Going Topless: Stripping Down to the Final Four


Welcome to the second part of our new series ‘Going Topless’ where writer Amy Tokic goes on a journey to find her ideal convertible.  Did you miss her first article, chronicling the decision to get her dream car? Check it out right here.

It may be tedious, but research is invaluable. Without it, my car-buying search will be a crap shoot. Literally – I will be stuck paying and driving a crap-mobile. I want to come out of this experience smelling like roses, so I’m putting in my fair share of car research.

As with any good search, I start my sleuthing on the Internet (seriously, what did we do before the web came around?). And research is important – I want to be equipped with all the facts before I make my way into the dealership. I’ve looked at reviews, features, specs and prices on a plethora of different cars.

The downside of the Internet is that there is so much intel available it can be overwhelming. Am I getting everything I need? What if I miss some important piece of information? I found that this kind of thinking can stop the car buying process in its tracks. So, I’m going to get enough information that I feel confident that I know what’s important to me. Going from novice to car expert in a few weeks or months is impossible, so I’m going to go out there with what I know and learn along the way.

After some Internet research, I’ve narrowed down the shortlist to four picks and what I like most about each one, as well as a list of pros and cons from sites (like this one) that offer unbiased reviews. If you’re conducting a search, Google the year, make and model, as well as the word “review.” Be sure to read what the pros and the average Joes are saying about the car you are interested in.

1. Mazda Miata: Cute and sporty, the Miata makes me feel like I should be cruising around the Italian countryside. It comes in soft and hard top options, with the hard top being retractable. It may be small, but it packs a punch. This two-seat roadster has a 2.0L 4-cyl. engine, manual transmission and gets up to 22 City/28 Hwy mpg.

Starting price: $23,470.

Pros: Super fun to drive; great steering and handling; just like the original, but better; retractable hard-top is awesome.

Cons: Crappy stereo; tight squeeze in the trunk.

2. MINI Cooper Convertible: Hip and cool, this trendy convertible is compact while still packing a punch. This mini compact has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, 6-speed manual transmission and gets 27 City/35 Hwy mpg.

Starting price: $25,850.

Pros: Sharp handling; great fuel economy; hip look with plenty of options to choose from; innovative convertible roof; perfect vehicle for robbing a shipment of gold (just ask Michael Caine).

Cons: Poor rear visibility; lacks rear legroom; questionable reliability; only available in a soft top.

3. Volkswagen Eos: Sleek and stylish, the Eos is cool without the sporty showiness. Plus, I love the retractable hardtop with the built-in sunroof. Hands down, the front runner of my list – and of course, it is the most expensive. The Eos seats four, has a 2.0L 4-cyl. engine and gets up to 22 City/30 Hwy mpg.

Starting price: $34,350

Pros: Innovative retractable hardtop with large power moonroof; Good performance and handling; Rock solid body structure, sleek exterior.

Cons: Lots of junk in the small trunk; built for comfort, not speed; the most expensive of my picks.

4. Chevrolet Camaro: Buff and muscle-bound, the Camaro runs on mullets and Whitesnake. Like I mentioned before, my dad is a GM man and this car is made in my hometown. If I didn’t take at least one GM car out for a half-hearted spin, I was told I’d be cut out of the will. This is what you’d call the pity test drive. It has a 300+ horsepower 3.6L V6 engine, a manual transmission, and gets up to 17 City/28 Hwy mpg.

Starting price: $30,660

Pros: Strong acceleration with any engine, which give you the opportunity to really “give ‘er”; head-turning looks; good V6 fuel economy; my pick of the gear heads who flock to this car when I visit the folks at the old homestead.

Cons: Poor visibility; budget interior; cramped backseat; crap-tacular gas mileage in the city.

My Budget:


I’ve got about half of that saved, so the rest will be financing or dipping into a line of credit. I’ll be talking about leasing and financing in a future article. Convertibles are more expensive, but I knew that fact going into the process and have planned for it. Because of this, I have to decide what is needed rather than what is wanted. I would love to have heated seats (perfect for cold winters), but on my budget, that might not happen. Same goes for GPS navigation. I’ll just have to do it the old fashioned way and stop at a gas station to ask for directions.

It’s going to be hard giving up my hard-earned cash and shelling out for a monthly payment. My other car was paid off right from the start, so this will be new to me. I’m glad I have a big chunk of the down payment already, but I’ll have to add the leftover debt to my budget – which will be another factor on how much I can afford.

Things Learned:

Even the smallest step helps to alleviate some of the worry and fear associated with the whole car-buying process. The internet is a great resource to get you going and it makes you feel like you are in control of the whole process. I’m going to get as much info on all four of these cars as I can before heading in, researching even more reviews and looking up other data on consumer sites. And learning is great, ‘cause knowledge is power!

Next Up:

I venture into a few new car dealerships to start my first round of test drives. Ladies, start your engines…