Vauxhall Cascada review
The Vauxhall Cascada convertible offers lots of space and comfort, but it comes at a price
Vauxhall is attempting to distance itself from its successful, value-for-money sister brand, Chevrolet, by moving upmarket. And so, following the launch of the Adam ‘premium’ city car, comes the Cascada - a high-spec, full-size convertible that slots into the range between the Astra and Insignia, and is intended as a cut price alternative to the Audi A5 Cabriolet. Two spec levels are available – SE and Elite – and equipment levels are reasonable. The Cascada is also the first car to get Vauxhall’s long-overdue new turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine, while 1.4-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel will be familiar to owners of the Astra and Insignia. Higher powered petrol and diesel engines will join the range at a later date. The Cascada is no sports car, but all versions do come with the HiPerStrut front suspension from the Insignia VXR for surprisingly good handling. better still, a supple ride makes the Vauxhall a composed and comfortable long distance cruiser.
Our choice: Cascada 1.4 SE
Convertibles are all about style and Vauxhall has tried to make the Cascada stand out from the crowd, as well as the Astra and Insignia it sits between in the firm’s range. The proportions are a little odd, as the car is quite narrow but long, and it lacks the aggressive style of the similarly sized Audi A5 Cabriolet. The Cascada is much better looking than the old folding hard-top Astra TwinTop – which it effectively replaces – and the Renault Megane CC. It looks best with the hood down, as this highlights the car's wedge profile and steeply raked windscreen. However, the with the roof in place, the Cascada looks far to similar to the unloved Chrysler Sebring that disappeared from UK showrooms in 2006. Inside, the sweeping dashboard design looks good, while neat touches include the stitched artificial trim that covers the dashtop and the red ambient lighting for the gearlever surround. However, the the buttons for the infotainment system are small and fiddly to use, while some of the plastics aren't up to the high standards of premium rivals BMW and Audi.
The Cascada is quite a heavy car, but it still handles surprisingly well. There is little feel from the steering, but the car responds quickly to steering inputs, grip is good and torque steer is well controlled thanks to the clever HiPerStrut front suspension. The brakes are powerful, too, and the ride is comfortable and supple, especially if you opt for the FlexRide adaptive damping system that constantly changes the suspension stifness to suit your driving and the road. Wind buffeting is minimal with the top down, which is fortunate as a detatchable wind deflector is an extra cost option. The standard dual layer fabric roof does a good job of insulating the cabin from wind and road noise, while there's option of a triple layer hood that delivers even greater refinement. The new1.6-iitre petrol engine is smooth and refined, while the diesel is punchy and promises decent economy. However, fr most people the 138bhp 1.4-litre petrol will be the best bet, as it suits the Cascada's relaxed character. A potent BiTurbo diesel, which can cover the 0-60mph sprint in 8.9 seconds and hit a top speed of 143mph, and a high-powered 197bhp 1.6-petrol will join the range as a later date.
Vauxhall claims that although the Cascada is larger than the previous Astra TwinTop, it’s 43 per cent stiffer, which is good for both handling dynamics and robustness in the event of a crash. Every Cascada comes with a host of airbags and ESP, and all have reinforced windscreens and pyrotechnic roll-bars that spring up from behind the rear seats in the event of a crash. Options include Vauxhall’s Front Camera system, which includes traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning and forward collision alert, as well as blind spot alert. Much of the technology and engines are already in-use across the Vauxhall range, and the new 1.6-litre petrol engine will be fitted to other cars, so expect similar reliability to the Astra and Insignia. Even so, Vauxhall finished a disappointing 26th out of 32 in our 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, with only three of its cars making it into the overall top 100. At least the brand's Lifetime Warranty brings a little peace of mind, although its worth bearing in mind that only the first owner of the car benefits from the extended guarantee.
The Cascada is a full-size convertible, which means that it features space for four people and their luggage. Space in the front is good, although visibility is a little hampered by the chunky A-pillar. In the rear, there’s just about space for two adults for short trips, although knee room is a little tight, and headroom suffers with the roof up. The boot opening is a little on the small side, but space is decent at 380 litres. Unusually for a soft top, the avaible space falls to 280 litres when you lower the roof – a process that takes 17 seconds and can be completed at speeds of up to 30mph. Still, the rear seat backs fold down at the touch of a button, too, while the rear seat backs also drop, allowing you to carry longer loads. The interior is also stuffed full of useful cubby holes, including the deep door bins and a large centre console bin that will easily swallow mobile phones and personal music devices.
The entry-level 1.4-litre petrol does struggle a bit with the car’s weight, which will have an impact on fuel bills and make the claimed 44.8mpg hard to match. The all-new 1.6-litre petrol delivers more performance, but is only available with an automatic gearbox, which means an above average thirst for fuel and disappointingly high CO2 emissions. A 2.0-litre diesel - which offers similar power to the 1.6 petrol but with more torque - returns up to 54.3mpg and emits 138g/km of CO2, although it’s quite a noisy engine. Making matters worse are poor predicted residuals for the Vauxhall, with our experts predicting that even the best performing versions will struggle to hold onto 40 percent of their new value after three years.