What is it?
The most recent addition to the Vauxhall Cascada convertible line-up, with a new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet.
We’ve been quite impressed by the Luton manufacturer’s mid-sized convertible since it first arrived in early 2013, pitched as a sleek rival for the likes of the Audi A5 cabriolet and Volkswagen Eos.
Based on Vauxhall Astra underpinnings – but not as close a relative as the little-loved Astra TwinTop that preceded it – the Cascada’s strongest suit is its value-for-money compared to the (admittedly ritzier) drop-top Audi A5.
The petrol engine range was limited at launch, with a choice of a 1.4-litre turbo with a modest 138bhp or a 1.6-litre direct injection unit offering 168bhp that came attached to an automatic transmission.
Hence the reason for the introduction of this 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, which produces maximum power and torque outputs of 197bhp and 207lb ft respectively. Teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox, this version of the Cascada is capable of a 0-62mph sprint of 8.5sec.
Available in two trim levels, SE and Elite, equipment levels are generous, with features such as air-con, 18-inch alloys, a DAB tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, rear parking sensors, an aux-in port and a USB connection all included.
Our test Cascada was a range-topping Elite model, which comes with additional kit that includes climate control, heated electric sports seats with leather trim and automatic lights and wipers.
The test car also rode on 19in five-spoke alloys (a £500 option), and included other options that swelled the on-the-road price of £28,310 up to £32,520.
What’s it like?
Pulling away from a standstill, the new 1.6-litre turbocharged unit doesn’t initially impress with its acceleration, which isn’t surprising given the weight that it is being asked to pull.
Contributing to that are the cross-underbody strengthening elements and high-strength, reinforced A-pillars that give the Cascada commendable levels of torsional stiffness.
Once you’re on the move, however, the engine is flexible, free-revving and enjoyable to use. It’s extremely smooth, which makes it very well suited to a car where luxury and comfort are higher on the list of priorities than out-and-out performance.
The new powerplant doesn’t emit a particularly exciting note, although that’s only a disadvantage if you expect your top-down motoring to be accompanied by a stirring aural symphony.
The Cascada, which is fitted with Vauxhall’s sophisticated HiPerStrut front suspension, is fairly well composed on most types of road. It is devoid of wallowing during cornering, although the weight can be evident under heavy braking.
Don’t expect a purposeful sporting drive – even with the extra power provided by the 1.6-litre turbo, the focus is still firmly on providing a relaxed gait. The ride on our car’s optional 19in wheels could be occasionally jarring at slow speeds but was otherwise very comfortable.
The Cascada doesn’t feel compromised in the way that some drop-top cars do, with no sign of chassis vibration, enhancing its cruising credentials.
The dual-layered fabric roof can be automatically lowered in 17.0sec, raised again in 19.0sec, both at speeds of up to 30mph. The roof’s mechanism is quiet during its operation and the whole lot is stowed flush with the bodywork behind the rear seats.
When the roof is stowed, buffeting and wind noise are mild but not intrusive at speeds up to 60mph, even without the supplied wind deflector in place.
With the roof up, the Cascada’s cabin is adequately insulated from both the elements and noise. Second row headroom’s a little limited when the hood is in place, but both leg and headroom are good enough for large teenagers and smallish adults.
On the whole, the cabin pulls off the stylish feel you’d expect from a car designed for swanning about with the roof down.
It has comfortable leather seats that offer plenty of adjustment and stitched leather on the steering wheel and dashboard. However, the centre console, which is plucked straight from the Astra, looks a little incongruous.
It is comparatively spacious, just about accommodating four adults without demanding uncomfortable contortions from those trying to access the rear seats, and offering up to 380 litres of luggage space into the bargain.
Exploiting the boot space can be a challenge due to the awkward shape of the opening, which is quite narrow due to the space taken up by the folding roof and associated mechanism.
The roof also impinges on rearward visibility, because when it is in place the rear ‘window’ is uselessly narrow, which can be awkward in a car of 4696mm in length.
Should I buy one?
Badge snobs might still turn up their noses at the prospect of cruising along the English Riviera in a Griffin-branded cabriolet, but the Vauxhall Cascada has some strong selling points, not least its usability and touches of practicality.
Now it has another, because this 1.6-litre turbo engine is the pick of the range for low-mileage, luxury-minded motorists who don’t need the attendant frugality of a diesel.
At £28,310, this variant doesn’t hold quite as much price appeal as cheaper variants, which can be had for almost £5000 less. However, even with the extras sported by our test car taken into account, the price is on a par with entry-level A5 cabriolets.
The challenge for Vauxhall remains convincing prospective buyers that the Cascada possesses sufficient cachet compared to premium rivals.
Vauxhall’s Cascada isn’t game-changing enough to break down that prejudice on its own, although it does prove that Vauxhall can make distinctive, desirable cars packed with clever engineering.
The sensible head would suggest that the Cascada deserves serious consideration, but since when are cabriolet purchases made with the sensible head?
Vauxhall Cascada Elite 1.6i
Price £28,310; 0-60mph 8.5sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 42.2mpg; CO2 158g/km; Kerb weight 1658kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 197bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 1650-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual
What is it?