With summer coming, many of us think of how great it would be to cruise along with the roof down, the wind in your hair and the sun in your face.

Not all of us want to splash out on a high-end convertible, so we’ve put together our top 3 picks for 2016 convertibles under $55,000.

Ultimate Zoom Zoom

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Mazda MX-5
Price Guide: $47,280-$52,010

The Mazda MX-5 is a traditional two-seat sports car, with a lightweight body and rear-wheel drive. It has a folding, fabric roof and is among the least expensive convertibles for a quality driving experience. The 2016 fourth-generation MX-5 is fantastic fun to drive, with motoring magazine Wheels naming it Car of the Year for 2016.

It’s not hugely fast, and never has been; the great thing about it is the way it puts a smile on your face without breaking speed limits. It’s all about the way it corners, the way it flicks between gears and the directness of its steering.

The 1.5 Roadster GT is arguably the pick for its excellent value and classier interior. The 2.0-litre cars also make excellent choices, but their extra grunt and grip is not necessary: they offer a flavour that is different rather than obviously more pleasant. The easy-to-drive manual gearbox suits the fun character of the car much better than the auto.

Up the Funk Factor
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MINI Cooper S Convertible
Price Guide: $48,800-$51,150

In keeping with its counterparts, the MINI Cooper S Convertible is hugely entertaining to drive. It uses a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine producing 135kW. It’s quick, clocking 0-100km/h in just 7.3 seconds.

The handling is nothing short of sensational, gripping and swinging around corners like a kid on a clothesline. It’s seriously fun. Best yet, the engine sips just 6.4L/100km.

There’s something very young, hip and on-trend about MINI’s design ethic, inside and out, and it’s a bit of a fashion statement. There are four option packs, nine different alloy wheel designs and no fewer than 45 discrete options to choose from in total. While certain options are pretty standard fare – a Harman/Kardon stereo, a larger media screen, and so on – there are some truly unique choices to personalise each car.

Cheap and Cheerful
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Fiat 500 Series 4 Cabriolet
Price Guide $19,000-$27,500

At the dollar-bottom end of town, there’s really only one convertible you should be looking at. The almost too-cute Fiat 500 Cabriolet is an unbelievable bargain when you measure it in terms of style, with the Pop base model at $19,000 drive away.

Almost more Italian than the act of shrugging, the 500 is a fashion magazine on wheels and has an interior that feels like far more dollars than it costs. The 500 has a high level of safety, too. There’s seven airbags and a five-star crash test rating.

Best of all, it’s also surprisingly fun to drive. It’s not fast, but it’s so great, with the slightly strange roll-back roof whipped off in particular, that you just won’t care. It’s a great starter-car for dipping your toe into convertible motoring.

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Sources: WhichCar, CarsGuideWheels Magazine

Price Guides are based on the recommended retail price plus on road costs and options which would be considered generally appealing or required to the average consumer.
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