Top 10 Cheapest Convertibles

The weather is warmer, the days are longer, spring has arrived, and we find ourselves once again lusting after a top-down road trip. While few of us can enjoy the glamor of, say, a Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible (MSRP: $238,000), there are plenty of more affordable droptop cars. Here are the ten cheapest new convertibles on sale today.

1. 2013 Smart ForTwo Passion Cabriolet

Engine: 1.0-liter inline-three, 70 hp, 68 lb-ft

Base Price: $18,640

What it lacks in space, refinement, and horsepower, the Smart ForTwo convertible makes up for in terms of a teensy footprint. The ForTwo is not one of our favorite vehicles, but it is a reasonable choice for drivers in cramped urban environments. The convertible version uses the same powertrain as the hardtop: a 1.0-liter inline-three engine with just 70 hp, a lurching five-speed single-clutch automatic, and rear-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes six airbags, an audio system with auxiliary input, heated mirrors, and 15-inch alloy wheels. The options list includes a navigation system, a surround-sound system, heated seats, LED running lights, and more.

2013 Fiat 500C rear three quarter 300x187 image2. 2013 Fiat 500C

Engine: 1.4-liter inline-four, 101 hp, 98 lb-ft

Base Price: $20,200

The Fiat 500 epitomizes urban chic, with its small dimensions and cute imported-from-Italy design. The 500C extends that fun to sun worshippers, offering a powered fabric roof that slides back to allow UV rays into the cabin. Unlike many other convertibles, the Fiat 500C doesn’t remove its entire roof, so the folding fabric top could be more accurately described as a big sunroof. Nonetheless, the 500C combines the fun, practical nature of Italy’s cinquecento with the appeal of an open roof. Speed freaks can ante up $26,700 for the 500C Abarth. Its turbocharged 1.4-liter engine offers up 160 hp, its twin exhaust tips produce a supercar-worthy bark, and its tight handling inspires grins.

2013 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary Edition rear three quarter 300x187 image3. 2013 Jeep Wrangler

Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 285 hp, 260 lb-ft

Base Price: $23,190

Many recognize the Jeep Wrangler as a back-to-basics off-roader that, despite an onslaught of road-oriented crossovers, has stayed true to its roots for decades. It’s also important to recognize that the Wrangler, as well as its four-door Unlimited cousin, have folding fabric roofs. The manually operated fabric top is heavier and more difficult to maneuver than on other convertibles, but lowering it produces a vehicle that can ford streams, climb boulders, and sunburn occupants at the same time. For a true wind-in-your-face experience, many Wrangler owners even remove the SUV’s doors, a feat easily accomplished by loosening a couple of bolts — although it’s not recommended for driving in traffic. As a bonus, hardtops are optional for those who use the Jeep Wrangler in the winter and need to keep ice at bay.

2013 Mazda MX 5 Miata profile 300x187 image4. 2013 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Engine: 2.0-liter inline-four, 158/167 hp, 140 lb-ft

Base Price: $24,515

The Mazda MX-5 Miata was our first-ever Automobile of the Year, and it’s still one of our favorite cars today. Its nimble chassis, reasonable entry price, responsive engine, and thrilling manual transmission continue to make the Miata one of the best-driving cars on the market today. And because the MX-5 is a roadster, you and a passenger can enjoy those driving thrills with the sun, wind, and even rain in your faces. Mazda has toyed around with coupe variants, even showing off several concept versions over the years, but to this date every MX-5 sold is a convertible. It’s a tried-and-true recipe that seems unlikely to change any time soon. Track-day enthusiasts and those who brave winter in a Miata generally choose to install rigid hardtops to keep limbs inside and snow outside. The pricey Power Retractable Hard Top is a sensible option for those who want the security of a hardtop as well as the option to go topless.

2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible profile 300x187 image5. 2013 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible

Engines: 2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-four, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft; 2.0-liter turbo inline-four, 210 hp, 207 lb-ft; 2.5-liter inline-five, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft.

Base Price: $25,790

The famous bud vase is gone, but the latest version of the Volkswagen Beetle convertible retains the cuteness that made it a hit. Despite a tiny trunk and cramped back seat, the droptop Beetle is a fun ride for all sorts of drivers: those who love the car’s retro appeal, those who love the taut handling and tidy Germanic design, and those who simply want a cheap and cheerful convertible. There are three ways to enjoy your topless Beetle: the affordable but lethargic 2.5-liter gas engine, the remarkably efficient 2.0-liter turbodiesel, and the feisty 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s shared with the Jetta GLI sedan. We favor the 2.0-liter engines, preferably with a six-speed manual transmission.

2013 Mini Convertible front three quarter 300x187 image6. 2013 Mini Cooper Convertible

Engines: 1.6-liter inline-four, 121 hp, 114 lb-ft; 1.6-liter turbo inline-four, 181 hp, 177 lb-ft; 1.6-liter turbo inline-four, 208 hp, 192 lb-ft

Base Price: $25,850

The Fiat 500 may be smaller, but the Mini Cooper Convertible gives the Italian a run for its money in terms of urban chic. Its cramped 2+2 layout means the Mini can only carry small children in the back seat, but all passengers will enjoy open-top driving in the British-slash-German Cooper. As with all Mini models, power choices range from the thrifty naturally aspirated engine to a furious John Cooper Works version, the latter complete with a popping and snarling exhaust. Any model is inherently satisfying to drive, with responsive steering and agile handling. Of course, owners can trick out their Mini with hundreds of accessories, paint schemes, and upgrade parts available in the dealer catalog, ensuring that no two Mini Cooper Convertibles will look alike as they search for the sun.

2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster rear three quarter 300x187 image7. 2013 Mini Cooper Roadster

Engines: 1.6-liter inline-four, 121 hp, 114 lb-ft; 1.6-liter turbo inline-four, 181 hp, 177 lb-ft; 1.6-liter turbo inline-four, 208 hp, 192 lb-ft

Base Price: $26,250

The back seats in the Mini Cooper Convertible are close to useless, so why not ditch them altogether and buy the Roadster instead? Based on the two-seat Mini Coupe, it is as much as 50 pounds lighter than an equivalent four-seat Convertible. You get the same pop-up electric-operated spoiler as in the Mini Coupe — and with the power-folding soft top raised, the same annoying blindspots. Nonetheless, the Roadster is just as much a riot to drive as the Convertible. It is rewarding on open roads, small enough to slot into busy city traffic, and cheap enough to sate your sun-tanning needs without breaking the bank. You can’t bring more than one passenger, but then again, we’d argue you can’t in the Cooper Convertible either.

2013 Ford Mustang convertible front three quarter 300x187 image8. 2014 Ford Mustang

Engines: 3.7-liter V-6, 305 hp, 280 lb-ft; 5.0-liter V-8, 420 hp, 390 lb-ft; 5.8-liter supercharged V-8, 662 hp, 631 lb-ft

Base Price: $27,995

An American icon for almost 50 years, the Ford Mustang remains one of the most popular convertibles on this list. The car offers something for everyone: efficient V-6 engines and smooth automatic transmissions for cruising, fire-breathing V-8s and Brembo brakes for drag strips and road courses. The quintessential American muscle car looks equally at home outside an ice cream parlor, at the beach, or in a trendy shopping district. A long list of options, including three engine choices (stretching to the maniacal 662-hp GT500) means there is a Mustang convertible for everyone. A starting price below $30,000 helps keep the car affordable for almost everyone, too.

2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible front three quarter 300x187 image9. 2013 Chrysler 200 Convertible

Engines: 2.4-liter inline-four, 173 hp, 166 lb-ft; 3.6-liter V-6, 283 hp, 260 lb-ft

Base Price: $28,095

Once known as the Sebring, today’s Chrysler 200 is a much-improved car since the Detroit company’s bankruptcy led to a product overhaul. Even so, the 200 convertible isn’t our favorite convertible, but it is an affordable option with seating for four adults. Although many convertibles offer only one or the other, the Chrysler 200 gives buyers a choice between a standard power-folding soft top and a powered hard top (the MX-5 Miata also offers both options). Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a security alarm, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, LED interior lighting, heated mirrors, and the ability to lower the convertible top from the keyless-entry remote.

2013 Chevrolet Camaro rear three quarter 300x187 image10. 2013 Chevrolet Camaro

Engines: 3.6-liter V-6, 323 hp, 278 lb-ft; 6.2-liter V-8, 400/426 hp, 410/420 lb-ft; 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, 580 hp, 556 lb-ft

Base Price: $31,560

Just like the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro convertible’s retro styling helps it look at home nearly everywhere. Also like the Mustang, the Camaro also offers a range of models to suit various buyers: automatic or manual transmissions; V-6, V-8, and supercharged V-8 engines. An updated 2014 Camaro was introduced at the New York auto show and goes on sale this fall. It benefits from a handful of visual tweaks. While we think the lighter, more responsive Mustang is more fun to drive than the Camaro, either car is an excellent pick for affordable top-down cruising.

By Jake Holmes