Convertibles reveal more of Hong Kong, but they can also wreck your hairdo, fry you in the sun and expose you to lots of exhaust fumes.
If you insist on getting one, buy second hand to avoid the costs of depreciation and first registration tax. There is much open-top choice in increasingly polluted Hong Kong. A 2008 vario-roofed Peugeot 207cc was advertised online for HK$60,000, and there are lots of pre-2005 206cc online for less. These little Peugeots are fine drives, but check that their roofs still work, and be prepared to look hard for spares. A 2007 two-litre BMW 320i might offer four seats in the sun for about HK$75,000, and a sweet two-litre 2010 yellow Volkswagen Beetle looked attractive at HK$125,000. Convertible Volkswagen Golfs range from HK$20,000 for a 1997 model to HK$249,000 for a 2013 version, and a 2011 Smart ForTwo was offered online at HK$69,000. Any MX-5 is good, but have at least HK$40,000 ready for a so-so 1991 Mark 1. The 660cc Daihatsu Copen is still a pretty, stylista drive and a 2005 version was offered for HK$95,000 online. Alternatively, you could risk one of the many “money pit” luxury convertibles that are offered cheap but may involve costly spare parts and servicing. A 1995 Mercedes-Benz SL 320 was advertised for HK$60,000; a yellow 1997 Saab 900S was stickered at HK$20,000, and a star-grilled 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 wanted HK$68,000. A 1998 four-litre 1997 Jaguar XJ8 looked seductive online as Money Pit of the Week, at HK$55,000.
If you must buy new, the two-door, four-seat Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet has just arrived, and with two reminders for Hong Kongers. First, that the latest convertibles have sophisticated roof mechanisms that involve costly, often bulky technology. Much of these hydraulic and electrical systems take up boot space. The C-Class has 230 litres. Second, that even the best luxury cars’ electronic roof-raising times are still too slow in the more sudden, heavier rains of Asia. The C-Class Cabriolet’s roof movement is said to activate in 20 seconds, or long enough for a drenching here in July. Meanwhile, local MGB or Mazda MX-5 owners can raise their classics’ roofs manually in about half the time. Even so, the Bremen-made C 200 Cabriolet (HK$528,000) looks impressive on 17-inch wheels with a diamond radiator grille and LED lights. Its 184-horsepower, 1,991cc engine should suffice at Hong Kong speeds with the promise of 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, and a top speed of 233km/h via a 9G-TRONIC transmission. The model also consumes 6.2 litres of petrol per
100km for about 150g/km of carbon-dioxide emissions, the marque says. Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong also offers the 245hp C 300 Cabriolet (HK$688,000), with a Mercedes-AMG V6 and two V8 options from HK$899,000.
The BMW 420i convertible (HK$557,000) is a well-styled two-door four-seater, and seems a younger family ride with a two-litre 184hp engine that promises 100km/h in 8.4 seconds and tops at 230km/h. Its petrol consumption is 5.8l/100km on a 60-litre tank and its CO2 spew is 136g/km. The 252hp 430i M Sport Edition (HK$730,000) version is about 2 seconds faster via eight-speed Sports automatic transmissions with Steptronic. Their tops drop in 20 seconds and leave 230 litres of space for luggage. The marque is proud of the model’s noise-absorbing roof headliner and legroom, but the BMW 420i convertible has impressive chassis, power-steering and drive technology. Its BMW EfficientDynamics facilities include auto-start-stop, brake energy regeneration, and an ECO PRO mode that promises to “lead to fuel savings of 20 per cent”. Automatic versions also have a coasting mode.
The latest MINI Cooper Convertible (from HK$369,800) was launched here in July and promises more legroom, new instruments and a roof that drops in 18 seconds. The four-seater’s turbocharged, fuel-injected 1.5-litre engine is just fine for increasingly crowded Hong Kong, but if you want more power, you could get an S version (HK$439,800) or buy second-hand online: a 2005 version was offered this week for about HK$50,000. The latest Cooper Convertible also has 136hp, reaches 100km/h in about 8.7 seconds and tops at 207km/h and for 5.1 litres of petrol per 100km and CO2 emissions of 119g/km. The 3.821 metre basic Cooper is 98mm longer than its predecessor but still promises a fun drive, easy parking and fun handling on smaller New Territories roads. Luggage room is “215 litres with the roof closed and 160 litres with it folded down”, the marque says.
The Lotus Elise Sport is 866kg light, offers sharp handling and bursts to 100km/h in about 6.5 seconds. Elise can be really fun, particularly with local Lotus fans, and this model’s 1.6-litre, 134hp engine tops at 204km/h through six manual gears. Its interior is still spartan and maybe too low for some couples, but the Elise makes a fine bonus splurge or well-done present for a newly qualified young professional. The addictive Elise might bring out your inner plonker, but it’s a blast.