It’s one of the great motoring ironies that the UK has such rubbish weather, yet more convertibles are sold here per capita than anywhere else in the world.
Open-top motoring is available right throughout the new car market, from canvas roll-tops on city cars like the Fiat 500 or Citroën C1, through to the most expensive supercar or luxury car models like the Ferrari SF90 Stradale or Rolls-Royce Dawn.
Engineering a great convertible is difficult. Removing the roof from an existing car automatically makes a car less rigid, which affects performance, comfort and potentially safety. The best convertibles have clever ways to address all of these points, delivering a fantastic top-down driving experience without compromise.
The best convertibles of 2021
Best new model :
BMW 4 Series
Our two winners reflect two different approaches to open-top driving enjoyment. The best new model is the BMW 4 Series Convertible, a four-seater model based on the 3 Series saloon. Meanwhile, the Mazda MX-5 is our class champion, a focused roadster that dispenses with most practicalities in favour of driving purity.
Best new model: BMW 4 Series (80%)
TCE Expert Rating: 80%
Euro NCAP safety rating: 5 stars
BMW has built convertible versions of its 3 Series for generations and, although the name changed to 4 Series in the last decade, the formula has remained the same. The 4 Series convertible and coupé give up some of their rear seat and boot space in exchange for sleeker styling and – in the case of the convertible – the ability to drop the top whenever the mood or the weather suit.
Critics have praised the all-round performance of the new 4 Series Convertible, in particular the way that it blends driving enjoyment with relaxed comfort that perfectly suits this type of vehicle. As usual, the styling is bizarrely challenging but that’s to be expected from BMW these days. The interior is well built and appointed, with user-friendly controls, and is a highly comfortable place with the roof either up or down.
We don’t have an Expert Rating page on the 4 Series Convertible yet, but it will be published shortly so check back soon.
Class champion: Mazda MX-5 (86%)
TCE Expert Rating: 86%
Euro NCAP safety rating: 4 stars
The current Maxda MX-5 has been around since 2015, yet it still earns top marks every year for its minimalist approach to driving purity.
Over the last 30 years, four generations of MX-5 have seen off pretty much every challenge from other car companies. The latest model is possibly the best of all, and has been showered with awards from all around the world.
The MX-5 has never been about horsepower or luxuries, and on paper it looks to be comprehensively outgunned by almost any hot hatch in a similar price bracket. But no front-wheel-drive hatchback can match the perfectly balanced driving experience of a small, rear-wheel-drive roadster. It’s about as much fun as you can have within the national speed limit.
The best new cars of 2021
Notes on eligibility
To be eligible for our Best New Model or Class Champion titles, there are a couple of requirements in addition to having a top Expert Rating score.
Firstly, the Best New Model must have been launched in the UK between 1 December 2020 and 1 December 2021. That means cars registered and on the road, not just available to order for deliveries starting sometime in 2022.
Secondly, a car must have a current Euro NCAP safety rating of either four or five stars. If a car scores three stars or less, we can’t in good conscience give it an award for being best in class. If a new model has not been tested by Euro NCAP by December 2021, it will not be eligible but we will consider it next year if it has been tested.