Zesty new petrol engine boosts the appeal of Luton manufacturer’s drop-top cruiser

What is it?

The most recent addition to the Vauxhall Cascada convertible line-up, with a new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine under the bonnet.

We’ve been quite impressed by the Luton manufacturer’s mid-sized convertible since it first arrived in early 2013, pitched as a sleek rival for the likes of the Audi A5 cabriolet and Volkswagen Eos.

Based on Vauxhall Astra underpinnings – but not as close a relative as the little-loved Astra TwinTop that preceded it – the Cascada’s strongest suit is its value-for-money compared to the (admittedly ritzier) drop-top Audi A5.

The petrol engine range was limited at launch, with a choice of a 1.4-litre turbo with a modest 138bhp or a 1.6-litre direct injection unit offering 168bhp that came attached to an automatic transmission.

Hence the reason for the introduction of this 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, which produces maximum power and torque outputs of 197bhp and 207lb ft respectively. Teamed with a six-speed manual gearbox, this version of the Cascada is capable of a 0-62mph sprint of 8.5sec.

Available in two trim levels, SE and Elite, equipment levels are generous, with features such as air-con, 18-inch alloys, a DAB tuner, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, rear parking sensors, an aux-in port and a USB connection all included.

Our test Cascada was a range-topping Elite model, which comes with additional kit that includes climate control, heated electric sports seats with leather trim and automatic lights and wipers.

The test car also rode on 19in five-spoke alloys (a £500 option), and included other options that swelled the on-the-road price of £28,310 up to £32,520.

What's it like?

Pulling away from a standstill, the new 1.6-litre turbocharged unit doesn’t initially impress with its acceleration, which isn’t surprising given the weight that it is being asked to pull.

Contributing to that are the cross-underbody strengthening elements and high-strength, reinforced A-pillars that give the Cascada commendable levels of torsional stiffness.

Once you’re on the move, however, the engine is flexible, free-revving and enjoyable to use. It’s extremely smooth, which makes it very well suited to a car where luxury and comfort are higher on the list of priorities than out-and-out performance.

The new powerplant doesn’t emit a particularly exciting note, although that’s only a disadvantage if you expect your top-down motoring to be accompanied by a stirring aural symphony.

The Cascada, which is fitted with Vauxhall’s sophisticated HiPerStrut front suspension, is fairly well composed on most types of road. It is devoid of wallowing during cornering, although the weight can be evident under heavy braking.

Don’t expect a purposeful sporting drive – even with the extra power provided by the 1.6-litre turbo, the focus is still firmly on providing a relaxed gait. The ride on our car’s optional 19in wheels could be occasionally jarring at slow speeds but was otherwise very comfortable.

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The Cascada doesn’t feel compromised in the way that some drop-top cars do, with no sign of chassis vibration, enhancing its cruising credentials.

The dual-layered fabric roof can be automatically lowered in 17.0sec, raised again in 19.0sec, both at speeds of up to 30mph. The roof’s mechanism is quiet during its operation and the whole lot is stowed flush with the bodywork behind the rear seats.

When the roof is stowed, buffeting and wind noise are mild but not intrusive at speeds up to 60mph, even without the supplied wind deflector in place.

With the roof up, the Cascada's cabin is adequately insulated from both the elements and noise. Second row headroom’s a little limited when the hood is in place, but both leg and headroom are good enough for large teenagers and smallish adults.

On the whole, the cabin pulls off the stylish feel you’d expect from a car designed for swanning about with the roof down.

It has comfortable leather seats that offer plenty of adjustment and stitched leather on the steering wheel and dashboard. However, the centre console, which is plucked straight from the Astra, looks a little incongruous.

It is comparatively spacious, just about accommodating four adults without demanding uncomfortable contortions from those trying to access the rear seats, and offering up to 380 litres of luggage space into the bargain.

Exploiting the boot space can be a challenge due to the awkward shape of the opening, which is quite narrow due to the space taken up by the folding roof and associated mechanism.

The roof also impinges on rearward visibility, because when it is in place the rear ‘window’ is uselessly narrow, which can be awkward in a car of 4696mm in length.

Should I buy one?

Badge snobs might still turn up their noses at the prospect of cruising along the English Riviera in a Griffin-branded cabriolet, but the Vauxhall Cascada has some strong selling points, not least its usability and touches of practicality.

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Now it has another, because this 1.6-litre turbo engine is the pick of the range for low-mileage, luxury-minded motorists who don’t need the attendant frugality of a diesel.

At £28,310, this variant doesn’t hold quite as much price appeal as cheaper variants, which can be had for almost £5000 less. However, even with the extras sported by our test car taken into account, the price is on a par with entry-level Audi A5 cabriolets.

The challenge for Vauxhall remains convincing prospective buyers that the Cascada possesses sufficient cachet compared to premium rivals.

Vauxhall's Cascada isn’t game-changing enough to break down that prejudice on its own, although it does prove that Vauxhall can make distinctive, desirable cars packed with clever engineering. 

The sensible head would suggest that the Cascada deserves serious consideration, but since when are cabriolet purchases made with the sensible head?

Vauxhall Cascada Elite 1.6i

Price £28,310; 0-60mph 8.5sec; Top speed 146mph; Economy 42.2mpg; CO2 158g/km; Kerb weight 1658kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 197bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 207lb ft at 1650-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual 

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Add a comment…
winniethewoo 21 May 2014


I suspect VX220EDDIE is right...Vauxhall don't really see this as a A5 competitor. They are doing a Sports Direct. Pitch it at a massive RRP with esteemed peers such as the Audi A5, then offer a total "bargain" at thousands below list. I suspect this model will be £18995 pre registered with delivery miles on forecourts, and their internal documents will show a figure in this ball park as the real sale price.

If viewed in terms of price paid, I can see why a Vauxhall will make a lot of sense to a lot of people as a sub Skoda, Ford brand but a notch above the likes of Dacia.

I suppose for GM to preserve the impression that Vauxhall as a BRAND are on a par with Skoda and Ford, you have to give them credit for rather good marketing.

But of course, if viewed in terms of RRP, or on an equal playing field to Skoda / Ford / Hyundai / Kia without taking price into account, they are S**T.

mdouth258 21 May 2014

Some people are being a little bit unkind to Vauxhall

Ahh I love reading the arguments on here, reminds me of the primary school playground.

As for the Cascada (not sure about that name): well it appears to be reasonably well screwed together, but it just doesn't have the class of its rivals (Really Vauxhall? The A5? You have seen the A5, right?). I've not seen a Cascada on the road yet and I'm not hugely surprised. They are going to struggle to sell it as a premium product.

As for describing all Vauxhall products as 's**t', sort yourself out and open your eyes. They have their faults, granted, but they really aren't all that bad. They serve a purpose. I have a 93k mile old Corsa, and it isn't the most inspiring vehicle by any stretch of the imagination and I would far rather a Fiesta; but it is what it is, and has only let me down once when it sheared a coolant hose connector. That's not bad for a 's**t' car over 93k. It's cheap as chips to run and at the moment, that is exactly what I need. I can't honestly say I would choose another Vauxhall though.

Moparman 20 May 2014

Would do well in America

Which is damning it with faint praise I know. However, put a V6 in it, price it at around USD35-40K (GBP 25K-29K) and this could be a Buick (as all Opels are rebadged nowadays) that would make people consider the marque again. It would take up the market for relatively-inexpensive droptops vacated by the Toyota (Camry) Solara from the last decade. In Europe it is too big and impractical for serious consideration and lacks an engine with decent power and torque. Come on GM! The cougars are waiting for you!