Vauxhall have been missing a drop-top in their range ever since the pretty, but unimaginative Astra TwinTop disappeared from showrooms in 2011. Now they're back with the Cascada, and AOL Cars has been driving it.
What is it?
The new Vauxhall Astra Convertib... sorry, Cascada – a rather slinky-looking four-seat drop-top. Vauxhall has high hopes for the Cascada, so much so that they're aiming well beyond typical rivals like the Volkswagen's Eos and Golf Cabriolet. That's right, the Cascada has Audi's A5 in its sights, with Vauxhall proudly stating (though we're not sure why...) that it's actually 71mm longer than its premium rival.
What's under the bonnet?
The usual range of Vauxhall's engines – two turbocharged petrols, a 1.4 and 1.6, and the trusty 2.0-litre turbo diesel you'll find in perhaps every Insignia ever sold.
We were handed the keys to the entry-level 138bhp 1.4 and, while we liked it in the firm's Mokka mini-SUV, in the larger Cascada it feels a bit out of its depth. Around town there's little to complain about, but plant your foot at motorway speeds and you'll realise just how much the Cascada weighs.
What's the spec like?
Our 'Elite' trim level (the top option of the two available) was pretty well kitted out – automatic lights with high-beam assist, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, DAB radio and an iPod connection were all thrown in.
The dual-zone climate control, heated seats and steering wheel got our thumbs up too – making a 1°C drive through central London surprisingly toasty. Our car was also fitted with a surprisingly good sat nav and stereo combination, an £855 option, and a Bluetooth connection, £220.
To our eyes though, the standard 18-inch alloys just aren't big enough on a car of this size. We'd be tempted by the 19 or even 20-inch upgrades, which fill the Cascada's arches much better.
We're sorry to say this, Vauxhall, but not the Audi A5. Even ignoring badge appeal for a minute, the Cascada just can't compete with a car that has such a premium feel inside. Still, that's hardly a surprise when the A5 is priced well over and above the Cascada – and entirely forgivable too.
After that, we're left with just the Peugeot 308CC, Megane Coupe-Cabriolet, and the pair of aforementioned Volkswagens – Eos and Golf Cabriolet – all of which, bar the Golf, come with hard tops.
What's it like to drive?
Yes and no. For starters, we quite like the way the Cascada drives: It has a good driving position with reasonably weighted steering, a positive gear change and it doesn't roll around too much on the move.
We're not fans of the interior, though. It's not badly built by any means, but certain elements feel quite cheap – the flap that covers the USB connector, for example – and the grey switchgear stolen from the Astra isn't the most inviting.
However it's a relaxed car to drive and, with the top down, a very pleasant experience – particularly when you hit the 'Tour' button on the dashboard. It's roomy too – happily a four-seater for long journeys, provided the rear occupants couldn't pass as basketball players.
The AOL Cars verdict
Ignore for a minute that Vauxhall slips mentions of the Audi A5 into the sales pitch at any opportunity, and the Cascada manages to carve a niche for itself as a comfortable, stylish four-seat convertible.
Okay, so there's no getting away from the fact that you're effectively driving an Astra convertible, but it's no worse than its hatchback-based rivals in that respect. Head for the 1.6-litre and above and you'll have a relaxed tourer that's perfectly capable of soaking up the motorway miles, too.
Model: Vauxhall Cascada 1.4 Turbo Elite
Engine: 1.4 litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
MPG: 44.8 mpg (combined)
Emissions: 148 g/km