Let’s be honest: when you’re buying a convertible, the importance of how well it drives is nearly always overridden by how good it looks and the kind of statement it makes. So you’d take a rag-top Audi over a similar-sized Vauxhall, wouldn’t you?
Perhaps not any more. Vauxhall has given us an intriguing question to answer with its latest soft-top, the sleek and desirable Cascada. It has jumped a class in size over the forgettable Astra TwinTop that preceded it, gaining an attractive new look, a much more premium cabin and higher price as a result. Almost right into Audi A5 cabriolet territory, in other words. So in a class where image is everything, would you still go for that Audi when Vauxhall is offering much of the same for that bit less?
To give the Cascada a fair chance, we’re testing an apple against an apple – a model with an already near-range-topping engine/trim combination that has been made plusher (so more Audi-like) with optional extras. The base price of £27,595 of our 163bhp 2.0 CDTi model in range-topping Elite trim quickly heads north of £35,000 once desirable options such as an Audi-style Nappa leather interior, a whole host of electronic trickery and adaptive dampers are added.
The A5 cabriolet that matches this Cascada’s spec closest on paper is the 175bhp 2.0 TDI (admittedly, with an automatic gearbox against the Cascada’s manual, so we’ll leave this out of the comparison) in £37,445 S-line trim, which swells to just over £40,000 with some added infotainment options and something that’s surely now crucial in Baltic Britain: heated seats.
Baltic are the conditions awaiting us as we head down the M3 and M27 towards England’s answer to France’s Mediterranean coastline in search of picturesque locations to pose the convertibles in front of and to introduce them to some well heeled and image-conscious locals. Our first port of call is Sandbanks, surely Britain’s most exclusive seaside postcode. It still seems shut for the winter, despite this being spring, so it’s over the river on the car ferry to the pretty seaside town of Swanage for some topless motoring.