Vauxhall Cascada classy soft-top – come rain or shine

Vauxhall Cascada is an elegant full-size, four-seat convertible that is competitively priced.

Vauxhall Cascada is an elegant full-size, four-seat convertible that is competitively priced. - Credit: Vauxhall

Vauxhall's Cascada is a smart move for those sun-seekers, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

If you are looking to buy a convertible I think the best time to try it is in the winter.

Yes, convertibles are all about sunny, blue skies and wind-in-the-hair motoring but in this country you will drive it most under grey skies, in rain, frost and snow when it is blowing a hooley so the roof will be up more than it is down.

So if you can put up with a convertible in winter, you'll love it in summer. You can also get some good deals in winter, especially on used models that might have been sitting on the forecourt as buyers wait for better weather.

I've just been keeping a weather eye out with the Cascada, the first full-size convertible designed, engineered and made by Vauxhall since the 1930s. I drove it at launch last year in torrential rain so was determined to go 'topless' regardless of the cold as long as it was dry.

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The soft-top, four-seater Cascada is one of the more elegant cabriolets currently on the road – roof up or down. It's sleek with a low roofline and steeply-raked screens but the downside is a letterbox-like rear window but fortunately rear park assist is standard

Getting the roof down to make the most of the weather – or up to avoid a soaking – is simple and takes only 17 seconds via a button on the key fob or switch between the front seats... and can be carried out at speeds up to 30mph so you don't have to find somewhere to pull over.

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With the roof up it's quiet and well insulated, especially with the £300 optional triple-layer acoustic roof – well worth considering given it will be up a lot of the time. Roof down, progress is refined with minimal buffeting even without fitting the wind deflector.

The big news under the bonnet is the new 170PS 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine alongside the 140PS 1.4 turbo petrol and 165PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel and 195PS BiTurbo version.

Mated only to a new slicker, quicker-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox, it's smooth and hushed unless you really push it when noise levels build more than acceleration. Accept it as more about decent, rather than dynamic, progress with that auto box and it's a pleasant experience with enough oomph to get past slower traffic and able to cruise comfortably on motorways.

Convertibles tend not to be lightweights, even though a soft-top weighs about 100kg less than a hard-top convertible roof, with extra bracing to overcome the lack of a fixed roof and maintain body strength which does not help economy – I saw 30mpg overall and a best of 35mpg.

All that bracing pays dividends though in the way the Cascada drives. Despite being larger than the old Astra TwinTop convertible the Cascada's body is 43% stiffer and feels solid even on bumpy roads with no creaks, rattles or hint of flexing.

With the weight it is carrying it's no sports model, but tackles twists and turns confidently with good steering weight while the softish suspension soaks up poor surfaces making for most acceptable ride comfort. The Cascada is more tourer than tearaway but feels more agile with the optional £790 FlexRide adaptive chassis control in sport mode which gives stiffer damping, more steering effort, sharper throttle response and red back-lights for the instrument panel.

Inside it seats four in shapely, supportive seats with reasonable legroom in the back, if those up front aren't greedy, but small rear windows and the low roof make it feel smaller than it is. Huge doors give good access to the back but you need plenty of room to open them fully so take care in tight spaces.

The cabin looks classy but the centre console is crowded with small, fiddly buttons and feels a little dated, especially if you have tried the hi-tech set-up on the new Vauxhall Insignia – let's hope it finds it way into the Cascada.

You don't buy a convertible for a huge boot but the Cascada provides a useful 380 litres with the roof up while 50/50 rear seat backs drop flat electrically via switches in the boot for longer loads. Drop the roof and the boot is cut to 280 litres with only enough depth under the rigid roof storage compartment for a large suiter but you can still get a couple of reasonably-sized bags just inside the boot.

The Cascada is offered in SE and Elite trims – both offering a good array of equipment for the money.

Vauxhall has pitched the Cascada cleverly – it's big enough to compete with premium offerings but at compact convertible prices. Most importantly, it looks good whether the roof is up or down and that's good news with the ups and downs of the British weather.

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