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Motor Mouth articles 2012

Soft-top owners rarely open up

Just for show? Most owners of convertibles never lower the roof.

IT will take a huge leap of the imagination, of course, but just, for a moment, picture a warm, sunny day and you’re about to go for a spin in your convertible. Would you lower the roof?

Well, two-thirds of us wouldn’t, according to the findings of a new survey, which rather confirms a widely held view that soft-top cars are mainly for poseurs.

The poll, carried out in August, reveals that 64 per cent of drivers with convertibles rarely, if ever, lower the roof.

It’s a curiosity that Britain, despite a climate that’s as reliable as a Greek financial adviser, is one of the world’s leading markets for convertibles.

Yet 46 per cent admitted that exotic looks scored way above wind-in-the-hair driving appeal as their main reason for choosing a ragtop. The cachet of ownership far outweighed the practicality of being able to lower the hood on a whim.

Women are more likely than men to occasionally expose themselves to the elements. In fact 39 per cent of women polled said they almost always drive with their car roof open.

The largest group likely to lower the roof are drivers aged 25 to 34, while the region furthest above the average is the East Midlands. I’d never thought of Nottingham as being exotic but there you go.

The survey was actually carried out by Audi, for whom the UK is the largest market for cabriolets.

Most of the convertibles that I encounter on British roads seem to be being driven by women. Mrs Mouth once had a soft-top Mazda MX5 which usually had its roof down, either because it was stuck or because she had forgotten how to put it up.

Hoods have come a long way over the years. Once they were all but impossible to take down or put up without a degree in engineering, a full-size tool kit and about two spare hours – by which time it was raining. The plastic rear window soon became opaque before cracking, leaking and disintegrating.

Today’s stylish cabriolets are usually electronically operated so can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button, even when the car is moving. Rear windows have glass in them and super-efficient heaters and smart aerodynamics fend off the worst of the chill factor.

But they can still fall prey to vandals or thieves armed with a sharp knife and if we have too many summers like this one, the upward trend for buying convertibles could be about to go into reverse.

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