lbs of torque. It offers two eight-way adjustable leather bucket seats, cruise control, external temperature display, audio controls on the wheel, ten speakers, Bluetooth wireless phone and audio. The A3’s handling and power at the price they’re asking makes this an excellent buy.
10. BMW 2 SERIES CONVERTIBLE
BMW’s jack of all trades, the Series 2 rear-wheel drive sports car comes in a convertible with a 2.4liter four-cylinder engine at the base level that produces 240 hp and 255 ft/lbs of torque. It’s a quick car. It gets 22 mpg city/ 35 mpg/ highway mileage. BMW’s Track Handling package offers a standard steering and brake system for more corner hugging action than the 2015 model. You’ll enjoy that when you’re tearing up the road. It has a six speed manual transmission and an 8 speed automatic if you just want to enjoy the drive. Upgrades include a 3.0 liter turbo six that produces 320 hp and all-wheel drive if you really want to feel like the car has everything, but critics doubt a car like this needs all four wheels working except in areas with inclement weather.
11. SMART FORTWO CONVERTIBLE
The Smart car company produces micro cars like the Fortwo. It even offers a rag-top version, although it’s only a cloth sunroof that pushes back to the rear deck. Micro-cars are half a car length long and narrower than standard cars. With the convertible, the pillars and cross frames stay, enclosing the cab. If you look hard at a profile of a Fortwo, you’ll wonder where the trunk went to. It doesn’t exist. With a turbo-charged 3-cylinder engine, the Smart Fortwo drop top produces as much horse power as the 1988 Mazda B2200 pickup, that is, about 90 hp. Combined with a widened body, wide enough to comfortably seat two people, the Fortwo has become an acceptable form of transportation. The seats are comfortable. The car’s incredibly easy to park. Though advertised as a city car, it reportedly takes to the open highway without alarming the occupants.
12. THE FIAT 500C CONVERTIBLE
The Fiat 500C has earned many admirers because of its economy, ease of driving and unusual power, but what fascinates the most is the top’s operation. The cloth top rolls back on the frame like the old Renault V-cars you see in Postwar Europe photos. Push a button on the overhead console, and the Fiat 500C’s electronic rag top automatically rolls back to one of three settings: The first is a standard sized moon roof. The second setting opens the top to the back window, and finally, the third opens the car to the deck. Rumor has it, the roof folds into the trunk, but it’s hard to imagine that by looking at it. If you want economy both in sticker price and at the gas pump, the Fiat 500C convertible is for you.
13. MINI COOPER CONVERTIBLE
The Mini Cooper shows off its legacy of convertibles by offering an electric three position soft top with a heated rear window. With the bonnet stripes, it’s not hard to recognize the Mini Cooper Convertible and it starts at a reasonable price. The engine pumps out an impressive 120 hp, and the car tops out at around 120 mph down the stretch, not that racing on the through-ways is the reason to buy this car. It shares some things with the BMW parent company’s 2 Series cars like the platform and the engine. The Mini offers a warm and cold weather package that includes heated seats. The car comes with climate control, bucket seats and brushed alloy dash. The exterior is getting new wheels for 2016, and includes fog lights, a chrome strip and white turn signal lights. Read your warranty documentation closely because the language can be a little confusing.
14. TOYOTA GT86 CONVERTIBLE
Sharing a platform with the Scion FRS, Subaru BRZ, Toyota’s newest convertible, has finally arrived in 2016. Both Scion and Subaru have failed to get their convertible model beyond the concept car stage, but Toyota is bringing it out the gt86 convertible in the spring, they say. This is supposed to be the car that happily marries the best elements of Toyota and Subaru. It’s basically the gt86 hardtop from 2015 with some tweaks. The interior has been overhauled, and a new rear end was designed for the convertible. There’s a new fiberglass body to give it a weight advantage. The electric cloth top folds down into a compartment below the deck surface, so the roof piece disappears completely behind the two front seats. Inside, the technology package is significant and there’s more leg room.
The convertibles available in 2016 for less than $40,000 offer a wide array of power, style, economy and cultural identity stuff. The best way to experience any or all of them is ask for a test drive. You want to be certain to get the fit right.