Summer has a special place in the heart of motoring enthusiasts. Rather than huddling around the vents waiting for the engine to heat up, it’s time to put the windows down, throw on some tunes, and hit the country backroads with the warm breezes picking up all the old receipts and loose pieces of paper and swirling them around the cabin.
Summer driving, for those who have the ability, is also a time to let the top down. After all, this is the time of year that convertibles were made for. For those who enjoy driving, one would be hard-pressed to find a better sense of bliss than cruising around with the top dropped and the sun beating down. To quote Doug Guthrie at Detroit News, “there is no such thing as a bad convertible on a sunny day.”
That being said, here are seven great convertibles priced under $35,000 that can help you make the most of driving this summer.
1. Mazda MX-5 Miata
The Mazda Miata is among the best-selling roadsters in the world, and has become an icon of the lightweight, compact roadster class. Unlike some other cars that end up as convertible conversions of larger family models, the Miata was developed from the ground up with the pure driving experience in mind. The hard-top convertible model starts at $23,720, and will push out 167 from a 2.0 litre in-line four. In the city, drivers can expect to see about 22 miles per gallon, and about 28 on the highway.
2. Ford (NYSE:F) Mustang
In order to keep the price point below $35,000, this unfortunately means foregoing the V8 version of the Mustang family, in favor of the potent, 305 horsepower V6. At base, this model will run about $27,200 and will give you about 29 miles per gallon on the highway.
3. Chevrolet (NYSE:GM) Camaro
Like the Mustang, the larger-engined Camaro SS would put the price over $35,000, but the 3.6 litre V6 in the LT trim puts out 323 horsepower making it the most powerful model listed here. With ratings of 17 mpg city and 28 on the highway, the Camaro’s extra power over the Mustang doesn’t translate into significant declines in efficiency, clocking in 2 mpg less for urban driving and only one less on the open road.
4. Mini Cooper
Finding a more opposite car to the Mustang or Camaro would be difficult, but hey, different strokes for different folks. If you priorities are not focused solely on power, the Mini convertible brings that iconic sense of British charm to the American market, and with a 27/35 EPA consumption rating, visits to the pump will be fewer and farther between. The base model starts at around $25,000, but the more performance-centric S trim stands at about $28,000, and offers 60 more horsepower over the base model — at almost no detriment to the fuel efficiency.
5. Volkswagen Eos
At $34,650 for the base model, the Eos is easily one of the most expensive on this list. However, Edmunds commends the vehicle’s build quality, which one would expect in more expensive luxury models. A 2.0 litre four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automated manual is good for 200 horse power and an EPA rating of 22/30 mpg. The car is also one of — if not the only — convertible mentioned here to have the Super Ultra-Low Emmissions Vehicle, or SULEV, certification.
6. Fiat 500
New to the U.S. shores after a 30 or so year hiatus, Fiat’s return is marked by the Fiat 500 and its family of unusual editions. While the 500 is not on the forefront of American tastes and preferences, the sub-compact has carved out a niche for itself and developed a following of its own. The convertible, at $19,500 is the cheapest in the series. But for $26,000, one can spring for the C Abarth (pictured above), a factory tuned version that sports 160 horsepower over the base model’s 101. Not surprisingly, the fuel consumption will drop by a factor of five or so miles per gallon, but even in its sporty livery, the Abarth will still average around 30 mpg.
7. Jeep Wrangler Sport
Odd as it is to think of the Jeep Wrangler as a ‘convertible’ in the traditional sense, convertible it indeed is. The base Sport model will run $22,295, and treat the driver to a 3.6 litre V6, four wheel drive, 285 horsepower, and the timeless Jeep look that has barely seen a change since World War II. Notably, the Wrangler is the only ‘convertible’ with any real off-road ability in production.