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New convertibles offer sun, style, windswept looks at moderate price

Volkswagen Eos,

Base price $32,940

The 2012 Eos is about to arrive in VW showrooms, but the essentials remain unchanged. This hardtop convertible's roof can be opened partially to form a sunroof. VW's familiar turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder produces 200 horsepower. One big change: A dual-clutch transmission is available for the first time.

Chevrolet Camaro

Base price $29,150

It's been almost a decade since Chevy fielded a Camaro convertible, but it was worth the wait. Beneath its retro sheetmetal lies a potent 312-horsepower V-6 and 6‑speed manual transmission that's better than you might expect, not to mention fuel-efficient. A 426-horse V-8 will push the price closer to $40,000.

Chrysler 200

Base price $26,445

Most convertibles are stingy with backseat space — if they even have one at all. That's not the case with the 200. Unless you have a tight budget, skip the underachieving 173-horsepower 4-cylinder engine; opt for the new 283-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 instead. It has enough muscle to put the wind in your hair.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder

Base price $27,999

While Mitsubishi has been eclipsed by larger Japanese automakers, the Eclipse still offers something others don't: a droptop sports coupe. The base Eclipse has a 162-horsepower 4-cylinder, while the GT version gets a 265-horsepower V-6. Both models start under $35,000 — a steal considering their sporty manners and scarcity.

Ford Mustang

Base price $27,145

This is a four-wheeled American icon, and it shows its heritage. It's attractively priced, looks good with the top up or down, and the 305-horsepower V-6 has plenty of power on tap to keep things interesting. Better yet, this pony returns 31 mpg on the highway, proving you can look a gift horse in the mouth — provided it's a Mustang.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Base price $23,110

Mazda's Miata recalls an earlier era, albeit one filled with lightweight, affordable roadsters. Unlike its forebears, the Miata is reliable. It's a good thing, given its classic looks have been marred by a newly revised grille. Looks aside, the Miata's a hoot to drive, has good luggage space and is easy on gas. It's a bargain.

Mini Cooper

Base price $26,050

Yes, the Cooper has been around for a while. Yes, it's still cute enough to name. And yes, it still has exceptional design, solid build quality and an amazingly fun driving experience. It handles so well. A 121-horsepower 4-cylinder is standard. For those who love fast living, the Cooper S offers 60 additional horses, but the price jumps $3,000.

How better to enjoy spring than with a new convertible? But there's an old saying in the car business: When the top goes down, the price goes up. And it's true enough — most well-equipped droptops start at 40 grand or more. But don't despair. Stylish ways to catch some rays can be had for less than $35,000. Larry Printz, the Virginian-Pilot

New convertibles offer sun, style, windswept looks at moderate price 04/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:30am]

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