With the days getting longer and the weather warmer, it’s safe to say that the convertible season is fast approaching. The lures of drop-top motoring, allowing you to soak up the best of the sun, are clear to see. Vauxhall’s take on the 4-seat convertible market is the Cascada, promising drop-top thrills with room for the whole family. But the question is, can the Cascada do enough to tempt buyers away from the premium brands like BMW and Audi?
We took the keys to a 2.0-litre Diesel ‘Elite’ model for a few days to see how we got along.
Interior & Tech
First impressions of the interior are good, with everything feeling well spaced, the seats very comfortable and the steering wheel exactly where you’d want it to be. The seat belt is presented automatically, making buckling up that little bit easier. The interior is well finished, with the leather soft and switchgear tactile – everything bar a few pieces of centre trim felt premium and well built.
The Cascada on review is from the ‘Elite’ range and came fitted with plenty of technology including; heated, ventilated and electronically adjustable seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and the aforementioned seat belt presenters. Everything worked as expected, although the effect of the ventilated seats is perhaps a little too subtle to consider it a worthwhile inclusion. Heating on the other hand was excellent, with the wheel and seats both warming up quickly and to a good temperature – perfect for chilly mornings where roof down motoring would normally be a push too far.
The infotainment system has plenty of features to offer, but a small gripe must be made at the complexity and generally un-intuitive way in which they’re presented. Following on from the Tesla 90D tested last month, the Vauxhall just felt clunky in comparison. Some options are deeply dispersed within menus, whilst the controls are a little unclear at first. Where the Tesla manages to operate with only a few physical buttons, the dash of the Cascada has them in plentiful supply, making it feel a little cluttered. Once found, all the functions worked well, so no complaints on that front.
The hands-free system is worthy of a mention, as calls were particularly sharp and clear, even when motoring with the roof down – by no means an easy achievement. Other tick box features including cruise control and the perimeter protection pack (blind-spot monitoring) worked well and made cruising on the motorway an absolute breeze.
Exterior styling of the Cascada has the potential to be a little bit Marmite. The body, in general, is quite tall, whilst the windscreen is raked back heavily, making the car body itself look very tall and the proportions perhaps a little off. The large wheels on the test car (no less than 20” diameter) definitely help here, making the overall shape quite imposing.
With the roof up, the car’s boot is deep and offers ample space for all but the most extreme shoppers. With the roof down the boot understandably shrinks a fair bit, but it certainly doesn’t feel as anorexic as many other drop-tops – the Cascada isn’t a small car and does use its size well. Talking of the roof, it can either be dropped remotely via a long hold on the key or by a lever in the car. Roof operation is even permitted whilst on the move, allowing you to drop or raise the roof whilst creeping in traffic.
The high body line does unfortunately cause problems when it comes to manoeuvring the Cascada in tight spaces. The reversing camera is definitely a useful addition, it makes the car much easier to manoeuvre, something that could have been a problem when the roof is up.
No matter where the seating position, it’s difficult to see the front end of the car thanks to a very deep scuttle. Likewise, with the roof up the rear is completely hidden, but fortunately, the optional reversing camera (a £240 extra) and rear parking sensors (wisely fitted as standard) alleviate the problem here somewhat.
On the Road
With big flashy wheels, a drop-top roof and lots of electronic toys, it’s clear Vauxhall had a target audience in mind for this car. This focus translates across into the way it drives, with the ride and bump handling superb despite the low profile tyres. When hitting a few unavoidable pot-holes, the car handled itself extremely well and the effects were far from uncomfortable – bravo Vauxhall.
The steering too is light and easy to handle, making manoeuvring the car around effortless.
This does mean that if you’re expecting the Cascada to replace the Mazda MX5 as the drop-top sports car king, you’d be wrong. However, the Cascada does offer plenty of grip and corners nice and flat – it’s a surprisingly good chassis but unfortunately offers little in the way of feedback for the driver.
As with most modern cars, it came as no surprise to see the fuel economy figures were some way short of those quoted in the sales brochure. The engine is however very quiet and barely noticeable within the cabin, although it does seem to lack a little low-end punch for a Diesel. Whether this is due to the cars rather high mass (around 1700kg) or the engine itself is hard to say, we suspect it’s probably a bit of both. Once it gets going, it’s got more than enough poke for busy British roads, and cruises effortlessly at motorway speeds.
With the roof down the Cascada remains comfortable, even without the use of the optional rear windbreak; cruising at motorway speeds, a conversation is still easily possible within the cabin, whilst those with big hair will be pleased to know wind effects are minimal. The front scuttle shakes a little when passing over bumpy ground, but it failed to cause any annoyance or problems during use.
Roof up, the Cascada does a very good job of blocking outside noise, making it easy to forget the roof above is fabric rather than steel. The only concern we found with the cars build was with the latch between the roof/windscreen, which was a little squeaky when passing over bumpy roads.
For the size and specification, the Cascada’s main competition will come from the Audi A5 and BMW 3 Series. Looking at the German line-ups, the A5 Cabriolet starts at £35,235 whilst the BMW starts at £39,850 (at the time of writing). Comparing this to the Cascada on test, which came in at £32,095, the Vauxhall looks like very good value for money, especially so considering this is the premium model with plenty of equipment. If you cut things back, a Cascada SE can be picked up for as little as £26,760, whilst a basic ‘Elite’ model starts at just over £30,000, which is where we’d be inclined to start looking.
For the price difference, it’s very hard to criticise the Cascada. Yes, it falls just short of having that premium ‘German’ feel, the infotainment isn’t as refined as we’d like and the driver involvement certainly does lack, but everywhere else it ticks the right boxes. If you’re looking for something sensible, quiet, comfortable and full of tech to enjoy the summer sun, the Cascada is certainly worth a try.