As you’re looking at the best cheap convertibles, you might notice the open version of a car costs more than the hardtop. It’s funny how a car with no roof can cost more than the same car with a roof. It’s like carmakers charge more for less car. However, there’s actually more work to designing and building a Convertible. When you remove the roof, you compromise the structural integrity of the design. Thus convertibles have to be designed to retain their rigidity without a roof. This is why convertibles typically weigh more than their closed counterparts. Further, particularly when you have a power-operated top, the mechanisms responsible for retracting and raising the roof add complexity and cost to the design. This is why few truly cheap convertibles exist. Some, however, do cost less than others. Here are the best cheap (okay, the lowest priced) convertibles offered today.
Audi A3 Cabriolet
Seemingly overnight, the all-new Audi A3 has become the benchmark among entry-level compact luxury cars. With this status, and its relatively affordable pricing, the Audi A3 Convertible’s high style also positions it as one of the best cheap convertible cars currently available. The A3 Cabriolet offers a delectable interior treatment along with delightful road manners and a wealth of features. Audi is well-known for such matters and the A3 Cabriolet solidly lives up to the reputation of its builder. Standard equipment includes automatic xenon headlights, leather upholstery, automatic wipers and Bluetooth. Power comes from a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines; the 1.8-liter produces 170 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs of torque, while the 2.0-liter makes 220 horsepower and 258 ft-lbs. A six-speed automated manual transmission routes power to the front wheels from the 1.8, and all four wheels with the 2.0. Pricing starts at $35,600.
Chevrolet Camaro Convertible
While convertible Chevrolet Camaros seem as ubiquitous a part of American life as the Interstate, the fact of the matter is the second generation Camaros built between 1970 and 1981 offered no convertible roofs whatsoever. Happily, the droptop was brought back for the third generation cars, and is thoroughly woven into the fabric of both the current generation, and its recently bowed replacement. Further, the relatively affordable price point marks it as one of the best cheap convertibles. Engines for the convertible version of the contemporary Camaro range in power from 323 horsepower to 580. For the base model, a six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic can be had as an option. All versions of the Camaro use rear-wheel drive. Standard features include 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity for handsfree telephony and audio streaming, as well as GM’s OnStar telematics system. Pricing starts at $32,200.
There’s an Italian car on the list of the best cheap convertibles? Sure, why not? The cute little Fiat 500c’s power comes from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 101 horsepower and 97 ft-lbs of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a six-speed automatic is optional. The 500c uses front-wheel drive. Standard features include heated mirrors, air conditioning, and full power accessories, plus Bluetooth handsfree telephony and audio streaming along with cruise control. Options include alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and satellite radio. Fiat also offers the 500c Abarth with a 160-horsepower turbocharged version of the 1.4 with a five-speed manual transmission. With the automatic, the Abarth makes 157 horsepower and 183 ft-lbs of torque. Pricing starts at $20,345.
Ford Mustang Convertible
The sleek new styling of the Mustang looks particularly fetching as a convertible. The darling of rental fleets in every sunny locale, Mustang celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. More than just good-looking, the new Mustang is a strong performer. We’re talking engines with output ranging from 300 horsepower to 435, including a new turbocharged 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder with 310-horsepower. There’s also an all-new independent rear suspension system fitted for the first time ever to a mainstream production Mustang. The rear drive powertrain is offered with a choice of a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include xenon headlights, LED taillights, a limited slip rear differential, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, and air conditioning. Pricing starts at $29,300.
Mazda MX-5 Miata
With an all-new Miata coming for the 2016 model year, one of the best cheap convertibles is likely to be even cheaper this fall. Power for the current MX-5 comes from a 167-horsepower 2.0-liter inline four with 140 ft-lbs of torque. The rear-wheel drive powertrain uses a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. A six-speed automatic is an option—but horsepower output drops to 158. Other standard features include a cloth folding top with a glass roof (a folding hardtop is offered as an option), foglights, air conditioning, full power accessories, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player. Pricing starts at $23,970.
MINI Cooper Convertible
MINI redid the Cooper Hardtop for 2015, but the all-new convertible version of the sharp handling Englander is lagging behind by about a year. Rest assured though, this does not diminish the desirability of the sporty little Cooper. Standard features include automatic headlights, full power accessories, automatic climate control, and Bluetooth handsfree telephony and audio streaming. The convertible roof can be opened partially like a sunroof, or completely like a full convertible. Power comes from a choice of three engines; starting with a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four. There is also a turbocharged version of the 1.6 making 181 horsepower, and a higher performing version of the engine good for 208 horsepower. The front drive powertrain offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $25,700.
MINI Cooper Roadster
MINI has announced the imminent demise of the Cooper Roadster. However, even as a lame duck, it remains one of the most personable of the best cheap convertibles. Sharp handling, telepathic steering, and quick acceleration are among its most desirable characteristics. Standard features include automatic headlights, full power accessories, automatic climate control, and Bluetooth handsfree telephony and audio streaming. Nicely bridging the gap between sports car and economy car, power for the MINI Cooper Roadster comes from a choice of three engines – starting with a 121-horsepower 1.6-liter four. There is a turbocharged version of the 1.6 making 181 horsepower; and a higher performing version of the turbocharged engine good for 208 horsepower. The front drive powertrain offers a choice of a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing starts at $26,100.
Smart ForTwo Passion Cabriolet
If you’re looking to get into a new convertible for the lowest price possible, this is where your search concludes. The smart fortwo Passion Cabriolet is the least expensive new convertible available in America. An all-new model is on the horizon, but until it gets here, you’re looking at a 1.0-liter rear mounted three-cylinder engine producing 70 horsepower and 68 ft-lbs of torque feeding the rear wheels through a five-speed automated manual transmission. With a roof capable of opening only halfway like a sunroof, or completely; the Smart car offers flexibility to go with its park-anywhere size, keyless entry, automatic headlights, automatic climate control, heated exterior mirrors, and full power accessories. Options include leather upholstery, heated seats, a surround audio system, navigation, foglights, and daytime running lights. Pricing starts at $17,930.
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
This is going to sound weird, but for a certain generation, a VW Bug Convertible is just as much a part of the American experience as the Camaro Convertible. This is because for many years, the original VW Beetle was the world’s best-selling car. While not as popular, the contemporary version of the Beetle is still pretty nice. Standard features include automatic air conditioning, full power accessories, plus Bluetooth handsfree telephony and audio streaming. Power comes from a choice of three turbocharged engines—a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four, a 210-horsepower 2.0-liter four, or a 150-horsepower 2.0-liter diesel with 236 ft-lbs of torque. The 1.8 gets a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic; the other two get a six-speed manual or a six-speed automated manual. Pricing starts at $25,595.
Like the MINI Cooper Roadster, this is your last chance to get a brand new copy of one of the most innovative convertibles ever offered. Currently in its last year of production, the Volkswagen Eos is the only model on this list of the best cheap convertibles to offer a folding hardtop. Yes, we know, lots of cars have folding hardtops, but the Eos goes a step farther. Within the folding hardtop, there also resides a fully functioning sunroof. This serves as a bit of foreshadowing regarding the nature of the VW, because the rest of the Volkswagen Eos is also very generously equipped. The well-appointed convertible offers dual-zone climate control with Bluetooth audio streaming and handsfree telephony, as well as navigation, a touchscreen interface, a rear wind blocker, plus heated mirrors and foglights – all as standard equipment. Power comes from a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, while a six-speed automated manual transmission feeds the front wheels. Pricing starts at $36,145.