Vauxhall CascadaThe styling flagship of the Vauxhall range is the new Cascada 2+2, two door, mid-sized fabric roofed convertible launched in the Spring at prices ranging from £23,995 to £29,080.

 

Based on a version of the C-segment Astra platform, in fact the Cascada is a larger D-segment drop top. Its pricing, for starter spec versions, and size means it can compete in both segments against the likes of the new cabriolets such as the VW Beetle, VW Golf, Peugeot 308 CC, BMW 1 Series and even the premium brand Audi A5 which says Vauxhall is £8,000 more expensive than the lowest priced Cascada version.

Vauxhall anticipates the Cascada should achieve around 2,100 annual sales in the UK market, about 10% of the C-segment cabriolet sector.

It’s been a very busy year for new model introductions, not least of all by Vauxhall, so it’s only now I’ve had chance to slip into the Cascada just before the Autumn and Winter weather arrives.

The Cascada has a wide and broad stance with a rising waistline front to rear giving it a wedge shaped side profile. It is 4,696mm long and much of that extra length has been given over to rear passenger legroom. The width is 1,839mm which gives it a substantial and solid appearance. Finishing off the design is a classic Vauxhall face and a very smart electrically operated aerodynamic fabric folding roof with no visible roll-over protection spoiling the cars silhouette from the steeply raked A-pillar to its tail. The roof folds neatly away into the boot area and then is covered automatically by a solid panel so aiding quality good looks and aero efficiency. Unlike some convertibles the roof design doesn’t look ugly, bulbous or a compromise, it looks a fully integrated component not a hatchback or coupe with the roof cut off.

Vauxhall CascadaVauxhall CascadaThe downside is that the roof takes up a high proportion of the boot when in the stowed position. With the roof up there is 380-litres of space with access through a narrow high set boot lid, with the roof folded down this space shrinks to just 280-litres. However the twin rear seats can be folded to allow longer objects to be carried. In reality this is a four seater stylish cruiser for adults but not with enough luggage space if the roof is folded down. As always convertibles are somewhat of a compromise.

Inside the Cascada looks a premium quality product even though the mass of buttons, the dashboard design and controls have that familiar Vauxhall look about them. There are neat touches, the front seats, with the optional leather upholstery on my top of the range Elite model, move forward electrically to allow access for the rear seat passengers. This movement is certainly on the slow side so getting in and out of the cabriolet when it’s raining can be a dampening experience. The front passengers get the luxury of front seat belt presenters which saves a great deal of discomfort trying to find them and the front seats are heated as is the steering wheel. Front quarter visibility is restricted because of the thick front A-pillars, the steeply raked windscreen means lots of distracting reflections from the fascia appear in the windscreen in daylight and at night. Rear visibility is also limited due to the small rear window. Yes the Cascada does have some design niggles but overall inside and out it’s a good product.

Vauxhall CascadaDuring my test drive time I was racking my brain to remember what other model the Cascada reminded me of for size and style. Then it struck me, it is the Saab 9-3 Convertible, Saab formerly being owned by Vauxhall’s parent company - GM. The Saab brand was until recently defunct but now it’s in the ownership of a Chinese manufacturer so it might well appear again at some stage. Certainly there is a chance that loyal Saab Convertible owners might well find the Cascada appealing to their open-top motoring needs

The best selling Cascada Elite specification, there is a lesser SE level, includes lots of safety features, just like Saab, including active rollover protection, 18-inch alloy wheels, digital radio, Bluetooth, cruise control, electrically operated for side windows, door mirrors and fabric roof, much needed rear parking sensors, air conditioning and remote control central locking and alarm. With the new 1.6i SIDI turbocharged 170PS petrol engine and standard automatic transmission this version costs £28,890.

Style and quality are important considerations in this sector so there are some extra costs options to be considered. The sat nav system will add £1,200, the triple-layer acoustic fabric roof upgrade £300, the highly recommended flexi-ride and continuous damping control system costs £790, the premium leather pack adds another £1,200 to the price, 19-inch wheels £500 and two coat metallic paint £525. So suddenly my test car looked less attractive with a price of £33,405 and already it has moved into the price range of the Audi A5 Cabriolet.

Also with a considerable implication on the price of the Cascada is the relatively wide range of engine options. There is a 1.4-litre turbocharged 140PS petrol unit, the all-new 1.6-litre SIDI 170PS turbo petrol, the 2.0-litre CDTi 165PS turbodiesel and the new 2.0-litre CDTi 195PS BiTurbo diesel.

As convertibles tend to be bought in the main by retail customers who cover less miles the new 1.6T SIDI, 170PS direct injection turbo (168bhp) and 280Nm (207lb ft) of torque from 1,650rpm unit mated as standard with a new automatic 6-speed automatic transmission makes the most sense.

Vauxhall CascadaVauxhall CascadaThere is ample power to provide a 135mph top speed and enough grunt from just 1,650rpm to propel the Cascada from standstill to 60mph in 9.2 seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 39.2mpg and my week long test drive comfortably returned a real-life figure of 31.8mpg which given the weight and size of the cabriolet is acceptable. The CO2 emissions are 168g/km so VED road tax for the First Year rate is £285 reducing to £200 for the second year onwards.

In operation this new engine is a big improvement over previous long serving Vauxhall mid-sized petrol units which had gone past their sell-by date. Despite its design, aimed at lowering engine noise and vibrations, it could sound harsh under hard acceleration but it was smooth and responsive when needed yet well able to cope with lower speed travelling in a fuss-free flexible nature. The new 6-speed auto was really good with sweet seamless changes. Overall this combination is a very good drivetrain package.

The Cascada on the road felt a very sold soft-top with lots of torsional rigidity so there was very little of the usual body shake with the roof folded down normally associated with drop-tops. Perhaps the bodyshell is too rigid, there always needs to be a bit of flex in a car as the body works in harmony with the suspension and steering to absorb bumps and potholes whilst coping with the stresses generated during cornering. The optional Flex-ride adaptive dampers did their best to soak up undulations and poorer road surfaces and for me is a must-have option with its Sports, Normal and Tour settings. The steering was precise but it felt rubbery with no much feedback and with a strong tendency to self-centre.

Overall the Vauxhall Cascada cannot be described as exciting to drive, it’s styled and configured to be a smart looking, roomy as possible, long legged cruiser, so it does what it is designed to do, it just needs a bit of handling ‘sparkle’ to bring it to life.

MILESTONES. Vauxhall Cascada Elite 1.6i 16v SIDI 170PS turbo automatic 2+2 convertible. Price: £28,890 (With options as tested £33,405). Engine/transmission: New generation 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder direct injection turbocharged petrol, 168bhp, 260Nm (207lb ft) of torque from 1,650rpm, new 6-speed automatic. Performance: 135mph, 0-62mph 9.2 seconds, 39.2mpg Combined Cycle (31.8mpg on test), CO2 168g/km, VED road tax £285 First Year rate then £200 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 25%. Insurance group: 24E. Warranty: 100,000 mile Vauxhall lifetime of first ownership. For: Roomy Insignia sized four seater soft top, stylish, very well equipped, responsive new petrol engine with an even better new 6-speed auto gearbox. Against: Mid to top range models look expensive especially when options are added, not very nimble in the handling department as the body feels heavy and very rigid, limited boot space and small/high-set boot access, distracting reflections in the windscreen, slow electric front seats when being moved forward to allow rear seat passenger access.   Miles Better News Agency

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