However, in a couple of months’ time the summer will be a distant memory and the convertible parked on the drive may not look like the wisest of decisions.
With frosty mornings and persistent rain, convertibles are never as good at keeping in the heat or demisting the windows as their closed-roof cousins.
But things are changing, spearheaded by Peugeot and Renault with convertible cars with folding metal roofs.
They provide the best of all seasons – cosy coupe in winter and stylish open top in summer. And now Vauxhall is joining in the fun with its Astra TwinTop – a car priced so keenly that it demands attention. And so do its looks.
The TwinTop is based on the already pretty Astra hatchback but with a three-piece metal roof which folds away into the boot.
It’s not a new formula, but Vauxhall has succeeded in making the transformation much more attractive than the fat-rumped Peugeot 307 CC. It also looks much better than the slightly ungainly new Focus Coupe Cabriolet, its real rival.
The three-piece roof has allowed Vauxhall to cut down on the amount of space the roof needs when retracted, and also allowed them to shorten the car, avoiding the Astra looking overweight at the back. As with all cars of this type, operating the roof is simplicity itself – simply press a button and marvel as the myriad electric motors chime up and whirr away, performing a metal ballet as pieces of roof dive this way and that as they fold down.
Obviously there’s a downside and that is boot space. With the roof stowed there’s room for some soft luggage but little else, although this is a problem for all of these vehicles.
At least the Astra TwinTop can seat four adults in comfort, unlike the limited rear seats in some of its rivals.
On the road the 1.8-litre 140bhp engine needs to be worked hard to make sporty progress, while the gearbox action feels notchy and can obstruct when you want to make quick gearchanges. But when a car looks this good, is as well packaged as this and is so cost-effective, this relative lack of performance can be forgiven.
P11D value: £18,107
CO2 emissions (g/km): 185
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 24%
Graduated VED rate: £150
Insurance group: 10
Combined mpg: 36.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £6,925/38%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £353
Three rivals to consider
THE Beetle is the most expensive and has the most power (150bhp), but only has a fabric roof. The others have similar power, decent levels of equipment and folding metal hard tops – all for less money than the Volkswagen. This makes the Astra look very good value for money.
Emissions and tax rates
THE Astra is the cheapest, with a 22% taxpayer being charged £79 a month in company car tax. The 307 is in a tax band higher and will cost the same driver £85. The Megane will cost £90 and the Beetle £91. The Astra is £40 a year cheaper than the rest on VED, too.
A Close call here, and low servicing, maintenance and repair costs across the board, reflecting the trade’s confidence in these complex metal roofs. The Vauxhall sneaks the victory and will cost £24 less than the Peugeot in SMR costs over three years/60,000 miles.
THE Astra is the most fuel efficient, with Vauxhall claiming a combined economy figure of 36.7mpg, resulting in a fuel bill of around £7,000 over 60,000 miles. The 307 is second on 34.9mpg, followed by the Renault on 34.4mpg. The Beetle returns a claimed 34.0mpg.
THE Vauxhall and Volkswagen share the best residual value forecast, with CAP estimating they will both retain 38% of their cost new after three years/60,000 miles. However, the Astra’s lower front-end price seals the win with a cash lost figure more than £1,000 better than the VW.
IT’S no surprise that the Astra wins – it is the cheapest to buy, has the best RV and wins every running costs section. At 33.12ppm it will cost a fleet just under £20,000 over three years/60,000 miles. The rest will all cost a fleet more than £21,000 to run.
IT looks good, drives well and from a financial perspective it makes sense for both fleet managers and company car drivers – Vauxhall is on to a winner with the new Astra TwinTop. It outperforms the established French convertible duo in every respect, as well as proving more desirable than the slightly left-field Beetle. Victory goes to Vauxhall, although we look forward to revisiting this sector when the Ford Focus Coupe Cabriolet is on the road.