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Vauxhall Cascada Elite 2.0 CDTi

Click to view picture gallery“Cabrios that will comfortably seat
  four adults are few and far between;
  and those that do are usually wearing
  an expensive premium badge.
  But wait... what’s that handsome
  drop-top I spy beginning with a ‘C’?”


THE CASCADA, FROM VAUXHALL. Stylish? Check. Affordable? Check. Good to drive? Check. So what's stopping you? Could it be a mild dose of badge-snobbery?

Don't feel bad; we're all prone to it. However, suspend your prejudices and take a Cascada for a cruise — we guarantee you'll be pleasantly surprised. And so will your three grown-up passengers. There's no escaping the fact that for your average fashion-conscious cabrio customer, image is paramount — and looks-wise the Cascada cuts it!

Fronted by a thrusting nose, the Cascada sports a boldly-chromed, shield-shaped grille flanked by headlamps with LED daytime running light 'eyebrows' and a bonnet sloping back into a steeply-raked, cab-forward-design screen. Flat-cut, flared wheelarches house dramatic 20-inch, 5-twinspoke, bi-colour alloy wheels wrapped in meaty lo-pro rubber, while sharp creases along the flanks run back over the rear haunches and flow into the wraparound tail lights.

Fresh-air aficionados
will want to travel
topless whenever and
wherever they can
get away with it —
and the Cascada’s
unruffled aerodynamics
will allow them
to indulge their desires
to the full at every
opportunity...”
At the back a chrome strip links the rear light clusters beneath a lip spoiler that finishes off a boot lid topped with a shark-fin aerial. With its 'clean' profile and finished in an eye-catching metallic blue, 'our' Cascada looked far more expensive than it actually costs.

Undeniably fetching with its top down, the Cascada also looks well-groomed with its sleek fabric hood in place — thanks to the combination of a low roofline, steeply raked back screen and frameless windows, it easily passes muster as a fashionable pillarless coupe.

Fresh-air aficionados will want to travel topless whenever and wherever they can get away with it — and the Cascada's unruffled aerodynamics will allow them to indulge their desires to the full at every opportunity.

After entering and shutting the doors, front seat users are elegantly presented with their seatbelts by an electronic belt-butler. The well-proportioned cabin offers leather-upholstered seating for four adults and even with the roof up there's a fist of headroom in the front. The twin-cockpit-effect dash is sporty; the wide centre-stack topped by a non-touchscreen 7-inch infotainment display. Fit and finish are good, and soft-touch materials and carbon-fibre-effect trim add to the inviting ambiance.

Immediately ahead of the driver, and viewed though the heated leather wheel, are four chrome-ringed dials clustered around a multifunction trip computer-cum-driver's information screen; as well as showing comprehensive trip data it also has a digital speed readout. You can, of course, take for granted a full infotainment inventory with IntelliLink, Aux-in/USB connectivity with iPod control, digital radio, CD/MP3 CD-player, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and Vauxhall's OnStar concierge-telematics-4G WiFi hotspot-SOS service. You can also use voice control for the phone, audio and navigation. Rounding it all off in our test car was the optional SatNav and rearview camera.

Both the driver and front passenger enjoy deeply contoured ergonomic sports seats that benefit from extendable front cushions and four-way electrical lumbar adjustment and particularly comfortable multi-adjustable headrests — as well as being 3-stage heated and 3-stage cooled. And, as you'd guess from just looking at them, they are very supportive; they're also summer-proofed because their patterned and perforated leather upholstery has been treated to reflect solar heat.

Ensuring that you can
enjoy al fresco
motoring for as many
days of the year as
it’s not raining,
getting the top down
couldn’t be simpler:
press the switch
alongside the electric
parking brake and
17 seconds later
you’ll be as topless as
you could wish...”
The driving position is spot-on, and with your palms wrapped around the meaty leather-rim of the flat-bottomed wheel the Cascada is easy to place accurately on the road.

With the roof in place the Cascada's 'inner space' is as good as many a tin-top's, and even the letterbox view through the rear screen is unexpectedly fit for purpose (standard-fit sensors help out when parking).

Most important of all — and ensuring that you can enjoy al fresco motoring for as many days of the year as it's not raining, getting the top down couldn't be simpler: press the switch alongside the electric parking brake and 17 seconds later you'll be as topless as you could wish.

There's a very effective windbreaker that takes just seconds to fit — if you're not putting peeps in the rear seats, you can leave it in-situ as not only can you see perfectly through the mesh but the upright wind-blocking section can be folded down to hide stuff left on the back seats. Well protected from any buffeting or bluster, you and your passenger will be able to converse in normal tones.

While it's no problem driving topless with the side windows down, with them all up the cockpit's a haven — conveniently, one switch opens or closes them simultaneously and, of course, they go down automatically as part of the roof's electric-driven opening ballet.

Safety is taken care of by an Electronic Stability Programme, a full set of airbags, reinforced windscreen, active rollover protection system (roll-bars that spring up from behind the rear seats in the event of a crash), active-safety front seat head restraints, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic lighting control with tunnel detection and digital high beam assist, tyre pressure monitoring, dual-tone horn, and LED rear lights.

Optional safety and driver aids include a forward-looking camera system (that brings with it traffic sign recognition), lane departure warning, forward collision alert, side blind-spot alert, and adaptive forward lighting (shines the headlights into all those usually missed parts of the road, and automatically dips the main beams to avoid dazzling other road users).

Worth mentioning is that as well as the 'big ticket' items such as great heated and cooled seats, leather upholstery, and a stylish hood all being present and correct, the small but equally meaningful touches haven't been forgotten — such as where to stow your personal gear. You'll find a lockable glovebox, bottle-holding door pockets, and a useful coin box in the right-hand fascia; between the gearlever and the sliding front centre armrest (with its own storage cubby) is a lidded customisable bin that you can make deep or shallow, and use it for two carryout coffees, or not — simply clever!

Getting the best out of
the 2.0-litre is
undemanding as the
engine likes to rev and
the manual ’box offers
a set of six well-spaced
ratios along with
a sweet and willing
change action.
And it’s commendably
sparing with the fuel —
a week’s spirited driving
saw a test average
of 45.9 mpg...”
There are plenty of other nice-to-live-with touches too, including the no-hassle drive-through electric parking brake, mood lighting, powerfold on-demand door mirrors, automatic drive-off door locking, and the SatNav's foolproof full postcode destination entry with 3D mapping and unambiguous spoken directions.

Not many 'four-seat' cabrios will actually take four adults — the Cascada is one that will. Access is straightforward thanks to an Easy Entry system that power-slides the front seats forwards after the backrest is tilted. While four can travel well, even with the roof up, top-down you'll all feel as free as the birds.

The powered roof folds away into a dedicated 'pouch' in the boot almost without a sound — and at speeds of up to 31mph (handy if you're caught in a sudden shower although as other drivers tend to watch mesmerised take care using it on the fly).

And there's no age restrictions for those making use of the individual rear seats; the average adult will have ample head, knee and legroom; there are also outer armrests and twin cupholders. What all this adds up to is that the four-seating Cascada works not just as a second car but could easily be your 'alpha' wheels. The 'silver lining' is that driving topless is an always-enjoyable treat just 17 seconds away.

Whatever model you buy from Vauxhall they give you a wide selection of engines, and the Cascada is no different. There are three petrol-fuelled power options: 138bhp 1.4-litre; 167bhp or 197bhp 1.6-litre. And one turbodiesel — as tested here, the 167bhp 2.0-litre CDTi. All are front-wheel drive set-ups with six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes.

The 167bhp oil-burner goes about its business calmly and its 295lb ft of torque serves up unruffled but punchy progress with good economy. Getting the best out of the 2.0-litre is undemanding as the engine likes to rev and the manual 'box offers a set of six well-spaced ratios along with a sweet and willing change action. When you're taking it easy it feels geared for relaxed cruising. And it's commendably sparing with the fuel — a week's spirited driving saw a test average of 45.9mpg.

Underpinning the Cascada's rigid 4.7-metre-long body is plenty of high-strength stiffening along with reinforced A-pillars and, most importantly, a suspension set-up that uses Vauxhall's HiPerStrut front suspension (adapted from the hard-charging 323bhp Insignia VXR).

Something you’re very
unlikely to have been
expecting are the
50:50-split, fold-down
rear seatbacks.
Simply flick the release
switches in the boot
and down go the seats all
by themselves to create
a versatile 750-litre
loadbay that easily
allows long objects to
be carried...”
The HiPerStruts combine all the benefits of a conventional set-up but without the drawbacks of torque-steer or a loss of traction under hard cornering. The steering is rack-and-pinion with speed-sensitive assistance to minimise steering effort at lower speeds; at higher speeds the assistance is automatically reduced for a greater degree of involvement and more effort.

That noted, all you really need to know is that the Cascada is a tidy-handler with no flexing or shuddering from the bodyshell, and is sprung to deliver a compliant ride — relaxing long-distance cruising is high on its list of abilities. Around the houses it does an agreeable job of soaking up the bumps and crossing potholes without any crashiness, even rolling on the optional 20-inchers fitted to our test car.

That's not to say pressing-on isn't on the agenda — the Cascada's dynamic credentials of a torquey engine, effective damping, and a responsive helm together make it enjoyable to drive when you up the pace. Equally reassuring, hefty front discs provide strong and dependable braking.

For the record, FlexRide — Vauxhall's adaptive damping system — is optional; specify it and you'll get three driving modes including Tour and Sport, which firms up damping and steering, and sharpens throttle response.

Pop the 'trunk' (the tailgate badge doubles as the release) and you'll find 380 litres of space available for luggage. That's if you're travelling roof-up — with it down there's only 280 litres as when folded away the hood 'parks' in a dedicated well incorporated into the boot (when the roof is raised this semi-rigid pouch can be easily pushed upwards to reclaim the 'missing' 100 litres).

Something you're very unlikely to have been expecting are the 50:50-split rear seatbacks. Simply flick the release switches in the boot and down go the backrests all by themselves to create a versatile 750-litre loadbay that easily allows long objects to be carried.

Brits just love to get their tops off and Vauxhall's genuine four-seater convertible ticks all the important boxes for cabrio-lovers. Enjoy! ~ MotorBar
.
Vauxhall Cascada Elite 2.0 CDTi | 32,095
Maximum speed: 135mph | 0-62mph: 9.6 seconds | Test Average: 45.9mpg
Power: 167bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2: 129g/km

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