BOSTON (TheStreet) -- After putting off extravagances for more than a year, consumers are treating themselves to some speed and sun behind the wheels of convertible cars.
Car sales climbed more than 40% in March at
as the automakers lured customers with incentives. With summer approaching, many drivers shunned practical options in favor of Infiniti and Volkswagen GTI convertibles.
Infiniti's G lineup, which includes the Infiniti G37 convertible, jumped 45% in March from a year earlier, while sales of Toyota's Lexus IS sports sedans rose 24%. Mazda reported a 34% increase in MX-5 Miata convertible sales. And Volkswagen said the number GTI cars sold almost quadrupled to 1,746 from 461 a year earlier.
Here are some of the top ranked convertibles and sports cars based on tests by
. Detailed ratings for each of car will be featured in the magazine's May issue.
The G37 hard-top convertible is based on Nissan's sporty Infiniti G37 sedan. Simply press a button and the roof automatically lowers within 30 seconds. The G37's seamless seven-speed automatic transmission helped it earn a "very good" rating from
and an overall road-test score of 77. The $48,715 car is powered by a 325-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 engine that gets 30 miles per gallon. Its acceleration and handling doesn't match those of its non-convertible counterpart, and the ride can be a bit noisy and shaky, according to the magazine. However the high-quality materials used in its interior add comfort.
Lexus IS 250
Toyota's sales have been on the rise, despite its recall troubles earlier this year. March sales of its Lexus IS 250 convertible were up 24% from last year. The $44,400 IS 250 has an all-weather hardtop, good fuel economy and a golfer-friendly trunk. The car earned a CR rating of "very good" and an overall road-test score of 77. The refined ride is powered by a 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6 engine and gets 23 mpg. While the interior boasts high-quality materials and construction,
says the rear seat feels small and cramped. Braking is excellent, but acceleration is not impressive. With the touch of a button, the three-panel roof folds itself into the trunk in 20 seconds.
Audi, which is owned by Volkswagen, had over a 30% increase in U.S. sales over this past year. Sales of the stylish Audi A5 convertible sales jumped 150% from last March. The A5 has a soft top that can be operated on the move. And while the $49,300 A5 might not be as sporty as some of its competitors, it's practical characteristics earned it some points with
. It has a luxurious interior, impressive handling balance and optional all-wheel drive, the magazine says. Its graceful and agile steering makes the A5 fun to drive. With an overall CR road-test score of 74, the A5 runs on a 211-hp 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that provides good performance and drives 22 mpg overall.
Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring convertible
The MX-5 Miata's interior may be a bit tight for tall folks, but its precise handling, excellent braking and smooth ride makes the experience comfortable,
says. Earning a road-test score of 89, the MX-5 is "recommended" by the magazine, which means it performed well in tests and customer surveys. The $31,150 car offers an optional retractable hard-top roof. Powered by a 167-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, the vehicle gets 28 mpg on premium fuel.
Mini Cooper S
Mini sales increased 2.5% in March from a year earlier. The Mini Cooper convertible is a small, zippy car with distinctive styling. The $32,850 car offers punchy acceleration and short, quick transmission shifts, the magazine says. Although it may have strong performance reviews, its one major drawback is its uncomfortable rear seat. It earned a 77 in road-test scores and is powered by a turbocharged 172-horsepower,four-cylinder engine that delivers 30 mpg.
The Mazdaspeed3 is a quick and agile sports car. However it can be very loud and jittery to ride in, the magazine says. The six-speed manual transmission has short, accurate shifts and a sporty feel, but a harsh ride and a noisy cabin can make this car difficult to drive.
gives the $23,945 Mazdaspeed3 an "excellent" rating and a score of 83. It's powered by a turbocharged 263-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that delivers 26 mpg.
Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
Lancer Ralliart can be noisy to ride in and choppy to drive, the magazine says. The $28,344 Ralliart's automated manual transmission can be a bit abrupt, but the vehicle handles well.
gave it a rating of "very good" and a road-test score of 72. The turbocharged 237-horsepower, four-cylinder engine gets 20 mpg.
The $27,504 GTI is a sporty version of the practical Volkswagen Golf hatchback. This car has a solid interior, good braking and it is fun to drive, the magazine says. It earned an "excellent" rating and a road-test score of 85. The GTI is powered by a 200-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and gets 27 mpg. It isn't made for high-speed handling and aggressive driving, but it offers a comfortable ride, tremendous fuel economy, an ample interior space.
Reported by Theresa McCabe in Boston