Car hunter: Four-seat convertibles

4 Oct, 2012 11:00am

Our reader has £20,000 to spend on a distinctive four-seater convertible

Dear Chris,
I’m looking for a four-seater convertible and have £20,000 to spend. I want something different to the run-of-the-mill options. What do you suggest?
Gabriel Turner, E-mail 

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The best buys:

The exclusive buy: Infiniti G37 CC

Infiniti G37 CC

For: Rare sight in the UK, strong engine
Against: High prices, low-quality cabin

While Infiniti is popular in the US, it’s still a relatively unknown brand name in the UK. This means the G37 Convertible offers real exclusivity. The rear seats are a little cramped, but there’s room for smaller children.

You’ll have to stretch your budget a little, though: a 2010 car with 13,000 miles will cost around £21,000.

But that money gives you plenty of performance – the 3.7-litre V6 engine produces 315bhp and 0-60mph takes only 6.4 seconds. As well as offering impressive straight-line speed, the G35 is a fine choice if you want decent handling, too.

That impressive engine does mean running costs are rather high, however. You’ll be lucky to get close to the claimed 24mpg, while road tax will cost you £475 per year. This makes it the costliest choice of the three.

The luxury choice: Lexus IS 250 C

Lexus IS 250 C

For: Decent rear space, reliability record
Against: Poor economy, dull styling

The IS 250 C doesn’t seem that unusual, but it’s definitely a left-field alternative to the popular drop-top BMW 3 Series or Mercedes E-Class cabriolet.

The Lexus is well equipped and very comfortable, making it an excellent motorway cruiser. It also offers the best rear seats of the three here: unlike in the Infiniti and Fiat, there’s enough space in the back of the IS 250 for adults, not just small children.

There are plenty around at this price: a 59-plate model with 24,000 miles on the clock will leave around £1,000 change from your budget. Higher-mileage cars can be snapped up for less than £17,000.

There’s not much variety, with just the one engine available. The 2.5-litre V6 petrol produces 205bhp, but feels a little lacklustre. And like the Infiniti, fuel economy will be quite poor.

The fun option: Abarth 500 C

Abarth 500 C

For: Distinctive looks, fun to drive
Against: Hard ride, not a full soft-top

The go-faster version of the Fiat 500 C is not a full convertible – the roof stops just above the boot – but it’s enjoyable to drive and offers enough open-top fun.

Its 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine makes 135bhp. This performance comes at a cost, though, as the ride is very firm. The automatic gearbox is also best avoided, as it’s jerky in both full auto and manual mode.

What the Abarth does have in its favour is cost. It’s the cheapest to buy out of the three cars here, with list prices starting at £16,861. Claimed fuel economy of 43.5mpg is far superior to the Lexus and Infiniti, while annual road tax comes in at only £155.

As in the standard 500, space in the back is limited, so you’ll have to choose your passengers carefully – although there’s at least as much room as in the G37.