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CARFAX Finds: European Convertibles

It’s June, which means summer is basically upon us. So if you’re looking at buying a convertible now to enjoy the sun and a vacation, you’re going to be getting in line with many other car buyers.

No matter, though. There are plenty of good used convertible buys to go around, depending if you want performance, space or some combination of the two. Here are some European examples to check out, starting at less than $15,000.

A BMW Z4 can be had for as little as $10,000. The current model, made from 2009, sports a folding hardtop in place of the older car’s fabric roof. But it starts from closer to $30,000 and examples are harder to come by.

Let’s remember for a moment that, roughly 20 years ago, the Z4’s predecessor was the vehicle that Pierce Brosnan drove when he played James Bond. I can’t recommend buying a used BMW with missiles behind the headlights or a self-destruct feature, though.

Besides gadgets, the Z4 has one of the most classic convertible layouts – a powerful engine under the long hood and two seats in a tiny cockpit. Trunk space is tight, so pack light or bring extra credit cards. It’s the kind of convertible for spontaneous road trips.

Thanks to a rear-wheel drive layout and its relatively light weight, the Z4 is also worth taking on back roads when you don’t care what time you make it to your destination. It’s a Mazda Miata, for those who insist on electrically powered front seats.

Need more space? The Volvo C70 is another folding hard-top convertible, but with four seats and a lot of safety features, starting from around $15,000.

Produced between 2007 and 2013, this C70 is one of the most striking Volvos of this century, and it still looks pretty fresh today. The turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine has a heavy car to move around, so unlike the Z4, this much more of a cruiser than a sports car. Which is fine, because your passengers will likely complain about their hair getting blown around. The Volvo’s interior is comfortable and inviting, and optional heated seats will make it an effective year-round drop-top.

Rear seats are predictably tight, but that’s the case in pretty much every four-seat convertible. That makes them only comfortable for kids. At least the Volvo is packed with lots of safety features, such as an inflatable curtain air bag that bursts from the door panel in the event of a side-impact crash, or the hoops that deploy from behind the rear seats if the car rolls over. And the C70 has among the highest crash test ratings for any convertible.

But if you demand both performance and four seatbelts, there’s a bargain in the form of the Audi S4 Convertible. Starting from just $13,000, an S4 soft-top might be a decade old, but it still looks remarkably fresh and its 4.2-liter V8 is good for 340 horsepower. All-wheel drive also makes traveling in a straight line easier and corners more fun.

For people who want to have a top-down skiing experience, the S4 is probably a good choice. Audi has long made a name for its quattro all-wheel drive system and in a convertible like the S4, it’s a really special application. Not that I rationalize driving in the snow in a convertible, but I hear it’s a thing for people in those climates.

And you could do it in the Audi, thanks to heated front seats and an exceptionally well-insulated roof. Like the Volvo, seating in the rear is cramped at best, but at least there’s a usable trunk even with the roof down. But the part I like most about these S4s is that they have a timelessness about them. They refused to cater to too many styling trends of the early 2000s and they’re so much better for it. Never mind the fuel bills and maintenance for a second, and it’s stunning that they’re this cheap to buy.

Actually, it’s stunning all of these convertibles can be had for this little.

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