Top down: Budget convertibles

Cruise in the breeze for less than you think

You might assume that convertibles will chomp a huge chunk from your wallet, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a handful of snappy, great-looking and entertaining convertibles you can buy for less than $30,000. Even better, most of them will get more than 20 miles per gallon on the highway, making that long-distance cruise even more affordable.

Gaywheels.com has highlighted their favorite convertibles under $30,000, all from companies with gay-friendly policies for their employees. With any of these, you’ll be able to parade around in style, lid-free.

Saturn Sky
Pontiac had its Solstice roadster first — but we gays have taken more to Saturn’s Sky, the better-looking twin. The $25,525 Sky’s lines are a sexier combination of straights and curves, though the two-seat convertible package is the same. Under the teensy hood there’s a choice of a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 173 horsepower, or in the Sky Red Line, a 2.0-liter turbo four with 260 horsepower.

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A choice of five-speeds, automatic or manual, is up to you, though we recommend the automatic. Even with it, fuel economy can be as high as 28 mpg on the open road. Anti-lock brakes and stability control are standard, as are satellite radio, cruise control and power windows, locks and mirrors.

Volkswagen Eos
The name is shared with the goddess of the dawn. Okay, so maybe you’re hunting more for the god or goddess of the night, but Volkswagen’s four-seat Eos is glad to help out in the search for Mr. or Ms. Right (Now). Sneaking in just below $29,000 base, the Eos’ coolest feature is its retractable hardtop — push a button and about 30 seconds later, it’s folded neatly away in the trunk next to your gym bag.

Engine choices include a 200-horsepower turbo four and a 250-horsepower V-6, and highway fuel economy goes as high as 30 mpg. A manual gearbox is offered on the turbo four, while VW’s nifty dual-clutch automatic is the only tranny available on the V-6. Lots of standard gear includes anti-lock brakes and stability control, and Sirius satellite radio is available.

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Mazda Miata
Intimate as a table for two in a back corner, and responsive as a Time-Life operator, Mazda’s Miata is always a great choice for a two-seat roadster with great looks, fantastic handling and an easy-to-use top, something most of us can appreciate. For just $20,585, you get a classically influenced roadster with a body like a Greek god (okay, like a British roadster from the ’60s), a 166-horsepower four-cylinder and a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes.

You also get the ability to park almost anywhere in town, or on the side of the road, and earn the admiration of the cute surfers — and maybe their phone numbers, too. A word of caution: the cockpit’s actually a little too small to go by that name. We’re just saying.

Ford Mustang
Raise your hand if you’ve never heard of a Mustang — yep, we thought so. The evergreen ’Tang’s been around so long, most people forget that it’s one of the best-selling convertibles in the country — and still, one of the most fun to drive topless. The four-seat ragtop starts at just $25,060, and with the base V-6 engine musters 26 miles per gallon on the highway.

There’s a Pony package that firms up the base suspension and all sorts of color and trim options to go all retro on the Mustang. But the best option is Ford’s 1000-watt Shaker audio system. Plug in your iPhone or slip in that AC/DC CD, spin the knobs and you’ll be amazed at who turns their head and smiles in admiration. High school was never this cool for us!

— Originally published on GayWheels.com. Reprinted with permision.

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