Shoot­ing the breeze in the new Cas­cada for a pre­mium feel

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST -

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.

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