Vauxhall has thrown down the gauntlet to some of the world’s premier car makers with the first full-sized convertible it has designed, engineered and built since the 1930s.
And there is no doubt the new Cascada is one of the best looking four-seater convertibles I have seen in a long time.
Bearing a strong resemblance to the Insignia but even more stylish in its design the Cascada is certainly a head-turner.
It faces some strong competition in the marketplace, however, as it counts BMW and Audi drop-tops among its main competitors.
It stands up well to the competition, however, with a number of unusual features.
It has, for example, not one but two different types of wind deflectors to ensure passengers don’t get out with a hairstyle looking like Ken Dodd’s when the hood is down. The smaller deflector fits neatly between the rear headrests for when there are four people in the car and a larger one, for when there are only two, occupies the rear seat area.
But for a four-seater convertible the cockpit is reasonably wind free even without the deflectors in place.
And despite its size the electrically-operated hood can be raised or lowered on the move – at least up to 30 miles per hour – in just 17 seconds, so you are less likely to get caught in a shower.
When it is lowered the hood does take up a significant amount of space in the boot, although there is still room for soft bags. If you are heading off on holiday in a Cascada, however, you might have to travel with the hood in place until you get there and unload the suitcase.
The hood is made up of a number of layers which significantly reduces wind noise. In fact at speed the Cascada is a very quiet, civilised car, unlike some convertibles.
With the hood down the car has clean, crisp lines, uncluttered by any visible rollover bars. The bars are there, however, set into the body behind the rear seats and will deploy in milliseconds should a rollover situation occur.
A lot of thought has gone into the design of this car. There are even two sets of rear light clusters. One is built into the boot lid but a second is in the bodywork hidden behind the lid so that if you park and raise the boot at night vehicles passing you will still see a red light.
Anyone familiar with Vauxhalls will feel instantly at home with the dashboard layout of the Cascada, although the leather covered upper section with its saddle stitching and the lower carbon-fibre-look lower section give it a distinct up-market feel, as does the smart perforated leather upholstery.
The Cascada comes with Vauxhall’s Flex Ride, which means you can manually select Normal, Sport or Tour mode. In Sport the shock absorbers react more stiffly to give better contact with the road and the engine reacts more quickly to the accelerator. In Tour the damping is softer.
With 165bhp the 2.0-litre Cascada is no slouch, but on acceleration the engine can sound harsh. When up to cruising speed on the motorway, however, that harshness disappears and it becomes a very refined high speed tourer that is so relaxed you have to keep a wary eye on the speedometer.
Model: Vauxhall Cascada SE
Mechanical: 1956cc, 4 cyl, 165bhp diesel engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.
Max speed: 135 mph
0-60 mph: 9.6 secs
Combined MPG: 54.3
CO2 emissions: 138 g/km
Insurance group: 23E
Warranty: Unlimited/ 100,000 miles