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Why are we cabrio crazy in the UK?

Why are we cabrio crazy in the UK?


Given our weather it seems odd that here in the UK we buy more soft-top convertibles than any other European country, except for Germany. John Swift looks at why this is.

Why are convertibles so popular in the UK?

  • Invigorating & fun - the pure pleasure of wind in your hair
  • Great residual values - they retain their value and are in demand when used
  • Affordable on PCP plans - their residual value makes them attractive on finance
  • Practicality - much more friendly for day to day driving now than in years gone by
  • Plenty of choice - available from supermini size to SUV

Find which cabriolet is right for you

Why are we crazy for cabriolet?

Given our weather it seems odd that here in the UK we buy more soft-top convertibles than any other European country, except for Germany. Ironically it’s our weather which is largely responsible; speak to drivers in Mediterranean countries and they’ll tell you it’s usually so hot and sunny that no-one wants a soft top, preferring a solid roof between them and the burning sun; letting the air con keep them cool.

Their loss, our gain.

Old and new VW Beetle cabriolet on the beachIn the past couple of years the market share of convertibles has actually risen which is quite remarkable given that just about every other sector – with the possible exception of estate cars, which are now making a slight comeback – has been so hard hit by the mass exodus to SUVs.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that while in 2016, 47,229 convertibles were registered for a 1.75% market share; last year those figures went up to 47,814 and 1.9% respectively, so although the overall total rose only a little the percentage increase proves their enduring appeal. In contrast, sales of hard top coupes came down by more than 5,000 units in the year-to-year comparison and MPV people carriers by not far off 25,000, but the demand for drop tops remains solid.

Red Jaguar F-Type convertible on windy gorgeous road from the rearAs those figures show, almost one in every 50 new cars registered here in 2017 was a sunshine car and that says a great deal about what they give drivers…

…And what is it they give us, what is the appeal of a car where you can open yourself to the elements as you drive?

We have long associated convertibles, soft tops, cabriolets, call them what you will, with , glamour, a bit racy, a bit naughty, but above all fun. They may ask a little bit of compromise of their owners, but come on, how many of us can honestly say we haven’t looked at them with just a twinge of jealousy as they come past us in our sensible, but slightly boring-by-comparison family car?

Driving on our roads today is, for the most part, not very enjoyable. They’re far too crowded and busy, and successive cuts to maintenance budgets have left our highways in an unacceptably poor state; many still get a thrill from a sports-car, but the more powerful models simply cannot be used anywhere near their potential, or even half of it, if you want to retain your license.

Motoring is often more of a mither than a pleasure, but if you do still want to get enjoyment on the road, then convertibles can supply it. It doesn’t have to be hot, you can get equal fun from dropping the top on a fresh, clear day in any season and it makes you feel invigorated, energised and fresh. Soft top motoring is a tonic and one of the few antidotes to those days when you sit in yet another endless traffic queue.

There are two more very good reasons why convertibles are popular.

One is money, because their residual values are so strong. Demand for the simple fun they provide isn’t restricted to the new car market and those buying in the second hand sector are quite happy to pay a premium for soft top motoring.

Dark blue Audi TT Roadster driving round a hairpin bendTo give you just one example from hundreds, data crunchers at HPI, which is a specialist company analysing the used car market, say that a three year old/60,000 mile Audi TT convertible will retain around 45% of its original price when new.

Leaving aside the six-figure exotica such as Ferraris and Bentleys, that puts the Audi in the top dozen or so performers for residual values. Now the TT is a very accessible car and the fact that it keeps so much value means that on a typical finance deal, which essentially is based on funding the depreciation, your monthly payments come down quite a lot.

One of the more surprising cabriolets around, the Range Rover Evoque, does even better, hanging onto 53% of its list price.

Orange Range Rover Evoque driving side on by the seaA second reason is that modern convertibles are many times more practical than those of even ten years ago. The roof is much more durable and weather-proof, and far easier to raise or lower. Indeed, in many cases, you can do it while on the move at the touch of a button and in only a few seconds.

They come in all shapes and sizes as manufacturers tap into the demand for them. Some are converted from a current supermini or hatchback, others are purpose made from the outset like the Fiat 124 which was co-developed with Mazda and its MX-5.

Rolls Royce Phantom drop head driving down leafy lane taken from very cloe up to the back of the drivers headFrom the cheapest, something like the Fiat 500C with its roll-back fabric roof, which costs around £14,000 to the Rolls-Royce Phantom which will set you back more than 25 times as much with an entry price of £367,000, there’s a convertible for everyone.

Red FIAT 500 C roll-top convertible driving towards youRegardless of the cost though, all have one common denominator which is that sense of fun and invigoration you rarely find anywhere else in modern motoring. 

Why not throw caution to the wind and feel it whipping through your hair as you join the UK cabriolet-crazy gang.