Big softie Cascada a new opening for Vauxhall

Vauxhall Cascada is a stylish full-size four-seater soft-top convertible.

Vauxhall Cascada is a stylish full-size four-seater soft-top convertible. - Credit: Vauxhall

The sun has arrived and so has the Vauxhall Cascada. Motoring editor Andy Russell drops the soft-top.

When it comes to the question of which convertible to go for it's either a hard choice or the soft option.

A few years ago when the growing number of coupe convertibles, with their intricate hard-top roof panels that fold away into the boot at the press of a switch, were all the fashion I could have been swayed as easily as that clever roof disappears.

But I've always had a soft spot for a soft-top and so, it seems, have the car-makers with more fabric-roofed convertibles now being launched.

It's not difficult to see why with modern technology making insulated soft-top roofs virtually as quiet and weather-proof as the hard alternative and because they are less complicated that saves weight so helps fuel economy and emissions – every car-maker's mission – and generally allows the roof to be operated at higher speeds while driving.

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From a personal point of view, if I'm buying a convertible I want people to know I've got a convertible even when the roof is up on cold, rainy days. Let's be honest, in this country the roof is going to be up more than it is down.

Vauxhall is the latest car-maker to replace a hard-top with a soft one as the Astra TwinTop makes way for the all-new purpose-built Cascada convertible. It's not just a name change for the bigger Cascada is also Vauxhall's first full-size convertible designed, engineered and made by Vauxhall since the 1930s.

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And the larger, four-seater Cascada also takes Vauxhall into new territory – against the likes of the smaller, prestige Audi A5 on size while priced to compete with mid-size cabriolets, such as the Volkswagen Golf, which total about 21,000 sales a year in the UK and the Cascada aims to take 10pc of that market.

The Cascada is a good-looking convertible, as stylish with the roof up as down, which is an important factor in this fashion-led sector.

And making the transition could not be easier with a hood that opens and closes in 17 seconds, at up to 30mph, via a switch between the front seats or the key fob.

It was a freezing cold day when I drove the Cascada but I braved having the roof down and was surprised at how snug the Cascada was with the efficient heater although tall people might find the front seats don't quite go low enough to escape the airflow over the screen.

The Cascada will seat four adults but rear legroom in only adequate and a long-legged occupants in the front would have to make some concession for the sake of passenger comfort in the back. Up front the Cascada feels spacious even with the roof up but in the back it's dark and you feel hemmed in.

The Cascada's boost is pretty decent for a convertible at 380 litres with the roof up and the hood storage compartment folded away but the slotty access is the limiting factor. Drop the roof and the boot is cut to 280 litres and quite shallow so soft bags are the way to make the most of the space. For longer loads the 50/50 split rear seat backs fold down with releases in the boot.

So many convertibles turn out to be style over substance but driving the Cascada won't leave you disappointed. With the Cascada designed from the outset as a soft-top, Vauxhall has done a good job of strengthening the platform so there is no telltale flexing over poor roads with the whole car feeling solid.

The suspension is geared for comfort so you get a supple ride, even on B-roads, along with sure-footed, well-mannered handling. It's not going to set pulses racing but it's a comfortable cruiser and that's what most owners are looking for.

The big-selling engines are set to be the 140PS 1.4-litre turbo petrol and the 165PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel with the latter also offered in automatic guise. Given the Cascada's weight from the extra body reinforcing both do a good job but the petrol engine needs to be worked harder to make decent progress. The diesel is the more relaxing option and returned 50mpg in mixed driving.

If you want more power there is a gutsier 195PS Bi-Turbo 2.0-litre diesel while an all-new 170PS 1.6-litre turbo petrol with automatic transmission will join the range just after launch.

The driving position has all the adjustment you need to feel at home behind the wheel and the quality stitching on the soft material covering the Insignia-inspired fascia looks good but small buttons take time to find your way around. Rear visibility is limited when the hood, with its small rear screen, is up.

Offered in SE and Elite trim levels, the entry model includes 18in alloy wheels, four airbags, active headrests and rollover protection, rear park assist, sports front seats, four electric windows, trip computer, air-conditioning, stability control, cruise control, alarm, electronic parking brake and daytime running lights.

Elite adds leather trim, heated front seats and steering wheel, front fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, windbreak and automatic lights and wipers.

The Cascada is a worthy addition to the Vauxhall range. It looks good, drives nicely and is well built and it is priced to be even more appealing.

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