In the UK market, convertible cars could be seen as a genre of vehicle aimed at the eternal optimist but this country does have the second highest ratio of drop-tops per capita of any in the world so there's plenty of glass-half-full motorists about. It’s not surprising then to see that manufactures fall over themselves to chop the roof off various sports and supercars with varying degrees of success. Removing the roof can often come at the expense of sound driving dynamics but the best convertible cars manage it with very little penalty.
As a result buying a convertible sports car can be be a minefield of shimmying mirrors and dreaded scuttle shake, but if you have a penchant for endless headroom yet still place the thrill of driving at the top of your agenda, these are our favourite ways of enjoying the (lack of) British sun, roof up or down.
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Convertible cars: the main types explained
Before we round-up our evo droptop favorites, we take a look at the different types of convertibles on the market.
Roof designs and folding mechanisms have diversified as the convertible's popularity has risen. From the small aperture of a Targa to a fully reclining hard-top, each topless form offers security, refinement and puts you in-touch with the outside world to varying degrees. Most importantly severed finger tips are no longer being fished out of rusty rain gutters...
Soft-top convertible cars
The humble and original convertible configuration of the soft-top remains. Raised and lowered at the flick of the switch or by an arcing arm - manual is always better - it is light and more easily packaged when down. The multi-layered fabric materials used today for soft-tops do a far better job at insulating the cabin from sound and the elements than the set-ups of old.
The soft top roof’s days looked to be numbered a few years back as the rise of the folding hard-top took hold, but many brands are returning to fabric arrangements in search of the weight saving and packaging benefits they afford. Fabric roofs range from the popper-fixed wrestling match that purports to keep the rain out of a Caterham to the slick sound and weather sealed electric canopy on a Rolls Royce Dawn.
Hard-top convertible cars
Mercedes was the first manufacturer to really mainstream the folding hardtop roof when it launched the first generation SLK. The idea was to improve refinement, but with that came significant weight penalties that often hampered the handling balance. Questionable design was also a compromise, as all too often models would be hit pretty intensely with the ugly stick – Ferrari California anyone?
Since then folding hardtops have found their niche, now usually residing in mid-engined supercars like the Ferrari 488 Spider and McLaren 570S Spider. The apparent weight and packaging penalties don’t seem to have such a negative effect when sitting over a compact cabin as in these models, while usefully aiding refinement.
Targa-roofed convertible cars
The targa roof is a compromise between the full convertible and the fixed roof coupe that allows a more open cabin while retaining the chassis stiffness that is so important to the car’s dynamics.
Porsche has recently re-developed the Targa derivative of the 911. Seating the removable roof section above the flat-six to open a small inlet above the cabin. A similar design can be found in the new MX-5 RF. This halfway house style is the next step on from having a sunroof without opting for a full blown convertible.
Cars with no roof
Doing away with any protection from British inclemency is an option only for a hardcore few. Here, weight shaving takes precedence over purpose and practicality and such cars by nature are not strictly-speaking convertibles.
Totally roofless cars are normally the reserve of the track or, weather permitting, weekend jaunts. So if you’re looking for usability on a day-to-day basis Radicals and Atoms are best avoided.
Best convertible cars top 10
Click the links below to read our full review on each or our top 10 sport saloon models.
- Ferrari 488 Spider
- Lotus Elise Sport 220
- Porsche 911 Speedster
- Mazda MX-5
- Lamborghini Huracan Spyder
- Audi R8 Spyder
- Continental GT
- McLaren 600LT Spider
- Ford Mustang Convertible
- BMW i8 Roadster
Click onto the next page to read the full list of our favourite drop-tops...