The five best convertibles under £5k

Lexus SC430: the odd styling includes a folding hardtop, which makes this car a joy to drive all year round

They are scarce at this time of year, but if you keep a close eye they are there. Lured out by blue skies, sunshine and the first mild temperatures, convertibles are once again appearing on our roads.

“Poseurs,” you might think. But let’s be honest: it’s just jealousy. After all, who doesn’t like a bit of al fresco driving on a glorious spring day in the British countryside?

Of course, with scarce money available such a hedonistic car is definitely an indulgence. But not all. Because even with used car prices as high as they are right now, it’s still possible to buy a cheap convertible that will blow your fancy.

We’re not talking about bargain basement bangers, either. For £5,000, it’s very possible to get your hands on a convertible that’s usable, reliable – and, most importantly, will help you feel good in any weather.

Mazda MX-5 Mk2 (1998-2005)

Mazda MX5 Mk2.5 SVT SportMazda MX5 Mk2.5 SVT Sport

Mazda MX5: get a good one and you’ll reap the rewards – Dave Clarke Photography / Alamy

Let’s start with the obvious solution. If open fun is what you’re after – with no other requirements than that – the second-generation Mazda MX-5 is pretty hard to beat for the price.

This budget buys you one of the best available, although you’ll still need to check carefully for rust, which those nimble cars are particularly prone to.

But get a good one and you will reap the rewards. The MX-5 is small, underpowered and plasticky but it’s light, nice and beautifully balanced, making it a car you can have a lot of fun in without threatening your licence.

Price to pay: from £1,500

We got: 2005 MX-5 1.8 Euphonic, 44,000 miles, full service history, £4,790

Look out for: rust everywhere but especially around the sills and wheel arches, contact with the rear wheel rim and camber, damp/smuddy interior, tatty roofs

Lexus SC430 (2001-2009)

2009 Lexus SC SC4302009 Lexus SC SC430

Lexus SC430: just plain, rather than offensive – Drive Images / Alamy

If someone told you that you could buy a large four-seater convertible with a leather-trimmed interior, advanced sound system and a V8 engine for less than £5,000 – and it would be reliable – you’d think they’d be lost. it.

But that’s exactly what the Lexus SC430 is and these days £5,000 – just under – can buy you a tidy example with decent mileage and a full history.

True, the SC430 isn’t the prettiest car of its kind, but it has odd tapered lines that are only oddly tapered rather than offensive. What’s more, the odd styling hides a folding hardtop, making the SC430 a pleasure all year round, keeping out the worst of the winter weather. All this makes the SC430 something of a hidden gem.

Price to pay: from £4,500

We got: 2001 SC430, 88,000 miles, full service history, £4,950

Look out for: leaking lower radiators, rough riding early cars, corrosion around rear subframe and axle, leaking hard seals, damp carpets

Volkswagen Golf convertible Mk6 (2011-2016)

Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet 2013Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabriolet 2013

Volkswagen Golf Convertible: looks more upmarket, roof up or down – Wing Lun Leung / Alamy

These days, Volkswagen would rather sell you a pseudo-SUV T-Roc but a Golf Cabriolet, vaguely reminiscent of a late 1980s Sloane Ranger, looks somehow nicer, roof up or down.

This sixth generation version (we’re now on the Mk8) was the last Golf to be offered in cabriolet form. It’s not a big deal on the handling side, but it gives a decent amount of space for four people living in a great environment – and, of course, access to sunlight – at a very reasonable cost.

Diesel versions help keep costs even lower, although they do make you feel the clattery engine note, meaning the best variants of the Golf Cabriolet are those with the punchy 1.4-litre petrol engine.

Price to pay: from £4,000

We got: 2012 1.4 TSI GT, 97,000 miles, full service history, £4,995

Look out for: Faulty DSG automatic gearboxes, timing chains on petrol engines

MG IT (2002-2011)

2002 MG TF 160 VVC2002 MG TF 160 VVC

MG TF: prices are extremely reasonable – Car Picture Library / Alamy

No, we didn’t say goodbye to our senses. The MG TF (and especially its predecessor, the MG F) may have been notorious for its propensity for head gasket failure, but by now most examples have undergone remedial work in the form of a stronger gasket (and if they have not done so). , proactive change is not too expensive).

That leaves you free to enjoy the IT’s neat mid-engine handling and sharp styling without fear. In fact, many journalists point out that the previous F was always the car that should have been the IT, which has a lot in common, especially in the form of a top-spec 160, which offers an exciting driving experience and speed the Mazda MX owner. -5 can only dream.

Yes, the interior is a bit naff, and yes, you’ll look a bit silly if you buy a yellow one – but there are plenty of other colors available. Also, given the reputation of IT, prices are extremely reasonable.

Price to pay: from £1,500

We got: 2003 1.8 Sprint 160, 48,000 miles, full service history, £3,995

Look out for: head gasket failure (try to buy with a Klinger type head gasket fitted), rusty subframes and front arches, leaking door mirror seals, tatty roofs, cracked plastic rear windows

BMW 3-Series Convertible E93 (2007-2012)

2010 AC Schnitzer E90 (E93) BMW 3 Series Convertible2010 AC Schnitzer E90 (E93) BMW 3 Series Convertible

BMW 3-Series: stick with the six-cylinder models – Matthew Richardson / Alamy

No list of fun convertibles on a budget would be complete without a 3 Series of some sort; in this price bracket, the fifth generation E93 is a version that rules the roost.

There is a caveat, however: the four-cylinder engines of the 318i and 320i versions are best avoided; not only are they a bit underpowered (this is a heavy car, partly due to the folding hardtop), they’re also renowned for reliability.

Instead, stick to the six-cylinder models if you can – there are plenty of examples within this budget. They will deliver the lovely gravelly engine note characteristic of a BMW straight six, as well as neatly balanced handling, a smart interior and very respectable performance. But be careful not to buy a battered and trashed example – such a car can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Price to pay: from £3,500

We got: 2007 325i SE, 96,000 miles, full service history, £4,990

Look out for: diesel particulate filter (DPF) failure, cracked alloy wheels, rattly interior trim, poor roof alignment, timing chain issues on four-cylinder models


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