Matt Hubbard reviews the Vauxhall Cascada Elite 1.6i 16v Turbo 200, a premium four seater convertible
The Vauxhall Cascada is a big, four seat convertible with a classy interior that Vauxhall reckons rivals the Audi A5 convertible. Those of you of an anti-Vauxhall disposition may not want to read any further, but you should.
Herein I shall tell you why the Cascada as a premium car, a properly good convertible, a motorway mile muncher, a driving machine and as a style statement is an unqualified success.
Vauxhall seems to have alienated petrolheads, which means the vast majority of our readers, Twitter followers and Facebook audience immediately cry "boring", 'dull" and "uncool" when I mention the name.
Vauxhall has never been the coolest brand but how has this petrolhead anti-Vauxhall feeling come about? I would suggest that several generations of humdrum Astras, workmanlike company car Insignias, a lack of mainstream motor sport activity and Clarkson's pointed, short and vicious review of the Vectra are probably the main contributors.
Does Vauxhall care? Probably not to a great extent. As long as the cars are selling brand coolness isn't a major issue.
The thing is, though, I've driven the Astra VXR, which is a brilliant hot hatch, the ADAM, which is a good, if flawed, supermini and now the Cascada which is simply excellent.
I'm not an ambassador for Vauxhall but the product I've tried is good, and the Cascada is probably the best thing it sells in terms of its place in the market.
Why? For a start it looks good with the roof up or down. Roof down and it looks fine from any angle with the full size rear seats enveloped by the roof mechanism. It's possibly more conservative than exciting but then again buyers are likely to be older rather than younger and in that segment ultra-modern design cues don't sell cars.
Roof up and it's obviously a convertible rather than trying to look like a hard-top. It's stylish and elegant, although I'm not a fan of Vauxhall's twin A-pillars and shallow angled windscreen which may reduce drag in the wind tunnel but also impede visibility.
The roof folds up or down at up to 30mph.
The boot is vast but its practicality is reduced when the roof is down by dint of a protruding section, something most convertibles suffer from.
It's a four seater with two doors. The rear occupants have good access but the downside is very long doors which means getting in and out in a tight car park can be difficult.
The interior is top notch. The seats in particular look great and are electrically multi-adjustable. The overarching design of the interior has been well thought through and integrated. The curved dash, the swooping line from the door handles to the arm-rest, the dials, the gear knob and the arrangement and size of storage spaces are all triumphantly stylish and practical.
The materials and colours used are not what you'd expect from Vauxhall. Leather, aluminium and chrome are mixed with plastics to create an interior that, if the badge was missing from the centre of the steering wheel, most people would imagine to be from one of the German big three.
In fact the only let-down is the mess of buttons beneath the info screen. The info, satnav and sound system are all perfectly suited to a 20-odd grand car but the buttons are not. Play with them a while and they are fairly easy to work out but the arrangement is awful and too many are confusingly labelled.
The test car came with a 200hp, 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 6-speed manual gearbox.
The chunky steering wheel feels nice to the touch and the driving position is quite sporty, with deep-set pedals.
The engine is quiet at idle and never gets noisier than a low thrum. It's a competent, refined unit that produces good power but that could do with more torque right at the bottom of the rev-range. But that's what you get from modern turbocharged engines that are built more for reduced CO2, increased mpg and a handful of power.
The gearbox is slick, better than in the Astra VXR, and the clutch and controls light and easy going. The steering is as good as you'd expect, but no better, with decent feedback and control.
The Cascada's outstanding feature is it's ride. The suspension is a softened version of the Astra VXR's HiPer strut system. As well as aiding cornering this gives the car a truly outstanding ability to soften the bumps and smoothen the road.
Being front wheel drive it's never going to light my fire in terms of driving thrill but it doesn't torque steer to any great extent and it grips well and can be driven enthusiastically if that's what you want.
The Cascada is roughly £9k cheaper than the equivalent Audi A5. In terms of looks, refinement, and ability it is very nearly on a par with the Audi. If you're in the market for a convertible and need four seats and a large boot you would be daft not to at least test drive a Cascada.
Take a look at my video review of the Vauxhall Cascada for more info.
Price - £28,315
Engine - 1.6 litre, inline-4, turbocharged, petrol
Transmission - 6-speed manual
0-60mph - 8.5seconds
Top speed - 146 mph
Power - 200 bhp
Torque - 206 lb ft
Economy - 42.3mpg
CO2 - 158 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,733 kg
By Matt Hubbard