The Top 10 convertibles for brave winter buyersToyota

In a strange turn of events, the sun decided to make an appearance last week and that meant a steady stream of convertible cars gracing the roads for the first time this year.

If a tiny wave of jealousy washed over you when the sight of that low-slung Mazda MX-5 first appeared in the rear-view mirror, now could be the time to take the plunge and invest in some topless motoring frolics.

Here we bring you the 10 best convertibles that can be had for under £3,000, which includes some real surprises.

Top speeds vary from 109mph to 155mph, but all offer the chance to make the most of whatever amount of sunshine Britain receives this year.

Best of all, the convertible market isn't as buoyant during winter, so now really is the best time to bag a bargain if you are looking for some wind-in-the-hair motoring.

Alfa Romeo Spider

The Alfa Romeo Spider oozes Italian style, with a distinctive slash down the side and tiny round headlights. We found one for £2,995 with only 63,000 miles on the clock and a plucky 2.0 engine. Unfortunately, the fantastic sounding V6 would require nearly double the £3,000 budget.

Fiat Barchetta

Barchetta means "little boat" in Italian but don't think this cute runaround handles like its aquatic cousin. It's nippy, athletic and a rare sight on UK roads – mainly because many are left hand drive. £2,995 would stretch to this 1997 1.8-litre model.

Audi TT

The ever-popular Audi TT convertible has long been out of reach of bargain hunters thanks to high demand and good build quality, but now models like the 2001 1.8T we found are finally slipping under the £3k mark. This one just dips under 100,000 miles, and comes with heated seats, perfect for the UK's unpredictably sunny days.

Toyota MR2

Released in 1999, the third generation MR2 is often hailed as the 'baby Lotus Elise'. With Toyota reliability and near perfect handling, the MR2's reputation makes it very tempting and this one has only covered 50,000 miles.

BMW Z3

Popular looks, strong engines and an appearance in a James Bond film means the Z3 holds its value well, so you have to opt for something like this 110,000 miles 1999 model to get one for under £3,000. This particular model has the 1.9 litre engine, so the 0-60 time of 10.4 seconds is acceptable rather than fast.

Smart Roadster

Low weight, low power and low running costs is a concept sports cars manufacturers are only just returning to, seven years after the last Smart Roadster was built. So you could say this 2005, £3,000 convertible was ahead of its time. A warning though – a high number of warranty claims for leaky roofs meant the model was eventually canned, so check them out thoroughly before buying.

Mercedes-Benz SLK

The Mercedes-Benz SLK packs real performance and the strong brand value makes it the slightly wiser choice over the rival BMW Z3. This model we found for £3,000 can do 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 142mph. Impressive, huh?

Jaguar XK

Do you think 118,000 miles is too much for a fifteen-year-old Jaguar? If not, this 1998 XK has a 4.0 V8 engine and the ability to become a 155mph beige missile, should the need arise. It's just over our budget at £3,250, but we've included it because we think this beauty could be haggled it down.

BMW 3-series

The BMW 3-series proves you can have your cake and eat it with space for four, great equipment levels and an engaging rear-wheel drive chassis. For £3K, demand a good service history and toys such as leather seats, air conditioning and electric everything.

MGTF

The last sports car from MG is good value in final TF form, as the styling has been sharpened and most of the handling and reliability woes ironed out. Prices and quality vary massively with these so make sure you give it a thorough once-over before committing.