THE leafy borough of Elmbridge in Surrey is posh and it knows it. Up to its eyebrows in celebrity residents, its average house price is £623,576 and its affluent residents paid more income tax last year than the whole of Glasgow.
And it’s probably no coincidence that Elmbridge, known in some circles as Britain’s Beverly Hills, also happens to be the UK’s convertible capital, with more soft-top cars per head of population than anywhere else in the land.
Either the micro-climate prevailing in Esher and Weybridge is a great deal more accommodating than it is down in the West Country or else ownership of a ragtop has a caché about it that scores highly among the well-heeled.
Despite the sun-bronzed features of such well-known residents as Cliff Richard and Gary Lineker, Jamie Redknapp, Ringo Starr and Elton John, I rather suspect the latter to be the case – ie: it has more to do with style than sunshine.
According to research conducted by Citroën, Elmbridge has more than 5,300 convertibles registered, which works out at one for every 25 people. Surrey, the natural habitat of the stockbroker and the banker, was the top county overall, with four of its districts featuring in the nation’s top 10.
The City of London and districts in Buckinghamshire, Essex and Berkshire, as well as Hart in Hampshire, completed the list of the most popular locations for convertible ownership.
At the other end of the scale – and the country – the district of Eilean Siar in the Outer Hebrides has the fewest registered convertibles per person, with just one for every 468 residents. The Shetland Islands were close behind, another area probably not best suited for wind-in-the-hair motoring.
The research was undertaken as part of the launch of DS3 Cabrio, the soft-top version of the popular hatchback. Citroën consulted registration data from the DVLA and census information from the Office for National Statistics to map the country’s convertible car hotspots.
Despite the climate, the UK has the second largest number of convertibles per head of population anywhere in the world. Around 900,000 are currently registered in Britain out of a total 28.7 million cars, accounting for 3.1% of all cars on our roads.
The research also found that counties with the greatest household incomes had the highest rates of convertible ownership. Surrey is one of the top areas for gross disposable household income, 37.7% higher than the national average. Kingston-upon-Hull, one of the lowest areas for convertible ownership, has among the lowest disposable household incomes per head, 29.6% less than the average.
Citroën’s Marc Raven says: “Despite our often unsettled climate, UK motorists have a long-established love affair with open-air driving. We can now see that Surrey is where the most convertible lovers reside.
“However, with average rainfall of 10cms a month and only 1,150 hours of sunshine a year compared to Surrey’s 1,675 hours, we can perhaps forgive residents of the Outer Hebrides for passing on the top-down driving experience.”