Familiar convertible returns with a shiny new badge
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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