The recent trend of car makers switching from convertibles with fabric roofs to designing folding metal hard tops is driving a fleet resurgence of the convertible as they’re also classed, at least when the roof is up, as coupes. That means security fears are extinguished, opening up a more glamorous company car route as they’re sneaking under some fleets’ radar and making it onto choice lists which allow coupes.

Renault and Peugeot were the first in lower medium sector with coupe cabriolets, this year the market will gain three new entrants. First of these new models is the Astra, and rather than sticking to the now common CC nomenclature Vauxhall is badging the coupe convertible Astra as Twintop. Ford will badge its Focus convertible CC while VW will use a different approach and it’s rival will have it’s own dedicated name – Eos.

Vauxhall Astra twinto#E632D.gif

To give it’s contender some distance from its rivals, Vauxhall has designed the Astra with a three-piece folding roof. This has the effect of being more compact when electrically folded in the boot. The result is the Twintop designers were able to give the car a smaller, more elegant boot.

Cleverly, the engineers have tested the roof’s operation in wind speeds of up to 62mph, from all directions. This has allowed Vauxhall to give drivers the ability to raise or lower the roof at road speeds of up 18mph – useful if you want to shut the roof as you pull into a car park, especially as it takes about 30 seconds to close. Unfortunately the powered mechanism sounds just like the landing gear of a airplane being raised or lowered, which detracts from the feeling of engineering cleverness.

Once the roof’s down, the high side-glass means drivers and passengers stay unruffled, even at motorway speeds. Engine noise isn’t intrusive either with the roof down, except in the 2.0-litre turbo version with the welcome whistle of the blown engine as you accelerate. However the 2.0T engine is a little pointless for fleet, it’s the least economic and the most expensive run.

Of far more interest to fleets which allow the new breed of coupe-cabriolets are the petrol 1.8 and the diesel 1.9-litre versions.

The 140PS 1.8 is a new engine from Vauxhall, already in the Zafira and also going into a host of other models . It’s refined at all but high revs and has plenty of shove, yet returns a reasonable 36.7mpg.

The pick for user-choosers has to be the diesel. At 150PS it’s swifter than the petrol and it returns 46.3mpg. While the benefit-in-kind tax rating is 1% lower at 23% too.

Against it’s nearest rivals the Astra is a cost winner too thanks mainly to low SMR costs and low depreciation, although it should be noted the Vauxhall has the highest insurance group and lease rate in this group.

What the Astra Twin-top doesn’t do is drive like a sporty coupe, in fact none of the coupe-cabrio set do, they drive like softer convertibles, which is fine for the type of person who’d generally be wanting a convertible.

The Twintop’s costs win, coupled to the car’s neat design, mean it’s our current favourite, but we’ve yet to see the cost figures for the Focus, which we expect to be a serious challenge to the Vauxhall.