Mazda’s MX-5 hard top
Mark Lennihan  /  AP
Folding hard tops can be slow to operate, but the folding roof on Mazda’s MX-5 hard top takes just 12 seconds to go up or down.
By contributor
updated 5/9/2007 4:23:16 PM ET 2007-05-09T20:23:16

From the commissioning of the USS Holland in 1900 until the arrival of the nuclear-powered USS Nautilus in 1954, the term “submarine” referred to surface ships that were really only able to sneak briefly beneath the waves. Not until the Nautilus were submarines true undersea ships rather than attack boats able to do a neat underwater trick.

So it has been with convertibles. Ostensibly, these cars “convert” between exhilarating open-topped vehicles and secure, comfortable closed-roof cars. But in practice convertibles have been open cars that offer varying degrees of protection from the elements.

Only the mass-produced Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster, introduced in 1998, can be called the Nautilus of convertibles. It had a reliable folding hard-top roof that made it a true closed car when the roof was up and a sporty convertible when it was folded (with just the touch of a button).

Today, we enjoy an array of truly convertible cars, with ever-improving features and folding roof operation at increasingly accessible prices. The latest and most affordable arrivals in this segment are the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Pontiac G6 convertible, Volkswagen’s Eos and the Volvo C70.

These four cars are not so much competitors as complements to one another, with each offering its own set of advantages and drawbacks, with their convertible roofs as their common factor.

With their roofs up, inside and out they are indistinguishable from conventional closed-roof cars. That means no leaks, no wind roar, no rattles and no yellowed plastic rear window. But with the touch of a switch their drivers can transform themselves from the cautious, conservative types who shy away from risky convertibles into the outgoing, sun-loving extroverts they really want to be, leaving the underwater sailing to the USS Nautilus and its successors.

Click on the link below to read MotorHead’s review of four of the latest affordable hard-top convertibles — the Mazda MX-5, the Pontiac G6 convertible, the Volkswagen Eos and the Volvo C70.

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