Currently reading: Top 10 best convertibles and cabriolets 2024
Alfresco driving is a great way to refresh the senses, whether the sun's out or you're just hoping for the best

The UK remains one of the world’s most receptive markets for open-top cars. Explaining why has always been tricky. Is it because of our changeable climate? Or is it simply that we’re a nation of car lovers and there’s no better way to enjoy driving than with the roof down?

Whatever the reason, the choice we have when it comes to cabriolets and convertible cars remains pretty broad. Among the sports cars, compact cars, grand tourers, mid-engined supercars and others, nobody in the UK could claim to be starved of options.

Our list here covers the full spectrum of convertibles and cabriolets, but all of them share an ability to be used every day. That means we’ve left out the hardcore lightweight specials with a Heath Robinson roof mechanism and the extreme hypercars that are more Targa-tops than true roadsters. 

Some of our top 10 cars are more affordable, others more exotic and expensive - but every one of them is a great way to enjoy the elements. All have the ability to invigorate beyond the sum of their parts and each can turn an ordinary journey into a moment to savour.

If you haven’t experienced open-top motoring before, you really should – and any of these machines would provide an excellent introduction.

Top 10 best convertibles and cabriolets

1. Mazda MX-5


There’s a reason why the Mazda MX-5 is the world’s best-selling roadster.

Actually, there are many. Nearly 35 years after the original made its debut, the compact Japanese two-seater continues to serve up affordable driving fun and represents one of the quickest and easiest ways to enjoy good weather at the drop of a hat (or roof).

A large part of the MX-5’s appeal lies in its traditional front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout, which delivers agile, engaging, throttle-adjustable handling.

Then there’s the fact that it retains largely the same compact footprint as the 1989 original and weighs around 1000kg. Few driver’s cars feel as lithe and right-sized on the road. 

It also means that even the entry-level 130bhp 1.5-litre car feels zingy enough, although the more muscular 181bhp 2.0-litre model gets firmer suspension, a strengthening strut brace and a limited-slip differential.

The car's manual fabric roof can be flipped down in seconds with one hand too and raised just as easily when the weather closes in, without you leaving the car. It’s a brilliantly simple design.

For those seeking a little extra security and comfort, the MX-5 RF features a powered folding hard-top.

Whichever version you choose, the MX-5 is perfectly placed to make the best of the sunshine.

The MX-5 is pretty much as easy to live with as any Mazda, thanks to its light and precise controls, excellent build quality and low running costs.

Yes, the cabin is cosy-small and the boot is just 150 litres, but there’s enough space here to handle weekends away and sufficient refinement and comfort to ensure that the daily commute needn’t be a drag, particularly when the sun is shining.

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2. Porsche 718 Boxster


It would be a stretch to call the Porsche 718 Boxster one of Porsche’s best-kept secrets, but its entry-level status and the shadow cast by the legendary 911 mean this mid-engined machine doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Because when the roads are good and the sun is shining, few cars are more entertaining than this.

The arrival of four-cylinder engines in 2016 robbed the Boxster of some of its audible appeal, but there’s no doubting the potency of the turbocharged units, which knock the old flat sixes for, erm, six when it comes to straight-line pace.

If you do want the full mechanical orchestra, the 4.0-litre GTS will happily provide it – or if you have a sky’s-the-limit budget, there’s even the epic, 911 GT3-engined, £123,000 Porsche 718 Boxster Spyder RS.

All Boxsters get better when the roof is down: something that can be easily achieved with the touch of a button. Speaking of which, once the fabric covering is stowed, you’re treated to buffet-free progress, meaning topless long-haul trips aren’t a chore.

Regardless of engine (right now, the 2.5 GTS and 2.0 T models are off sale in the UK), it’s the Boxster's chassis that shines the brightest, with the perfectly balanced, tactile handling drawing you into the action. Then there’s the perfectly weighted steering, the strong and delicately balanced grip, the cast-iron body control and brakes that are as progressive as they are powerful.

Take things a little easier and you will discover an interior that’s roomy and rich in material quality, plus a pair of luggage compartments (one front and another rear) that make this one of the most practical two-seat drop-tops.

Sure, it’s not cheap, but the incredible engineering and depth of ability on offer make the Boxster feel like it’s worth every penny.

3. Maserati MC20 Cielo


Mid-engined sports cars and supercars were for so long far better sampled as hard-top ‘berlinettas’ than cloth-roofed ‘spiders’, because they traded so much body rigidity for that convertible status. But modern carbonfibre-tubbed supercars like the Maserati MC20 are changing all that.

While this car’s construction is one of the reasons that it makes such a good convertible conversion, it’s not the only one. The MC20 is a supple-riding, light-touch grand tourer among mid-engined options. It has surprisingly gentle suspension, fluent, low-effort steering and a turbocharged V6 engine with lots of accessible torque that responds well to a more relaxed pace. 

Remove the roof and you can simply enjoy more of the car’s charms in a richer groove and in the laid-back touring mode of operation that its tuning encourages.

The roof itself is a folding metal panel with a built-in photochromic glass panel - so, unlike with so many cloth roofs, you needn’t fold it back at all to enjoy an enhanced view of the world outside.

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4. Bentley Continental GTC


Could this be the ultimate iteration of the Bentley Continental GT? If you’re going to have one of the most opulent, expensive and attention-grabbing grand tourers of the lot, you might as well go the whole hog and choose the convertible, so you can more clearly see the world that you’re lording it over.

You can have it with Bentley's hugely decadent W12 (although it’s soon to be pensioned off), but the Conti is at its best with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 and in driver-oriented S guise.

With 543bhp, it has more than enough velvet-lined muscle to get a real wriggle on when you’re in a hurry, while aurally it runs the gamut from bellowing brute to something altogether softer and more restrained when just cruising.

The V8 also acts like less of a boat anchor in the nose, helping the big Bentley feel remarkably light on its feet when pressing on through a series of corners.

Of course, it's still a luxury GT at heart, so the air suspension can waft with the best of them, while the interior embraces you and three travelling companions in true splendour. The richness of the materials, quality of the craftsmanship and sheer sense of occasion are hard to beat. 

Throw in the appeal of a folding fabric roof that’s coupé-quiet when erected yet allows you bask in the glow of admiring (or resentful) looks in a matter of seconds and you have one of the most opulently desirable drop-tops on the planet. Just add the Côte d’Azure for the ultimate convertible experience.

5. BMW 4 Series Convertible


Like the BMW Z4 roadster, it has swapped a folding metal roof for a lighter cloth affair; it weighs 150kg more than an equivalent coupé because of the structural reinforcements necessary to compensate for chopping off the roof; and it has the same rather controversial radiator-grille styling that has attracted so much criticism (about which you can make up your own mind).

At the upper end of this four-seater's model range are the four-wheel-drive M4 Competition and M440i xDrive, which trade on plenty of sporting aggression and driver appeal. Elsewhere in the range, there's now only the entry-level petrol 420i, BMW having removed the mid-range petrol and diesel models from showrooms. 

BMW has boosted cabin isolation and cruising refinement in this car by quite a margin. It's the sort of convertible you can easily hold a conversation in when the roof is down and the windows are up. But if you want a more refined version, best avoid the M440i and its run-flat tyres.

Driver appeal is present to greater effect than it was in the floppier former version and perceived cabin quality has likewise taken a leap.

This is a very complete convertible, in other words and - front-end styling aside, perhaps - an easy one to recommend to anyone.

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6. Mercedes-Benz CLE Cabirolet


If you liked the Mercedes CLE, the drop-top CLE Cabriolet might be the best choice for you if you’re after refined thrills and excellent cruising manners. 

The CLE Cabriolet is the largest convertible in the mid-sized segment, but don’t let that put you off. It drives every bit as well as the coupé, matching its hard-top counterpart in terms of refinement, comfort and technology. 

Its comfort is bolstered further by the standard fitment of Mercedes’ Aircap feature, which has been fine-tuned to improve cabin isolation. 

It’s a convertible for those who value laid-back cruising over hardcore handling and is best served when adopting a relaxed pace. The CLE Cabriolet brings a smooth, easy-going and comfortable driving experience for most drivers. 

It feels like a well-composed convertible with just enough material richness and cabin isolation to match its luxury billing. It’s no great drop-top sports car but, at a cruise, it’s a solid performer that can be enjoyed roof up or roof down. 

7. Chevrolet Corvette


Much has been written about General Motors' decision to gamble with this generation of its iconic Chevrolet Corvette by switching from a front-mounted engine to a mid-mounted one.

There were objective reasons to do it: it improves the car's weight distribution, enhances its outright handling potential and makes it more competitive for motorsport use.

And there was a more complex argument: that a mid-engined layout has become expected of an operator within this part of the sports car market and the old C7-generation Corvette's front-engined configuration made it something of a relic.

Whatever it took to finally convince GM to make the switch, it was worth it. The C8-gen Corvette has all of the bang-for-your-buck appeal as any of its forebears possessed, its supercar-looks-for-sports-car-cash shtick earning it the Dream Car accolade in the 2022 Autocar Awards. Yet there's more to its appeal than simple showroom sparkle and prices that run to £81,700 for the coupé and £87,110 for the convertible.

Bristling with small-block-V8 combustive charm, the Corvette's engine has excellent throttle response and a wonderful mid-range power delivery. It likes to be revved to beyond 6500rpm and sounds superb when it is.

The car handles with plenty of stability and precision, feeling instantly more benign and easier to drive quickly than any of its front-engined forebears.

And what's so seldom remarked upon is the Corvette’s enduring versatility. Even if you buy a coupé, it has a removable Targa-style top that can fairly easily be lifted out and stowed in the rear cargo compartment – or if you want to go the whole American hog, there’s a cloth-topped convertible.

Yes, its cabin has plenty of ergonomic quirks and it still lags behind the best for perceived quality, but we can't help but feel grateful that a car like the Corvette exists at all, and in right-hand-drive form to boot. The fact that it’s an unexpected convertible makes it all the sweeter.

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8. Fiat 500e and Abarth 500e


Electric cars with convertible bodies have been slow to emerge as the industry has adopted EV technology.

One of the earliest EV pioneers, the Tesla Roadster, was an open-top, but if you want a zero-emissions car with a cockpit that's open to the elements now, your options are very few. The funky Fiat 500 is one of them, however - and the hotted-up Abarth 500e spin-off version is another.

These cars are convertibles in as much as they have a sliding cloth hood that you can wind back behind the rear seats - although you never lose the pillars or cantrails.

The 500C is the only 500 EV that you can't get in entry-level form, so all versions come with a 117bhp front-mounted motor and a 42kWh battery for a claimed 199 miles of range. Like most EVs, the 500 is good for between 75% and 90% of that claimed range in real-world driving.

It has marginally more second-row occupant space than the old petrol 500 but still makes a cramped four-seater. Performance is strong up to about 50mph and the ride and handling are pleasant enough, although they're not as much fun as some might hope.

If you want fun, the Abarth version should certainly supply plenty of that. It doesn’t handle with textbook sporting precision, but it’s a vivacious, busy, charming car to drive – assuming you can tolerate the exterior speaker that broadcasts fake engine noise to the world around you (or you can turn it off).

9. Mercedes-AMG SL


No other car in this roster can claim a history spanning almost 70 years. When Mercedes launched the roadster version of the revered W198-generation 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ in 1957, the legend of the modern SL was born.

It has been reinterpreted through six generations since, and with the current R232 version, Mercedes claims to have taken the SL back towards its motorsport roots while retaining the luxury cruising credentials for which it's so celebrated.

AMG was given the job of developing this car, which was twinned with that of the new Mercedes-AMG GT coupé. The Affalterbach-based performance division gave it a new mixed-material spaceframe chassis but also junked the Airmatic and hydropneumatic suspension options that its predecessors embraced, opting instead for steel coil springs as well as four-wheel steering, four-wheel drive (on most models) and active anti-roll bars (on upper-level cars).

Engines now span a turbo four-cylinder in the SL 43 and V8s in the SL 55 and SL 63. But all SLs now come with proper AMG model status, so there are no more relaxed, regular-series Mercedes derivatives.

And that’s a slight shame, because AMG’s typical sports-orientated tuning has taken away some of the SL’s typical refinement and ride comfort although the car has gained plenty in the trade-off.

In 577bhp SL 63 form, this is a predictably rapid sports car, needing just 3.5sec to hit 60mph from rest and getting to 100mph quicker than the Aston Martin Vantage Roadster. But it also handles with greater grip and composure and tighter body control than any SL before it – not quite with a proper super-sports car level of driver entertainment, but not far off it.

The car comes crammed with Mercedes’ usual digital technology and is supremely easy to convert from open to closed. It’s an enduringly special roadster, albeit a slightly different one than it fairly recently was.

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10. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon


We wind up our list with a car that most convertible buyers won’t have contemplated. But perhaps they should.

Because among the many things you can do in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the option either to remove its roof in part or get the Torx screwdriver out and remove the top half of the car almost entirely to end up with a safari-style, fully open off-roader.

Jeep has now withdrawn the three-door version of the car from UK sales, but the larger five-door remains and the engine range is set to expand to include a plug-in hybrid in addition to the four-cylinder turbo petrol.

Lower-tier models come with a fixed-roof body construction, but the extra-tough-looking Rubicon has a composite roof that can be fully removed, a windscreen that can be folded flat and passenger doors that can be taken off their hinges - leaving only the car’s endoskeleton-like rollover protection exposed.

You won’t get a more open driving experience in anything of a similar size and brief.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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Anton motorhead 11 December 2023
All are nice cars, but the only genuine sports car with a soft top made for the people is the fine Mazda MX 5. Thanks to Mazda for making an attractive as well as affordable convertible.
gavsmit 11 July 2022

Just don't drive one in most of the UK's cities now because it's much easier to get car-jacked.