Shooting the breeze in the new Cascada for a premium feel
VAUXHALL’S car of the moment is a three-door hatchback called the Adam, not so much a trendsetter as a trend follower in the wake of the Mini, FIAT 500 and Citroën DS3 – all bright young things which have done their makers proud.
Vauxhall’s bread and butter sellers are the Corsa and the larger Astra – just released with refreshed looks and a 195hp twin turbo diesel engine. Later this year we’ll see a face-lifted Insignia. Its aspirational new car is called Cascada.
This four-seater convertible is being touted (by Vauxhall) as a rival to Audi’s A5 convertible. The Audi is made in Germany, the Vauxhall is made in Poland. Both have conventional fabric roofs but, warns Vauxhall, its Cascada is some £8,000 cheaper.
Apart from lacking the imperious and social image of the Audi’s four-ring grille, the Cascada is more attractive. Audis are lovely but they do tend to look much the same, don’t you think?
Cynics, me included, could impute that Vauxhall is mentioning this Audiesque ambition so as to, err, big up the values of the Cascada. It does the same things as an Audi drophead but it is not an Audi. How many people able to buy an Audi will think, oh, I’ll save several grand and get that Cascada thingy?
Sharper thinkers may even think that Volkswagen’s Eos hard-top convertible is more of a social and monetary fit with the Cascada. Well, not quite. The entry model Eos costs £26,140 and is a full 12 inches shorter than the Cascada, which has an entry price of £23,995. The Audi is four inches shorter than Cascada and prices start at £31,785.
Conclusions: the Cascada is bigger than you realise and is priced to sell. Hood up or hood down, it felt nicely composed over patched road surfaces. The electrically driven roof opens and closes in 17 seconds at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. When stationary, this can be done remotely using buttons on the key fob. The operation is virtually silent.
The all-weather hood takes up space in the luggage boot but when the hood is up the remainder of the boot can be used. The back seats can be folded away, using an electrical trigger.
The hood stores under a panel which rises and moves backwards, projecting slightly beyond the back of the car. There is no safety cut-out if you are too near a wall.
The VW Eos has even more of a rearward projection and is fitted with a dashboard warning that you are too close.
My test car for the chilly morning drive was fitted with an acoustic roof – an extra £300 – in a shade called Malbec. Makes a change from Claret, eh?
The base car was the SE. The other grade is the Elite in a nine model list. (Audi offers 18 variations on the A5 cabrio.) Fitted with a high torque 163bhp 2-litre diesel, the Cascada as tested cost £25,495. Eco figures (on paper) are 54mpg overall and 138g/km CO2. The 0-62mph time is 9.6 seconds and it can reach 135mph.
The interior furnishings are solid and pleasant. The facia is mainly borrowed from the Insignia/Astra but the seats are new to the Cascada and "sports" shaped in the front. Entry to those in the rear (which fold away individually) is not too awkward and there are electric windows front and back. Any one of medium height should be comfy in the back: six footers may need to shrink. Kit is decent. You get the modern must of air conditioning.
Strange how drivers and passengers managed for so long without AC, or even knowing it existed. In hot weather we just wound down the windows (or slid them open in a Mini or Dyane) and soaked up the warm breeze.
Cascada has 18 inch alloys, rear parking sensors and active roll-over protection bars at the back which spring up to protect passengers in a tipple.
The chassis uses Insignia derived suspension at the front and Zafira suspension at the back and advanced stability control is fitted. It drives well, though you can sense the slight numbness familiar in a convertible because of the extra metal needed to keep an open car safe and stiff.
My test car had the advantage, though, of adaptive chassis control which adjusts the damping to suit better how and where you are driving and is unnecessary if the chassis engineers have done a proper job on the standard settings. This costs £790.
A more useful option at £855 was navigation with an enhanced audio system and seven speakers. The mapping gives street plans for the UK and Ireland and major routes in other continental countries.
Adding a touch of Audi glamour were the perforated black leather-faced seats at £1,050.
Of the Cascada, the company’s communications director, Denis Chick, says it is a car "for enjoying yourself in sunshine – cruising along". I can imagine it is.
Its wider ambition is to bring what he calls a more premium, quality feel to Vauxhalls. This is a familiar refrain in the car industry. The most successful image change since Audi made its move in the 1990s has been Skoda – with the advantage of starting from a low base as the laughing stock of cheap-gag comedians.
Vauxhall in Britain is inescapably benchmarked against Ford. Neither of them is truly British anymore, ruled from Germany where Vauxhalls carry the controlling Opel name, albeit with engineering and design inputs from their offices north of London.
I wonder whether the Cascada would be more influential with a different badge – Opel for example?
OPEN AND SHUT: Vaxhall says the Cascada is "for enjoying yourself in sunshine – cruising along". Equipment levels are decent and include air conditioning – the modern must-have in all cars.