Our test car was a 1.6-litre turbo petrol, and as such the first Vauxhall we’ve driven to use the firm's ‘Mid-sized Gasoline Engine’ (MGE). Its performance was a long way from spectacular, subdued as it is by 1.7 tonnes of kerb weight and long gear ratios chosen more for cruising than sprinting. And yet this is a fine engine: distant and hushed, but accommodating indeed in its power delivery. It’s ideally suited to the relaxed sort of service that Cascadas are likely to see.
That our test Cascada rode as quietly and absorbently as it did may have had as much to do with Vauxhall’s optional Flexride dampers as it did the car’s evidently stiff and robust reinforced body structure. We weren’t offered the chance to try a car on the standard suspension.
However, if those standard cars show almost as much skilled attention to detail in their dynamic tuning, this can confidently be pronounced a very well judged convertible.
It isn’t a driver’s car, nor even one for those particularly interested in the act, but it’s a highly competent one simply too smooth to trip you up or get in your way. It doesn’t brim with communicative, absorbing dynamism, though; the wheel feels light and a tiny bit spongey just off-centre.
But the car has just as much laid-back, cosseting polish as a Volkswagen Eos or Audi A3 Cabrio, perhaps a smidge more. The cloth roof even insulates the cabin from the wind nearly as well as the best folding tin-tops do.
Should I buy one?
The Cascada is certainly a good car in a strong position. But it’d be a much stronger one were it not for the thorny aforementioned issue of brand allure. Will the badge snobs be able to see past the Griffin on the grille to the creditable machine underneath?
Some will; as one colleague expertly realised, all those Saab convertible drivers have got to buy something different. But at this end of the market, you wouldn’t bet on many trading brand appeal for somewhat secondary added practicality.
But the truth is, Luton should be applauded for continuing to confront its big ‘chicken and egg’ problem; it’s one that must be tackled if Vauxhall is going to thrive. If it waits to develop the ‘semi-premium’ VW-rivaling brand so many think it needs to launch desirable cars like the Cascada, it’ll be waiting forever.
The egg, or rather the eggs – the cars - must come first. The road will be long, and another gear will need to be found if everyone is to be convinced that a true transformation is possible. But this car is another step in the right direction.
Vauxhall Cascada 1.6 SIDI Turbo Elite
Price: £28,605; 0-60mph: 9.2sec; Top speed: 135mph; Economy: 39.2mpg; CO2: 168g/km; Kerb weight: 1,685kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1685cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power: 168bhp at 4250rpm; Torque: 207lb ft at 1650-4250rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd automatic