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 slightly less expensive rival 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 1.6-litre petrol engine, while 1.4-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel models are also offered. 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.
Our choice: Cascada 1.6 SE auto
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, and does look as good with the top up or down. Inside, the dash design is rather dated, with far too many buttons, and you have to opt for the most expensive seats to get a more attractive upholstery design.
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 HiPerStrut 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 damper setting according to how you’re driving. Noise is well suppressed with the top up, and wind buffeting is minimal with the top down - providing you keep the windows up when speeds increase. The new petrol engine is smooth, quiet and refined, but neither the petrol or diesel are particularly potent.
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. The latter finished 21st in the 2012 Driver Power Top 100, while Vauxhall placed 13th out of 30 as a manufacturer.
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. This 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. 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 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, while the all-new 1.6-litre petrol, which debuts in the car, is a smooth, quiet and refined performer that suits the Cascada’s cruising nature well. 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. 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.