After a long, hard winter, most Canadians are looking forward to complaining about the oppressive heat again. What better way to make the most of those hazy days of summer than taking a long drive with the top down in a brand new convertible? While we may not get that many months of top-down temperatures in Canada, there are some solid convertibles that can weather all four seasons. Of course, that wind-in-your-hair feeling can blow a large hole in your budget if you’re not careful, so we tasked our expert panel with finding the best deals.
Mazda MX-5 $29,250-$40,250
Inspired by British roadsters that defined the mid-life crisis car in the ’60s and ’70s, this stylish two-seater was the clear favourite among our panelists. “The MX-5 is one of the best roadsters on the market,” says the Globe and Mail’s Petrina Gentile. “It’s attractive, fun to drive and well-priced.” And unlike those old ragtops from across the pond, the MX-5 won’t spend more time in the shop than on the road. “This car has been around for 25 years,” says radio host and expert mechanic Dave Redinger. “It’s bullet-proof, yet still sporty.” As a two-seater, this is not a car for family types so don’t expect to stuff a lot of groceries into the spatially-challenged trunk. The current design has been around about a decade but its classic styling still draws buyers and the resale value is excellent.
Volkswagon Beetle $29,075-$36,850
Another nostalgic knock-off from a bygone era, our panel says this is the roomiest of our picks with enough legroom in the rear for children or smaller adults. Ron Corbett of the APA calls the soft top on this VW a “multi-layer, fully-lined masterpiece” that won’t leave you struggling to close when the weather suddenly gets wet. Redinger says the Beetle has the best build quality of all our picks and is solid enough to handle all four seasons. Corbett recommends an extended warranty for owners who plan to keep the car beyond five years.
Mini Cooper $29,500-$42,900
A British-made icon now owned by Germany’s BMW, the current MINI is technically unrelated to its predecessor but still capitalizes on its ’60s Euro chic vibe. As a driver’s car, the MINI wins praise from our experts. “It’s possibly the sharpest-handling car on the market and you can’t beat the iconic styling,” says auto-motive journalist Jil McIntosh. Likened to a go-kart by many for its curve-hugging thrills, the soft top on this convertible can be fully retracted or opened just enough to uncover the front seat occupants.
Fiat 500C $17,495-$21,495
This Italian import turns heads with its modern take on a 1950s Fiat called the Nuovo 500. Though not a true convertible, the bargain-priced Fiat sports an old-fashioned, “transformable” soft roof that folds back at the push of a button. “I love the sense of history and the styling points, such as the use of white ivory plastic on the dash,” says Redinger. Although the Fiat was designed by the same person who resurrected the MINI Cooper, Corbett says the Fiat’s “ergonomics are quite good, compared to the scattered controls in the MINI.”
Smart Fortwo $21,150
The diminutive Smart Fortwo looks a little like a clown car, but you’ll get the last laugh by squeezing into impossibly tight parking spaces. It’s also “surprisingly comfortable and roomy,” according to auto writer Nadine Filion, who piloted one across the Polar Circle on an ice road. Like the Fiat, the Smart features a soft, transformable roof that can be peeled back in stages. It scores well in crash tests, but its low weight can induce anxiety in some drivers. “I still white-knuckle it when I’m next to transport trucks on the highway,” says Gentile.
Dave Redinger automotive expert and radio host
Jil McIntosh auto writer with the Toronto Star and Metro
Nadine Filion award-winning automotive journalist
Petrina Gentile producer of CTV and BNN’s Car/Business
Ron Corbett automotive editor at the Automobile Protection Association
How we came up with the ratings
Scores listed are out of 10; the higher the number, the better. Cost of ownership data and predicted reliability data comes from the Automobile Protection Association. Safety data comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Driving experience is the average of scores provided by our expert panel. To determine our top car, we allocated 20% of the overall score to cost, 20% to predicted reliability, 10% to safety and 50% to driving experience.