When it comes summer, you can’t beat a convertible. Top down and with the wind in your hair, the sun-loving form of a convertible is a great way to view the world.
Abarth 124 Spider
For those who perceive the Mazda MX-5 – the reigning Wheels Car of the Year – to be too mainstream, the Abarth 124 Spider is bucketloads of fun, and features superb dynamics.
Believe the hype. For those not in the know, the Abarth is based on the Mazda MX-5 so inherently carries the same car of the year-winning DNA.
Coming with either a six-speed manual gearbox for $41,990 or with a six-speed auto for $43,990, the Abarth is priced to compete with the top of the range MX-5 but is both more powerful than its Japanese cousin, and quicker to 100km/h thanks to its turbocharged engine.
Having said this, neither the Abarth nor MX-5 have steering reach adjustment, making for an awkward driving position should you be anything other than an average-sized human.
Both the MX-5 and the 124 have a soft folding roof that you need to open and close by hand. Mazda will soon add an electric folding targa-roofed version to the MX-5 that looks, well, stunning.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible is something of a safe bet when it comes to heat-beaters.
Coming in four variants, the C-Class ranges from the entry level C200 ($85,900) to the firebrand Mercedes-AMG C63 S ($162,115).
You’re paying for the privilege of dropping the roof, though, as the rag-topped version come in around $20,000 more expensive than its two-door tin-top version, the C-Class coupe.
If this isn’t too much of an issue and you can spare a bit more cash, go for the $119,900 C43 AMG. It is a vastly more powerful machine, making it more capable of overcoming the extra weight the cabriolet carries in underbody reinforcements needed once the fixed roof is removed as a structural part of the car.
We like the C-Class because it is possibly the best top-down convertible on the market, with minimal wind noise and buffeting even at high speeds.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider
The composite-bodied, folding roof version of the Alfa Romeo 4C comes with all the charisma and dynamism of certain more expensive Italians, but at a much cheaper at $99,000.
The 4C looks and feels the goods on a nice piece of road, but slightly firm seats mean you don’t want to venture far over rougher ones.
Alfa’s handcrafted beauty stakes its claim to have been one of the most anticipated cars of 2016. Like a shrunken-down Ferrari, the 4C is a mid-engined, carbon-tubbed performance car that’s positioned at an attainable price point – what’s not to love?
Through its carbonfibre monocoque chassis and spritely in-line four-cylinder engine, the little Alfa can both go hard and feel planted at elevated speeds.
Downsides? The 4C has next to no cabin storage, and the steering takes some getting used to. Still, it is ultra-cool in more ways than one, making the 4C Spider a drop-top to consider.
Porsche 718 Boxster
At the upper end of the price spectrum is the fast and thrilling Porsche 718 Boxster.
The latest Boxster features a flat-four turbo instead of the traditional naturally-aspirated six-cylinder, which produces 220kW and 380Nm of torque in the base model or 257kW and 420Nm of torque in the S version.
That kind of power makes the base model perfectly capable of what you would expect from such a car, but if you have an extra 30k to throw around the S is simply excellent.
Both are available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed sequential automatic, each being a solid choice.
The Boxster’s strengths, beyond the obvious summertime appeal of a folding fabric roof, include its delectable handling, straight-line urge and exceptional cabin quality. It may be a pricey one in this company, but it’s worth every dollar.
“Since when was the Commodore a convertible?” we hear you say. Ahh it isn’t, but it still finds a pretty darn good way to beat the summer heat.
Shiny-headed? Skin that’s prone to moon-burn (let alone sun-burn)? The Holden Commodore will keep you protected from harsh rays.
See, while keeping you out of direct sunlight, the Commodore can blast out some of the best air-conditioning on the market.
Made in Australia by Australians, Holden’s engineers know what it’s like to be stuck in a car on a scorching summer’s day, forced to drive with your fingernails so the lava-hot steering wheel doesn’t melt your skin.
Not so much a summer car than an all-weather car, but for those who struggle to deal with Australia’s hotter months the home-grown Commodore is the perfect respite from the heat.
Holden’s AC indeed works better than the vast majority of its Euro counterparts (We’re looking at you Renault Megane), meaning you can rest in comfort while your Commodore keeps you cooler than a fridge.
Get in while you can, they won’t be Aussie-made much longer.