Wind rushing through your hair. The warmth of sunshine on your skin. There are fewer more liberating automotive experiences than a beautiful spring day with the top down on a convertible. An open-air drive is further enhanced when your ride is not fouling the air or guzzling down gas.
Here are the five convertible cars that deliver the most miles (and smiles) per gallon.
Volkswagen Beetle Diesel
Starts at $23,495
The clean diesel version of the Volkswagen Beetle, the one with the soft top, is the most fuel-efficient convertible available in the United States. The manual-shifting Beetle TDI offers a whopping 41 miles per gallon on the highway, and 28 m.p.g. in the city. The turbocharged diesel Beetle sips fuel, but it’s also known for impressive acceleration off the line—as well as high rankings for safety and comfort. The Beetle took on a more aggressive leaner shape in 2013, while maintaining its unmistakable iconic appearance.
Starts at $16,000
The Fiat 500 dispels any myths that driving a small fuel-efficient car means having no fun. The little Italian city car is loaded with pizzazz. The cloth top operates on rails—so the driver, even when in full sprint, can pull the fabric back to the rear of the roof, or completely collapse the roof and rear glass behind the rear seats. The diminutive size of the Fiat 500 makes it a great choice for city driving, because it’s so easy to park. The combination of hip retro styling and affordability is hard to come by in a car that delivers 31 m.p.g. in the city and 40 miles per gallon on the highway.
Starts at $12,490
The Smart fortwo is the ultimate in-town commuter car. The cabriolet soft-top version only enhances the cute factor of the two-seater, without taking away any of its efficiency. The E.P.A. rates the fortwo cabriolet at 38 miles per gallon on the highway, and 34 m.p.g. in the city. Yet, there are compromises in a car that’s this petite and maneuverable—it’s far from ideal as a highway commuter. The underpowered, 70-horsepower, three-cylinder engine is not so fun when juxtaposed to heavy rigs and full-size S.U.V.s on the interstate. Still, for zipping through the city with the top down, it’s a perfect fit.
Starts at $20,076
Well-built and offering go-kart handling, the Mini Cooper brings the brand’s racing heritage to a fuel-efficient ride—37 m.p.g. on the highway and 29 in the city. Above all, the Mini Cooper is absolutely loaded with sophisticated urban styling—a rolling fashion statement that is beautifully accessorized by a convertible top. Like all Minis, the nearly endless array of color and trim option means you can customize the look to match your taste. And if acceleration is your style, the convertible version of the 208-horsepower Mini John Cooper Works only drops the highway fuel efficiency to 35 m.p.g.— not bad for a rip-roaring convertible.
Starts at $48,650
The most expensive, and least efficient, of our batch of green-ish convertibles, the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive28i—with retractable hard top—makes the list due to its respectable 34 m.p.g. on the highway. The city mileage is, ahem, only 22 miles per gallon. Okay, it’s not a Prius. Nonetheless, it beats out competing models on fuel efficiency, like the comparably priced Porsche Boxter—by about 10 percent. The BMW 3-series, arguably a tie for this fifth slot, is also available as a convertible. It falls behind the Z4 only by a small fraction in terms of its fuel parsimony—but its base price is $12,000 less.
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy eBay Green Driving.