Paul Horrell13 March 2013

First Drive: new Vauxhall Cascada

"The new Cascada shares not one exterior panel with any other Vauxhall..." Paul Horrell reports

Vauxhall Cascada

Standard procedure for most carmakers in building a cabriolet is to take a mid-size hatch and slice it open. You know the score: Golf, Megane, 307, 1-series, A3. Until recently the Astra as well. But now Vauxhall has taken a more committed line.

The new Cascada shares not one exterior panel with any other Vauxhall. It's wider than an Insignia, though a little shorter in the wheelbase in search of better proportions. A surprising amount of the interior is different too.

It's a bigger and plusher car than most of the beheaded hatches. The roof is fabric because that's become the fashion again. It's lighter than a folding hardtop, less space-consuming, and allows more design freedom.

See more pics of the new Vauxhall Cascada

There's a brand-new engine too, though that's an item that certainly will mate promiscuously with the rest of the Vauxhall lineup. It's a 1.6-litre petrol, fashionably direct-injected and turbocharged. We tried it in 170bhp trim, although a 200 version is coming in a couple of months.

To be honest 170bhp isn't a huge shove when there's a big cabrio in the way. Performance is only moderate. But it's agreeably dispensed, with broad-shouldered mid-rev torque and quietly suave vocal croon.

So it is with the suspension. The steering and handling do what you ask without any kind of fuss, but don't invite you to get involved. You glide along on springs of well-judged suppleness. Underneath there's thorough bodywork stiffening to fight off the wobbles. Successfully, it turns out.

Instead of getting intimate with the road and the performance, get the roof down and enjoy what's going on outside the car.

But this makes you conspicuous, and brings us to the question you've no doubt been asking, and I've been avoiding, since the very first line of this review: do you look like a (conspicuous) mug spending £29k on a Vauxhall? Cabrios are image cars; is Vauxhall an image carmaker?

Simple answer: not yet. But it can only become one if it makes properly engineered cars like this - and smart-looking ones like the Adam, and on-trend ones like the Mokka, and beguilingly useful ones like the Zafira and leading-edge ones like the Ampera. And continues doing so until the public wakes up.

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