Roofless Marvels: The Ultimate Guide to the Best & Worst Convertible Cars

The convertible car is a quintessential product that represents freedom, excitement, and a carefree lifestyle for many. The feelings convertible cars evoke are a major part of their appeal to drivers of all ages. However, not all convertibles are created equal. 

What separates the best convertible cars from the worst include factors ranging from style and reliability to performance and safety. Even some of the priciest models can fail to live up to the hype. The best convertible cars meet or exceed the buyers’ expectations, while the worst fall by the wayside. 

Worst: 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser

The original PT Cruiser offered little for buyers to get excited about with its odd retro design and even stranger color options like dark plum and electric blue. Its conversion to a soft top didn’t improve its aesthetics. If anything, a drop-top made it look more silly than it already did. As far as convertible cars go, the PT Cruiser was an all-around disappointment. 

Best: 1955 Chevrolet Corvette

By 1955, the Chevrolet Corvette had been on the market for a few years, tearing up the roads like a pure sports car should. The 1955 model changed the game when General Motors (GM) replaced the V6 engine with a much more powerful V8. This move was so well-received that 90 percent of buyers requested this upgrade. Since then, the Corvette has been a wildly popular car and a classic symbol of American freedom. 

Worst: 1995 Suzuki X-90

It’s perfectly understandable if buyers eyed the Suzuki X-90 with more than a bit of confusion. It looked like an unsuccessful hybrid between a pickup truck, a sports utility vehicle (SUV), and a convertible car. Suzuki’s two-door and four-door Sidekick SUV models were popular during the late 1980s through the 1990s, making the entry of the X-90 into the auto market all the more baffling. Not surprisingly, Suzuki stopped producing the X-90 in 1997. 

Best: 1955 Ford Thunderbird

The 1950s were the era of the sports car, and Ford’s entry into that niche market, the 1955 Thunderbird convertible, hit all the marks. The two-seater Thunderbird delighted drivers as a luxurious ride made for speed with its V8 engine. Ford exponentially outsold their direct competitor, the Corvette. But the latter was harder to come by since Chevrolet only produced 700 of their in-demand roadsters.

Worst: 2011 Lexus IS-C

Lexus has a well-deserved reputation for beautifully designed, stylish luxury vehicles with impeccable lines. That formula for near-perfection certainly wasn’t followed during the design process of the 2011 Lexus IS convertible. It looks like a typical Lexus from the front, but the vehicle’s rear looks cut into half the size it should have been. This model is a rare misstep for the automaker, who should have known better than to put this vehicle out there for sale. 

Best: 1976 Cadillac Eldorado 

Cadillac announced that 1976 would be the final year it produced the reliable Eldorado luxury vehicle, selling about 14,000 of the super-long convertibles that year. Because 1976 was also America’s 200th anniversary, Cadillac built 200 limited special Bicentennial editions, selling all but one, which the company retained. Cadillac revived the model in 1984, only to be unsuccessfully sued by irate buyers of the 1976 release who thought they had purchased a collector’s item. 

Worst: 2003 Chevy SSR

Despite its fully retractable hard roof and powerful V8 engine, the SSR’s appearance made consumers look twice – but not in a good way. Its retro body with modern elements gave it a weird presentation that didn’t strike a chord with buyers, not to mention the hard-to-justify cost of more than $40,000. The Chevy SSR was little more than a small pickup truck with a convertible top and a big price tag. 

Best: 2001 Dodge Viper RT-10

If the first generation of the Dodge Viper didn’t meet safety expectations, then the second generation, including the 2001 model, cleaned up its act. Unlike earlier versions of the Viper, the 2001 roadsters were equipped with airbags, an anti-lock braking system (ABS), and a better suspension, all necessities for a car with a powerful V10 engine.

Worst: 2011 Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

The Nissan Murano was and is a beautifully made luxury SUV. For reasons unknown to the rest of the world, someone at Nissan had the idea to turn their SUV into a convertible by adding a retractable soft top. The automaker made the vehicle appear far less luxurious than the classic Murano models. Mercifully, it’s no longer in production.  

Best: 1970 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda

Plymouth only produced 14 soft-top 1970 HEMI ‘Cudas, making them one of the rarest vehicles in the world. The HEMI ‘Cuda is considered by many to be one of the top muscle cars ever built. Collectors wanting to buy one of these classic cars better prepare to shell out serious money, as they easily sell for six and seven figures since they are so difficult to find. 

Worst: 2005 Nissan Micra C+C

Another design misstep for Nissan was the Micra C+C. The convertible’s seating capacity was a two-seater with a small bench in the back seat that couldn’t possibly seat other passengers. If that wasn’t enough, it wasn’t a very attractive-looking vehicle. It appeared as if the front and rear of two different car models were fused to create the Micra C+C, giving the exterior an off-putting look. 

Best: 1987 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

While the 1987 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet is at the more expensive end of the luxury car market, its reputation for reliability and functionality is well worth the cost. For Porsche enthusiasts, the 911 Turbo, with its distinctive shape and top-notch performance, is the template for the other models. It’s also a fun car to take out on the open road. 

Worst: 2016 Smart ForTwo

Smart cars are known for their distinctive diminutive size, decent gas mileage, and ease of parking. However, their small size means they provide very little protection in a collision. The same applies to the Smart ForTwo convertible. It doesn’t rapidly accelerate when driving after coming to a stop and has rough gear changes that make shifting uncomfortable for the car’s occupants. A car should offer a better ride than a golf cart.   

Best: 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS 

The name of this specific Ferrari may be obscure. But it should be familiar to Generation X and baby boomers as one of the cars driven by television private investigator Thomas Magnum from the show Magnum PI. The original 308 GTS entered the market in 1977 with a top speed of 157 miles per hour (mph). The Ferrari 308 GTS is the ideal convertible for buyers wanting to live out their dreams of living that Magnum life. 

Worst: 2004 MINI Convertible

Buyers expect the MINI line of vehicles to be of a certain quality since they are a member of the BMW family of cars. The MINI brand is generally solid and reliable, but there have been numerous complaints about the difficulty owners experience with the convertible’s soft top. This issue may sound trivial until someone tries to close the top before rain or other inclement weather. 

Best: 2023 Mazda Miata

Buyers looking for a quality, affordable convertible can look as far as the Mazda Miata. The most recent generation was released in 2016 but has had updates to the vehicle to improve its performance, including increased power. Other two-seater convertible cars are available at much higher prices than the Miata, making this model even more appealing. The Mazda Miata has been around for over 30 years, and that says a lot about its performance and reliability. 

Worst: 1997 Plymouth Prowler

The Plymouth Prowler’s cool retro design set the stage for it to be the convertible car to own. While it closely resembled the hot rod vehicles of the 1930s, its power and performance were more similar to a go-kart than a racing car. Thanks to the V6 engine, it took 7.2 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph. It could have been much more popular if the automaker had equipped the Prowler with a V8 engine. 

Best: 2012 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse

The 2012 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse defines opulence with a price tag of just under $2.5 million. Powered by a 16-cylinder engine that goes up to 255 mph, it still holds the crown as the fastest roadster in the world more than 11 years after entering the auto market. The Grand Sport Vitesse is the convertible version of its predecessor, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport. 

Worst: 1987 Cadillac Allanté

It’s hard to believe that the same company that created the highly regarded Cadillac Eldorado was responsible for the Cadillac Allanté. Designed as a competitor to the Mercedes-Benz 380 SL, the Allanté couldn’t measure up to its rival thanks to problems with the soft top, hard seats, and lower speed. Making matters worse, while the more expensive Cadillacs sold in the $30,000 range during that time, the Allanté’s price came in at more than $54,000. The high price tag wasn’t worth all the baggage saddled on this vehicle.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks

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Author: Fred Leamnson


Fred Leamnson, a former Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF), is the owner of Kinda Frugal. The lifestyle blog offers advice on living a frugal but fulfilling life. He is the former owner of Money with a Purpose, a financial website he sold in 2020. Since selling the blog, he became a partner in a blogging mastermind group that helps bloggers achieve their business and financial goals.