On the face of it, Vauxhall's strategy lies on the foolhardy side of brave. Having failed to make a splash against stuff like the Golf Cabrio with its Astra Twin Top, it's replacing it with a rather more expensive car, aimed at even more difficult opposition. Tricky. People who buy cabriolets are more than normally concerned with image, and Vauxhall isn't exactly an image brand.
How do you become an image brand? By consistently producing cars with a sense of commitment: well-made, properly engineered, stylish. Do that for long enough, and buyers will come. Cut corners on engineering, distress-discount to fill capacity and the brand's capital will be toxified by free-fall depreciation. To be honest, even if this Cascada is great, I'd stop any friend who wanted to put their money into it. But if Vauxhall supports it during its life, a consistently positioned next generation might be buyable. Going premium means building a long-term covenant with the customers.
And you know what? The Cascada actually is a good car, and a stylish one. The fabric roof - folding hard-tops are so last year - cuts a well-tailored silhouette. Inside, the dash is wrapped in stitched leather, and the rest of the cabin more or less lives up to it. The only thing that drops the ball is the tacky red dot-matrix display between the dials.
It doesn't borrow a single external panel from any other Vauxhall. Underneath, it takes the HiPerStrut suspension from the Insignia VXR, though with softer settings. The tracks are actually wider than the Insignia's, but the wheelbase is shorter. Anyway, it's a big car - longer than an Audi A5, for the price of an A3 cabrio, Vauxhall tells us.
Best engine of the range is an all-new 1.6 direct-injection turbo. Vauxhall has badly needed new mid-sized petrols for a while, and this is the first of the family. It's a stout low-down lugger, and spins sweetly - though in this tune, not gleefully - to its red line. It suits the Cascada's nature well: quiet, unassuming, but responsive. Not that quick, mind. Its 170bhp and eco-gearing are pinned back by 1,660kg. There's a 200bhp version coming later this year. I also sampledthe older 1.4 turbo engine, but it requires more patience than I possess.
The Cascada is a placid car, not an involving one. The ride's impressively supple. The steering is accurate but numb, the body free of flex, making it a car far less troubled by lumpy roads than a front-drive A5. Fair enough. There's something to be said for a car where feeling good isn't about smoking tyres and acrid brakes.
1598cc, 4cyl, FWD, 170bhp, 207lb ft, 39.2mpg, 168g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 9.2secs, 135mph, 1660kg.
A good car, if not maybe a Top Gear one. You'll take in the scenery, but hardly notice the drive.