What affordable convertible should I buy?

Volkswagen Eos - gorgeous and affordable, but cursed with Volkswagen's traditional unreliability

Volkswagen Eos - gorgeous and affordable, but cursed with Volkswagen's traditional unreliability

QUESTION

My wife wants a small convertible and I'm trying to find out which one to purchase.

Probably needs to be a used car about two years old to suit our budget. 

I have looked at BMW 1 Series, Volkswagen EOS and Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Peugeot. 

What brands and models would you recommend? She enjoyed driving the Golf and would appreciate your thoughts. 

Thanks, Dale

ANSWER

Golf cabrio - another beautiful, affordable convertible you should only admire from a safe distance

Golf cabrio - another beautiful, affordable convertible you should only admire from a safe distance

VOLKSWAGEN

Volkswagen is a quality control disaster area - that brand is a real no-go zone as far as I’m concerned. Especially in the used market. It’s ridiculous. Unfortunately for you, 'Volkswagen' includes Audi, which is part of the Volkswagen Group. The company's problem stems from the Volkswagen Group’s insane quest to be world’s number-one carmaker by 2018, and the inevitable R&D corner-cutting that happened while the Group developed and rolled out a monumental inventory of new vehicles much faster than they should have. Consumers here in Australia are still paying the price today.

Volkswagen and Audi (and Skoda) customers face an unacceptably high probability of encountering real problems, and the dealer network in Volkswagen's case here in Australia can prove to be very unhelpful. Spare parts supply logistics are also consequentially stretched around the world and it can take weeks to months to source replacement parts (because demand for them is high globally).

Not every Volkswagen is defective - most are not. But buying one is a game of Russian roulette with far too many of the chambers loaded than with other brands.

Peugeot is quirky - but not in an altogether bad way

Peugeot is quirky - but not in an altogether bad way

PEUGEOT

Peugeot is OK, but fairly quirky. A kind of anti-kudos Euro car. Beautiful, in an institutionalised ugly kind of way.

Peugeot isn't Japanese on the reliability or affordability front - not even close - but they do have some serious French flair.

Peugeot has a decent reputation but a fairly small footprint here in Australia - meaning a small number of dealers and low sales, so it could be hard to find the one you want.

If it was a choice between Volkswagen and Peugeot, the informed decision is simple: Peugeot every time.

BMW 1 Series is RWD and a great drive - but the cost of parts is a joke

BMW 1 Series is RWD and a great drive - but the cost of parts is a joke

BMW

Me? If I were allowed to shop only out of your list I’d be buying the BMW 1 Series every time, but you would need to be mindful the cost of spares is ridiculous (something to consider after the warranty runs out).

You pay a high price for fashion in the automotive domain.

This is true of (in particular) all German cars - they depreciate rapidly, making them seem reasonably affordable after a few years in the used market. However, if a major component fails out of warranty, the cost of replacement and repair is likely to be absolutely breathtaking. Outrageously so. The cost of spare parts does not depreciate like the vehicle itself. The dealer networks know they have you over a barrel in this situation if you need a transmission, or similar component. It can be unexpectedly demoralising. 

Mazda MX-5 is the best convertible around, on affordability and other objective criteria

Mazda MX-5 is the best convertible around, on affordability and other objective criteria

MAZDA MX-5

Left to my own devices there really is only one convertible I'd consider buying used: The Mazda MX-5 - this is a convertible that's absolutely great to drive, and you can afford to run it out of warranty.

As a 'sweet spot' convertible for people on a budget, the MX-5 is simply unbeatable. As is the Japanese build quality and reliability when compared on objective terms against the Germans.

Mazda has been doing an outstanding job on MX-5 for going on 26 years now. The car is just brilliant. Although obviously it's a scratching if you need more than two seats.

Nissan 370Z Roadster remains expensive used, but does a solid job

Nissan 370Z Roadster remains expensive used, but does a solid job

NISSAN?

You could also consider a used Nissan 370Z convertible - but it might be a bit out of your price range.

A 2010 model was about $80k new, and retails today in the used market as a private sale around the early $30k mark, in average condition with 50,000-90,000km on the clock. Quite a potent drive, too, with brilliant steering.


MINI

MINI has done a few convertibles over the years as well. Don't touch them with a barge pole - they have an atrocious reliability as well, which is inexplicable (because they're owned by BMW) but true. This is noted regularly by independent ratings agency JD Power & Associates.

MINIs drip with retro flair, but the novelty soon wears off.

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