By on March 10, 2021

Buy/Drive/Burn continues its cheapest of series today, as convertibles follow up the vans, trucks, and sedans we’ve covered already.

When it’s time for ragtop fun on the lowest possible budget, which of these three gets the Buy?

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Our cheapest of the trio today was a toss-up with its twin, the Fiat 124. We chose the Mazda version because it had a $10 lower base price than the Fiat this year, and is the car more people actually purchase. Prices range from $26,830 for the Sport, step to $30,290 for the Club, and $31,770 for the Grand Touring. The base Sport has no hard top option, but shares the same 2.0-liter inline-four as the other trims, good for 181 horsepower. A six-speed manual is included at no additional charge. No-cost colors include white or black, and a black cloth interior is mandatory. Final cost after the $995 destination fee is $27,825.

MINI Cooper

MINI still makes a Cooper cabriolet, which your author had forgotten entirely. If you’d asked, I’d have said it faded away circa 2016. But no! It’s available as a 2021 in three trim levels, from base Cooper at $27,400, S at $31,900, and tops out at John Cooper Works for $38,400. There are sub-trims within the trims, and the base convertible includes Classic, Signature, and Iconic. MINI does not believe in convertible power equality, and horsepower varies by model trim at 134, 189, and 229, respectively. A six-speed manual is the standard transmission here, and those 134 horses are generated by a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Free paint colors are limited to red or silver, and interiors are made of black faux leather. Final cost is $28,250, but the terrible MINI website won’t break that down without contacting a dealer. Said website also thinks you’re using a phone if you resize the window on your PC, and greys out all information until you expand it back. Boo.

Chevrolet Camaro

For true American Freedom Convertible action, today’s most expensive offering is the Camaro. Available in a dizzying seven trim levels (which seems like too many), prices range from $32,495 for the base 1LT, through $69,995 for the top-tier ZL1. For our Ace of Base money, power on offer arrives via 2.0-liter turbocharged four. It produces a respectable 275 horses, routed through the standard six-speed manual. Chevy offers six paint colors at no additional charge, which include red and blue, among grays and white. You get to pick the color of your top as well, and can choose black, blue, or mocha-y (shown). Interiors at this level are black, and cloth. After a $995 destination fee, the Camaro asks $32,490.

These convertibles are as cheap as they come in 2021. Which one do you purchase with your own bitcoins?

[Images: GM, MINI, Mazda]

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50 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: The Cheapest Convertibles in America for 2021...”


  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Wow, this is a good topic for B/D/B.
    Burn that English Rose, burn it to the ground, and burn the ashes, too. And then dig up the ground and burn that.
    Now, this is a tough choice. The Camaro is more practical, as it has a back seat and a lot more room inside. It’s also more powerful. The Miata is super pure, a legend in it’s own right, and I’m kind of shocked it’s the cheapest option here.
    I think you could buy either and drive either.
    I wonder what the next most-costly convertible is? Mustang? It can’t be much more than the Camaro. I’ll take that one.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’d buy the Miata because it will hold it’s value and they’re a hoot to drive. I’d drive the MINI because they’re fun to drive as well with a decent seating position. I’d burn the Camaro because the gunslit windows and cheap interior would remind me every day there’s better options.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “…gunslit windows….”

      They’re ‘verts…….

      I’d burn the Mini, cool as it is, because I once had a disk slip as a result the nonexistent suspension travel…

      I might buy the Miata for a warm weather short hauler, despite not really fitting in one. In even slightly cold weather, the back of my ears risk outright frostbite at night, at speeds typical of remote stretches of Rocky Mountain freeways.

      I’d drive the Camaro, though. Don’t diss it ’till you’ve driven one. It’s a nice convertible. Kind of one half muscle car, one half sports car and one half cruisemobile. And yes: Three halfs do add up to more than one…..

      The Miata is the objectively best car of the three. It won’t rattle, and even if it does, it doesn’t matter in such a small roadster. The others do suffer notably from having their roofs cut off. But are also really nice vehicles for what they are, and serve different enough niches than the Magic Mazda, to be ultimately better buys for lots of people.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    Buy Miata
    Drive Mini
    Burn Camaro

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I would drive the Mazda. I would be tempted to say buy the Mazda but I want to drive it more than I want to own it.

    The buy/burn categories are difficult because I dont really know what a base Camaro looks like in terms of equipment levels, I assume that is what we would be talking about here since we are talking about inexpensive vehicles. I think I would probably have more fun in the Camaro even in the base 2.0t than the Mini regardless, so I will have to buy the Camaro and burn the Mini. I would buy and drive the Mazda and burn the other two if it were an option.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Easy

    Buy the Mazda for long term enjoyment

    Drive the hell out of the Camaro just for fun

    Torch that other thing

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’d definitely buy the Camaro – it’s by far the quickest of this bunch (C/D clocked a 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds for a coupe with this powertrain, which is darn quick in anyone’s book), it’s the most practical, and with the top down, it looks great (plus, having the top down solves the Camaro’s deal-killing outward visibility issues).

    Drive the Miata, because everyone should drive one. But Miatas aren’t great at doing anything but weekend-toy duty, and if that’s what I wanted, I’d pick up a far cheaper used one.

    Burn the Mini twice – once for being a Mini, once for being a three-banger.

    • 0 avatar
      whynotaztec

      A 4 cyl Camaro has a 5.1 sec zero to sixty time? HOLY SCHNIKES WHERE HAVE I BEEN??????
      Of course if you want the manual, I assume you would have to order it. No way this thing is sitting on a dealer lot.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Yes, yes and yes.

      Other than MINI’s laughable reliability and absurd pricing, they want you to pay a premium for a 3 cylinder engine. The same kind of engine put in a 1987 Chevy Sprint Turbo with the tiny toaster air inlet.

      Oh MINI, no one ever said you don’t have a good sense of humor.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The Miata is the only one worth mentioning in this group. Buy and drive it. The other 2 can head on off to the crusher. I’d go with the 124 Abarth version though, but the Miata wouldn’t disappoint.

    The 6.2 hooked to a Tremec is the only reason to buy a Camaro. It’s like you are buying the motor and GM threw a bunch of parts in that kind of work as a car for free. Substitute the 4 cylinder and I’m not sure what I’d be paying for.

    I don’t hate the minis as a hot hatch, though I think there are better choices. The convertible makes no sense to me

  • avatar
    relton

    Why wouldn’t you buy a Mustang? It’s far more pleasant to drive, especially with the top down, than the Camaro, and a far more practical car in every other way.

    Having had experience with both, in base trim, I don’t think it’s even close.

  • avatar
    IanGTCS

    I’m 6’4″, any time I’ve sat in a Miata it hasn’t been enjoyable. Steering wheel pressing my knees against the door or centre console, top of windshield right in my eyes. Regular minis I’ve actually been fairly comfortable in, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a convertible one. I’ve driven a previous gen Camaro and I was comfortable enough. So from a purely comfort angle I’d probably buy the Camaro, drive the Mini and burn the Miata.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    Buy: Camaro. This is the most practical vehicle from the list on a daily basis. And it can be fun as well. I like having 3 extra seats to share. Am I going to miss the V8 rumble? Of course I will, but these are all bottom priced cars.

    Drive: Miata. I’ve wanted to drive one for ages. It’s a fun, tossable, little car. But I don’t think I’d like to own one.

    Burn: Mini. this is an easy one. I could care less about that one

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Buy: the Miata, because I love this car and kinda want to buy one IRL anyway.

    Drive: the Camaro. I guess this makes the list bc of price, but it still seems like a bit of an odd-duck in this comparison to me. Others have mentioned that it’s more practical than the other two, and that’s certainly true. I’m basing my decision on this being purely a weekend playtoy purchase, so here it goes. Catch me on another day though, and this might be my buy.

    Burn: My heart wants to love MINI, but my head says run away as fast as you can

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      When I drove it I found the back seat to be practical if you just want to store stuff in it. Putting people back there that have legs would be a no go as my seatback was against the rear seat. If you actually need your back seat it is doubtful a Camaro would suit your needs.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I’ve driven all three, although not the Mini in convertible form.

    BUY: Camaro – this is the rare car that gets a lot better when you cut the roof off. The sins of outward visibility, feeling like you’re driving a cave on wheels go away in the convertible. Push it past 5/10ths and this is a blast to drive. The problem is not many places to drive above 5/10ths anymore.

    DRIVE: MX-5 – it is no contest. Pure joy

    BURN: Mini – lost me at 3-cylinders for starters – unlike the Camaro this is an example of a vehicle that gets worse when you take the roof off

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Just bought an M-Edition and looking forward to its delivery.

    I’ve ridden in Minis and a Camaro. Which is why I bought a Miata…

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    If I was replacing my ’08 Audi A5 coupe, I would get the Camaro – it actually has ten more horsepower than I have currently, and should be fun to drive. Manual transmission of course. So this would be the one I would drive.

    If I was replacing my wife’s ’12 Mini Cooper S, I would get – the Miata (or perhaps the Fiat 124 – my wife likes Fiats!) She’s had the Mini for almost a decade (no significant problems with it), and she thinks she has always wanted a convertible. Also with a manual. So this would be the one to own.

    That leaves the Mini to burn, it just does not make much sense as a convertible.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Buy: Miata. None of these can be anything but a third car in our household, so the practicality issues aren’t really a factor, and the Miata is by far the most fun of these three cars.

    Drive: Whichever of the other two happens to be parked closer, and burn the other. I have very little desire to drive either a four-cylinder Camaro or a massive “Mini.”

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I could see you in a Miata convertible, I just don’t know if you’d be willing to give up your cherry Legend for the space.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        In all honesty I’ve been wanting to buy a convertible, but not a Miata. But I’m about to remodel my house and in the Seattle $400/sqft construction environment I need every spare penny for the remodel. But once that’s in the rearview mirror you’ll find me shopping for a nice E46 droptop. I’ve got the garage space for both, at least for the moment.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          I thought you had a one car garage?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I have access to another one-car garage in a different place, and I’m fine with our workaday cars (Bolt, Highlander) being parked outside.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’d really like an SC430 myself, I only have a two car garage and trying to slim down to two from three cars. My mechanic wants me to buy his Volvo C70 convertible but I don’t want both stalls filled 365, I like to have one free for the DD. We also don’t have convertible friendly weather here but still I would like one for the maybe 3-4 months of the year I could use it. Maybe I just need a bigger house :D

          I knew a gentleman years ago with a cherry red E30, he absolutely loved it. I’ve heard mixed things over the years about E46 but am not knowledgeable of them. If I was going the BMW route, I’d go Z4 convertible.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            SC430 gets a lot of hate it doesn’t deserve because the magazines insist everything has to be a Porsche 911. If you want a comfy and well-made convertible without sporting intentions, it’s a great car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Probably the only reliable hardtop convertible outside of the even rarer Lexus IS convertible (just read MY08-10 only) and still rarer Pontiac G6 convertible (MY08-09 only). Only other ones which come to mind are from Volvo, Mercedes, VW, and possibly Audi (I don’t remember BMW offering one). I’m not sure about the IS but I know the SC430 was intended to be a cruiser not a sports car. I say just accept it and enjoy it.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “it’s a great car.”

            I agree. If you are into the sheetmetal Lexus gave it.

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            BMW offered the retractable convertible as a 3 series from 2007-10 which is currently the 4 series retractable. I see plenty of good deals on the Volvo C70 retractable. The first generation soft tops are available in the $2-5k range. They have their issues but are an inexpensive weekend cruiser.
            Before I purchased my Dodge Challenger I could have picked up a first generation 2006 Z4 2.5 manual for $6k from its original owner. If I could have managed with 2 seats and minimal cargo room plus the cost of used German car ownership I would have bought it.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            If I wanted a hardtop convertible (i.e., if I wanted to park the car on the street instead of in the garage) I’d probably try to find one of the unicorn Infiniti G37 convertibles with a stick. Or the E93 could be an option, although I’m leery of the N54 engine.

            But for a garage-parked, occasional-use convertible, I think the soft top and its reduced weight and complexity is better.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Ajla

            Eh I look at the hot garbage today and pine for that early 90s trophy wife styling.

            @MRF95

            If such a thing were offered to me now, I’d give it serious consideration and research (know a bit about Z3, zero on Z4). My mechanic has a ’99 C70 he wants me to buy and I have not ruled it out if I could get access to another garage nearby (the main issue is the Volvo P80 platform kind of sucks in general like all of the FWDs). The 06+ S40 Convertible while nice looking is going to entail a lot of headache as all the newer Volvos do.

            @Dal

            I didn’t realize Infiniti released a hard top convertible, they must be unobtainium.

            In my climate I’d prefer the hard top, not to mention last I was told a soft top generally needed replaced every ten years. If you could slip into a used one with the top done and then out before it wore out again, I see the appeal I’ve just seldom seen that done successfully. I was also told on the Volvo and Mercedes soft tops there is some kind of special dealer only tool to work with them (probably the same with all of them).

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            @28: Hardly perfect, but the best one I could find for sale in the country at the moment (complete with stick):

            https://www.eacchicago.com/vdp/17140974/Used-2009-Infiniti-G-Convertible-G37-for-sale-in-Chicago-IL-60647

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Dal

            Very nice, thanks for the find.

            I’d prob go for this though if paying cash (MMR is $10-12 and what I would target):

            https://www.carfax.com/vehicle/JTHFF2C27A2512408

            That G37 is only worth about 8 (avg) to 9,5 (clean).

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Two issues with those, 28: 1) the wrong transmission (I want one more manual toy car in my lifetime), and 2) while I don’t generally disagree with my homie Sir Mix-A-Lot’s feelings on posteriors, that one is probably too much even for him.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @28, dal…
            I’d go with the G37. Still a J-VIN, and the IS250 is a dog to begin with; all that additional weight for the convertible isn’t going to help.

            Toss those two in with, say, a BMW 3-series or Audi A5 convertible of that vintage, and it’d be a good BDB.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Buy MINI
    Drive Miata
    Burn Camaro

  • avatar
    multicam

    The Jeep Wrangler, starting at $28,475 in 2-door guise, is a cheaper convertible than the Camaro- and you can take its doors off!

    For the three in question though, I’d drive the snot out of the Miata until I was uncomfortable (probably 15 minutes max given my height), buy the Camaro, and burn the Mini. I’d be very reluctant to buy the Camaro though. My wife had a 2012 V6 with the manual transmission and that transmission was the ONLY thing I liked about that car. If I were forced to buy one I would let her have it as her second car.

    With the Wrangler in the mix my answer would be the same except substitute the Wrangler for the Camaro as the “Buy” choice. I own a 2019 soft top 2-door Wrangler right now and love it so I’ve already made this decision.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Drive the MX5 for its purity of purpose

    Buy the Mini (in the U.K.) because it doesn’t depreciate and is really well built

    Burn the Camaro because it doesn’t drive as well as an MX5 and because it’s interior is poor

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Miata- The answer is… Additionally there’s savings out there on the final Fiat 124.

    Drive: Camaro- I’m no fan of the claustrophobic coupe but the drop top which I have sat in seems far more functional for daily driving. It also handles nicely and has a usable trunk.

    Burn: MINI- I’m a fan of the Cooper S hot hatch but the base seems to be a penalty box.

    Honorable mention: Fiat 500C-there’s some deals that land in this price range or less on leftovers. For many cheap and cheerful.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I’d buy a Jeep Wrangler. $28,475 USD for a base model with manual transmission. It’s a convertible too.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    Heck, for that kind of money you could get a nice Volkswagen Thing.

  • avatar

    Buy Camaro yeah gin slit windows are annoying but they really are great driving cars.
    Drive Mini I guess
    Burn Miata over hyped and very uncomfortable for taller people like me.

    But the real answer here is a base wrangler

  • avatar
    zerog

    Mini

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