Size is key to its case. The Cascada is as big as cars like the Audi A5, BMW 3-series and Volvo C70 drop-tops, but it’s priced like an A3 or 1-series cabrio. The Vauxhall’s back seats are adult-size as a result, so big enough for anyone under about six feet tall. That's because, while it shares the smaller Astra hatchback’s ‘Delta II’ platform, the Cascada’s wheelbase is closer in size to that of an Insignia.
The styling is certainly no reason to turn your nose up. The Cascada’s double-lined cloth hood made for more freedom of the designer’s pen than folding metal might and the car’s proportions are elegant and its detailing appealing. It’s not drop-dead gorgeous, but pretty will do. And while the cabin is bigger on function than flair, it’s rich enough to make you feel relaxed and well provided for.
Engines range from 138bhp 1.4 to 168bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol four-pots, or 2.0-litre 163bhp or 192bhp four-pot diesels. All drive through the front wheels, via either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions.
Suspension is courtesy of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear, but GM’s torquesteer-quelling Hiperstruts are fitted as standard at the front to add smoothness and precision to the steering, and its Watts’ Link goes on the rear to enhance ride and handling. If you’re prepared to pay extra, there are also ‘Flexride’ magnetorhelogical dampers on the options list.
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.