Convertibles are defined by having a retractable roof – they represent the wind-in-your-hair dream car designed for pleasure over practicality.
While previously convertibles were purely two-seater sports cars which were also broadly called roadsters, these days you can even find open-air sedan type models. Most convertibles fall within the luxury-range of vehicles, however there are also several affordable models now on the marketplace.
There are two main types of convertible cars, distinguished by their roof type – soft-tops and hard-tops. A soft-top convertible is also known as a cabriolet, cabrio, or spider, and hard-tops are variously described as coupé cabriolets, coupé convertibles or retractable hard-tops.
The following guide will give you some of the key facts about convertibles to keep in mind so you can decide which model is right for you.
As mentioned above, convertible cars range in size from two-seat roadsters to roomier four-seaters. Even if the vehicle seats more than two however, while there are some models which have normal space for adults in the rear of the car, the majority have only enough room for children or pets.
When it comes to cargo space, convertible cars are limited by the roof top being folded down. With the top pulled up however, some models offer a decent amount of cargo space. The best way forward to gage whether you’ll have enough room for your needs is to make sure you have a look at the boot space with the roof in both an up and down position when shopping around.
Soft-top canvas convertibles used to be the original standard, but both canvas and vinyl covers are prone to damage if not looked after carefully. Currently car manufacturers are releasing an increasing range of hard-top convertibles which feature automatically powered retractable roofs that break into two or three pieces and then elegantly lower into the boot. While these are more durable, crime proof and easy to operate, their complexity can often reflect in the price, they add more weight to the vehicle and they also take up more boot space. Modern soft-tops have been improved with multiple layers that protect the car from the elements and reduce noise just as well as hard-tops.
Generally, most mid-sized convertibles use four- and six-cylinder engines, while pricier luxury models mainly use powerful V6 or V8 engines.
Four- and six-cylinder convertibles are able to achieve a good combined mileage in the low-to-mid-20-mpg range, but most eight-cylinder models deliver less than 20 mpg.
Modern convertibles usually feature a fixed or pop-up roll bar to protect the passengers if a rollover accident occurs.
It must be said that most convertibles have small rear windows, which creates large blind spots. If you’re extra vigilant about safety, you’ll ideally want to go for models that offer blind-spot warning systems, parking sensors and rear view cameras.
Premium-brand convertibles will have side airbags that deploy from the seats as a standard, and it’s a good idea to choose this as an extra feature on a less expensive drop top. Look out for airbags that extend upward to protect the head, since convertibles don’t have the protective side curtains that solid-roof vehicles provide.
Top Extra Features
Extra features to consider that will make your driving experience even more luxurious include automatic climate control, heated seats, navigation systems, keyless start-up systems, Bluetooth and an iPod interface. Other additions that can make all the difference are built-in wind deflectors, heated and cooled seats and sun-reflective leather upholstery.
Another factor to think about is that in most convertibles the rear is very compact, so features which make access easier come in very handy. These include front seats that automatically return to their previous position and seatbelts that move out of the way for rear passengers but are still easily accessible for the driver.
Convertible cars are without a doubt one of the top choices you can make when it comes to pure enjoyment while driving. And with larger models increasingly being released, now you can combine a let-your-hair-down sporty feel with the space capacity of more practical vehicles.
Anthony Blascara is a vehicle repair business owner and fan of convertible cars.