Our hottest summer in years is drawing to a close and with it the opportunities to take to the roads in a convertible. Yet cold weather has never really stopped us from driving around with the top down. After all, the UK still tops the convertible and roadster sales lists compared to any European country you care to mention. Even the warm ones.
Something that greatly extends the usability of a convertible is a set of rear seats. Justifying a drop top to your better half that can also do the school run or a big shop is always going to be an easier task than one that only has space for two. Happily, there are some rather excellent four-seater convertibles out there and we have picked some of the very best.
You may never need to travel thousands of miles in your drop top but we have a few here that can crush continents in a single day. If your commute is mostly city-based there are plenty of frugal and fun convertibles to choose from. And if you are worried about having to give up your two-seater sports car thrills, then you may want to take a look at our sporty four-seaters that are every bit as sporty as their less practical counterparts.
The 500c just about qualifies as a four-seater convertible. It has two tiny rear seats that can probably fit a baby or two, although getting a baby seat in there will be a small challenge.
The roof is not quite the fully-retracting type as only the centre section folds back but it still provides an airy feel. If you spend the majority of your time in the confines of crowded city streets then it all makes a lot of sense, otherwise you may need to look elsewhere.
At £14,460 for the base Pop trim it is good value but you only get one 69bhp engine regardless of how much you spend.
Mini Cooper Convertible
The Mini Convertible may not seem like much of a step up from the 500c but you do get appreciably more interior space and the option of three engines ranging from a nippy 136bhp Cooper to the speedy 192bhp Cooper S and the very racy 231bhp John Cooper Works (JCW).
Pricing for the top models once you have ticked a few of the myriad customization options can get somewhat steep. Still, the base Cooper is a reasonable(ish) £19,795 before options and is actually great fun to drive.
BMW 2 Series Convertible
The base 218i Convertible starts at £28,260 and offers such a compelling blend of abilities that the only reason to look higher up in the range is if you crave a bit of extra power. The 252bhp 230i offers plenty of that, allowing you to make the most of the finely-balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis.
If you fancy attending a track day then the 340bhp M240i Convertible is going to be the perfect multi-tasking daily driver for you.
Audi A3 Cabriolet
The A3 Cabriolet is Audi’s 2 Series competitor, at a starting price of £29,685 it is slightly pricier and the front-wheel-drive layout makes it less of a driver’s car, but it feels plenty competent in most conditions and the quattro all-wheel-drive option adds plenty of grip in adverse weather conditions.
A broad range of engine options from a 150bhp turbodiesel up to a 252bhp 2.0-liter turbocharged petrol provide a good blend of economy and speed and there is always the 310bhp S3 Cabriolet option for the power-hungry sorts.
BMW 4-Series Convertible
Not everyone has small children that are willing and able to squeeze into the back seats of a small convertible. If you need the extra space but still want a relatively compact car then the 4 Series is a step in the right direction.
The boot too is bigger, and you won’t have to stretch to the big boy 326bhp 440i to get the best experience either. The mid-range 252bhp 430i is plenty capable and there are also some frugal diesel alternatives too.
Driving around in a diesel convertible may seem strange to some but the quickest model in the range happens to be the 435d xDrive which gets to 62mph in 5.2-seconds (quicker than the 440i) and still delivers a combined 44.1mpg which matches the 420i.
The M4 Convertible is a different beast altogether, its 431bhp elevates performance levels to a whole new level although you will be visiting the petrol stations a lot more frequently.
Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet
Audi have the slightly newer A5 to take on the 4 Series and Mercedes-Benz are also well-placed to steal sales from both of these rivals with their smooth and stylish C-Class Cabriolet.
You get to pick from a whole host of engine options starting at the sensible 156bhp C180 right up to the ludicrous 510bhp C63 S. There are a brace of diesels too although none are quite as potent as the one you get in the 4 Series.
Aside from that, all three German rivals can be had with two or four-wheel drivetrains so the choice really comes down to one of personal taste.
Ford Mustang Convertible
Not everyone wants one of these competent but slightly obvious convertible choices, however, the Ford Mustang Convertible is waiting in the wings for just such shoppers.
The latest generation of Ford’s iconic muscle car is now available in the UK and while it can be paired with a big old V8 and automatic transmission, it also has an independent rear suspension, optional turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and that automatic is a modern 10-speed unit. It also undercuts most similarly powered rivals on price, even if the interior can be a bit plasticky in places.
The 286bhp 2.3-litre EcoBoost motor is just fine but this is a Mustang after all so you might as well spend a bit extra and get the 444bhp 5.0-litre V8.
Range Rover Evoque Convertible
The Evoque Convertible is a different kettle of fish entirely, although it will also appeal to those looking for something that is a bit less mainstream.
The original hardtop variant has been around since 2012 but it has aged rather well, and the convertible version definitely has people doing double-takes to confirm what they have just seen. The base 178bhp motor is not exactly sporty but this car is all about style and it has plenty of that.
The base price of £46,450 is a bit steep but you do get a decent amount of standard kit and the quality of the interior is hard to fault. It can venture off-road too if you are willing to risk scratching that expensive paint job.
Porsche 911 Convertible
The 911 offers a lot of options for those looking for a convertible sportscar with a set of rear seats. They may not be particularly big rear seats, but they do just fine for short trips and you can even fit a baby seat in there if you try hard enough.
The base Carrera Cabriolet has a 370bhp 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine and at £86,700 is rather good value. The all-wheel-drive 580bhp Turbo S Cabriolet is at the other end of the spectrum at £156,000.
Whichever model you go for, budget at least an extra £10,000 or so for a few desirable options as they can get expensive very quickly.
The Italians have made some great four-seater convertibles in the past, the Maserati GranCabrio is possibly the best sounding one of the lot.
While it is still available for sale, the base car has been around for 2007 and the GranCabrio from 2010. That is why we have gone with the brand-new Ferrari Portofino. It uses a 600bhp 3.9-liter turbocharged V8 which outperforms the GranCabrio and its predecessor, the California T by a country mile.
It looks amazing too although you will need around £200,000 for a new one before ticking any options.
Mercedes S-Class Convertible
At the pricier end of the convertible market, Mercedes still holds sway against its natural rivals. The S-Class Convertible is a beautiful mix of modern engineering and classic style, at £114,995 for the ‘base’ S 560, it may even be considered good value when you start comparing it to similarly capable rivals which almost always cost a fair bit more.
The S 560 packs a 469bhp twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 which is more than enough for most. The AMG S 63 offers up 612bhp and a range of visual and dynamic tweaks for an additional £24,700 while the S 65 is another £56,000 on top of that. The big 6.0-liter V12 may be super smooth but it only adds another 28bhp and is unlikely to make it into the next-generation S-Class when it arrives.
The beautifully engineered soft top seals the inside of the car from external annoyances as if it were a fixed roof coupe and even the rear passengers will be cosseted in true luxury as you waft about in your S-Class convertible.
At the very top of the four-door convertible hierarchy sits the Rolls-Royce Dawn. The base car starts at around twice what you would pay for a Mercedes AMG S 63, it may not have twice the power or come with twice as many toys but if you are looking for the ultimate in bespoke luxury and effortless performance, then there is no better option out there.
The twin-turbo 6.6-litre V12 makes 563bhp in standard form or 593bhp in Black Label trim. The attention to detail is absolutely astonishing and each car is a rolling work of art that reflects the owners specific tastes.