AL­FRESCO

Fa­mil­iar con­vert­ible re­turns with a shiny new badge

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING ED­I­TOR joshua.dowl­ing@news.com.au

If you want a soft­top to pose in, Opel’s Cas­cada will put the wind in your hair. Look else­where for a per­for­mance car

THE Holden As­tra con­vert­ible re­turns to show­rooms later this year af­ter a four-year ab­sence, but not as you knew it.

It’s part of a re­vival of Gen­eral Mo­tors’ Ger­man brand Opel in Aus­tralia and is now called the Cas­cada, which is Span­ish for wa­ter­fall, an un­usual choice for a car with a soft-top.

VALUE

We won’t know how much the Cas­cada costs for while, but its pric­ing in Ger­many is a clue. There it’s priced 5 per cent less than the Volk­swa­gen Eos and Peu­geot CC con­vert­ibles, which cost about $50,000 in Aus­tralia.

The Cas­cada is big­ger than its peers with the prom­ise of more metal for the money, even if it does have a fab­ric roof.

Opel’s drop-top is now closer in size to theBMW3 Se­ries or Audi A5 sun-lovers. Pre­vi­ously it com­peted with the Golf and CC cabri­o­lets.

Given its new di­men­sions Opel may be tempted to inch the price of the Cas­cada closer to the $80,000 start­ing prices of its sim­i­larly-sized Ger­man peers. That would be a brave move.

If Opel can get the Cas­cada com­fort­ably un­der $50,000 it will have a win­ner on its hands.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Opel claims to have in­vented a spe­cial coat­ing for the leather seats that re­duces the tem­per­a­ture by at least 30C no mat­ter how hot the day, whether the roof is up or down. It’s win­ter in Europe, so we’ll add it to the ‘‘ to do’’ list.

When it comes to con­vert­ibles the fig­ure that counts is not the 0-100km/h

time, but how long it takes for the roof to open or close.

The Cas­cada’s lifts in 17 sec­onds and re-erects in the same time. Only the Audi A5 (15 sec­onds) andVW(nine) de­liver al fresco driv­ing quicker. The Cas­cada also op­er­ates its roof while mov­ing up to 50km/h or while stand­ing next to it and us­ing the re­mote key fob.

Opel’s stan­dard ar­ray of bells and whis­tles in­clude lane keep­ing, blind zone warn­ing and a crash alert sys­tem, although that does not yet au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply the brakes as do sim­i­lar sys­tems from oth­ers brands.

DE­SIGN

It might have the As­tra’s fa­mil­iar good looks but the only ex­te­rior parts car­ried over are the head­lights, front fend­ers and door han­dles. The rest is all-new.

It sits on the same un­der­body as the Opel GTC coupe but has ex­tra strength­en­ing to com­pen­sate for the lack of a roof. Imag­ine twist­ing a shoe­box with its lid on, now imag­ine twist­ing the same shoe­box with the lid off and you’ll un­der­stand why the ex­tra brac­ing is re­quired. The struc­tural re­in­force­ments add up to 150kg to the car’s over­all weight com­pared to the coupe.

Opel chose a fab­ric roof (with ex­tra sound­dead­en­ing as an op­tion) be­cause it’s 50kg lighter than the fold­ing metal roofs and more com­pact.

This gives the Cas­cada a de­cent-sized boot— 280 litres with the roof down ver­sus 380L with it up. Most hatch­backs fall be­tween those mea­sures. The boot’s quite shal­low but at least the back seats flip down so you can fit larger cargo.

SAFETY

As with many con­vert­ibles the Cas­cada comes with only four airbags (two front, and two side-mounted in the front seats) be­cause they are dif­fi­cult to package in the roof or the rear of the car.

Nev­er­the­less a five-star Euro NCAP rat­ing would be likely given the ex­tra body strength­en­ing, although the in­de­pen­dent author­ity rarely tests niche models such as this.

Sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill-hold as­sist are stan­dard. A rear cam­era was fit­ted to the test car sam­pled in Europe. This needs to be a stan­dard fea­ture given that rear­ward vis­i­bil­ity is lim­ited.

DRIV­ING

It has a rel­a­tively small 1.6L turbo four-cylin­der petrol en­gine, but don’t be dis­cour­aged by its size. It’s one of a new gen­er­a­tion that de­liv­ers big per­for­mance in a tiny package. And is miserly to boot.

The Cas­cada is not sup­posed to be a race car but it has suf­fi­cient urge to keep with the flow of the traf­fic and to keep up ap­pear­ances. There is even a nice, sub­tle en­gine and ex­haust note for those with a trained ear.

The sus­pen­sion is like a magic car­pet ride. I’mnot sure what has hap­pened at Opel in the years since its cars left Aus­tralia, but they’ve clearly hired some tal­ent in the sus­pen­sion en­gi­neer­ing sec­tion.

Most con­vert­ibles get a bit of a wob­ble over rut­ted roads, and it’s true the Opel Cas­cada is not as taut as a hatch­back, coupe or a sedan. But as con­vert­ibles go, it’s more than ad­e­quate.

The sus­pen­sion tends to glide over the worst the road can throw at it, and yet it’s not floaty. The steer­ing is also pleas­ant enough, although on the tight Euro­pean roads the car felt wide.

The seats are com­fort­able, and the roof lived up to its prom­ise of keep­ing most of the road noise at bay.

The only com­plaints are the usual ones about the too fussy and con­fus­ing air­con­di­tion­ing and ra­dio con­trols, and that we can’t tell you what the au­to­matic is like be­cause there were none avail­able to test.

VER­DICT

Any­one look­ing to buy a pose char­iot that’s nice to drive will feel at home in the Opel Cas­cada. Any­one look­ing for a per­for­mance sports car that puts the wind in your hair will likely look else­where.

Tip yer lid: The Cas­cada’s roof

lifts in 17 sec­onds and drops in the

same time

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