Published: 12:55, 04 September 2017
Vauxhall’s Cascada is a surprisingly rare sight on our roads.
Yes, there’s a somewhat unfashionable Griffin adorning the front of the car and, yes, it does share quite a few parts with both the Insignia and the Astra, riding on the same platform as the latter.
The Cascada, however, occupies a slot in the class above, offering D segment space – the equivalent of a Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3 Series – for the price of a C segment motor, which includes the BMW 2 Series or Audi A3 among its ranks.
The odds are that, given the choice, a large majority of people would opt for the smaller German machines, happily sacrificing space and practicality just to have a three-pointed star, or a blue and white propeller, on the fronts of their cars.
It’s a shame, because there’s a pleasant surprise in store for anyone prepared to give the Cascada more than a second glance: It’s actually rather good.
For a start it will, just about, accommodate four adults – restricted legroom in the rear will make the prospect of longer journeys a little unappealing – and a sizeable portion of their luggage too, thanks its decent 350-litre boot.
There are just two trim levels, SE and Elite, and you do get a generous amount of equipment, with air con, 18in alloy wheels, DAB tuner, Bluetooth handsfree calling and audio streaming, cruise control, and rear parking sensors. My Elite trim test car adds dual-zone air con, part leather heated electrically adjustable sports seats, windbreak and automatic light and wipers so it’s a bit of a pity, then, that you have to sit in what is a largely uninspiring, though well put together and spacious, cabin.
Standard on both models is Vauxhall’s OnStar, which gives drivers access to call centre services via three buttons located behind the rear view mirror. The system uses GPS to track the location of your vehicle and, depending on your circumstances, you can contact an advisor directly.
They are able to provide assistance in a number of circumstances. For example, the service can diagnose maintenance or technical issues, or contact the emergency services if you’ve been involved in a crash.
If you’ve ticked the sat nav on the options list those same advisors can send guidance directly to your car to help you locate a garage if you’re running low on fuel.
Unsurprisingly there’s an app, too, which will also connect you to an OnStar advisor and offers useful functions such as remote door unlocking.
One more little trick that OnStar has tucked away up its virtual sleeve is the ability to act as a wifi hotspot for up to seven people. Yes, in a car that only seats five.
You can, if you wish, disable the GPS tracking. I can’t imagine any circumstance when that might be a good idea but I’m sure the tinfoil hat brigade will appreciate the option.
There is a confusing array of buttons on the centre console – quite possibly 42 of them but don’t quote me because while I started counting in a determined frame of mind once I’d got beyond 20 my enthusiasm to see it through waned significantly and, consequently, I may have made a (tiny) error – that are small and fiddly to operate.
At the front the Cascada rides on the McPherson HiPerStrut underpinnings borrowed from the VXR models which helps negate the impact of driving forces on steering accuracy while at the rear Watt’s Link suspension allows finer tuning control and a smoother ride. And in that, it succeeds very well indeed.
Now, if you're an enthusiastic driver that might all sound very promising but, the truth is, the Cascada is not far shy of mundane to drive. It’s suspension is set up for comfort and refinement, not poise and guile, while the gearing is, literally, geared towards economy, rather than performance.
It’s quite a large, heavy car and it shows when you try to inject a little pace into proceedings and things start to get a little ragged very quickly.
Driven as Vauxhall clearly intended, however, and the Cascada offers up an amenable, uncomplicated ride. Its goal is to get you from A, where A is here, to B, wherever B may be, with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of style.
The 2.0-litre CDTI unit powering my test car produces 170PS and it, along with the six speed manual gearbox that sends power to the front wheels, complement perfectly the Cascada’s personality. The diesel unit, though noticeably vocal when pressed, especially with the roof down, is hushed at cruising speeds.
Generous torque – 400Nm of it available from 1,750rpm – means that it never struggles to cope with the Cascada’s bulk.
The Cascada, then, is a competent and comfortable machine that, while it isn’t going to set the world on fire, is certainly worthy of a rather large dollop of respect. That there aren’t more of them on our roads – roads dominated by convertibles built by manufacturers residing in a country a few hundred miles east of here – can’t be blamed on Vauxhall’s inability to produce a worthy competitor because they have, and it is.
Compared to its rivals you get a lot of car for your money.
So if it isn’t value and it isn’t ability, could it be that potential buyers are letting aspiration get in the way of good judgement? Could it be that the allure of a three-pointed star, or those distinctive interlocked rings, is just too strong to resist?
If you’re in the market for a cabriolet any time soon, try and look past the badge. You’ll enjoy a rather nice surprise.
Vauxhall Cascada Elite
Price as tested: £34,770
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max power: 170PS @ 4,000rpm
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1,750rpm
Max speed: 135mph
Acceleration (0-62mph): 9.6sec
Extra urban: 67.3mpg
Emissions (CO2): 129g/km
For more information visit www.vauxhall.co.uk