I enjoy watching the birds in the garden at this time of year although I think they are becoming a little too particular. The problem is they’re so used to regular supplies of ciabatta, organic soda bread and the occasional croissant that they turn up their beaks at any crumbs on the bird table that may have come from a run-of-the-mill sliced white loaf.
A regular visitor is “my” robin who pops down to see what’s on offer whenever I step out to the table with fresh supplies. Just occasionally a stranger appears but as far as I know, because I’m not a seasoned birdwatcher, there haven’t been any rare varieties calling into the Douglas takeaway. I’m sure I would spot a really rare bird simply because I didn’t recognise it – which is exactly what happened to me when I took to the road in the latest convertible from Vauxhall, the Cascada.
It’s been in the showrooms since the spring, but like the greater-crested blue-breasted whatever, it’s a rare thing to spot. In fact, the test car I had is the only one I’ve ever seen and, judging by the reactions from other road users, I’m not alone. That’s in contrast to Vauxhall’s ambitious claim ahead of the launch last April when they said it would “revitalise” the full-size convertible segment. Well, not yet, it hasn’t – but time may tell.
It’s the fourth in Vauxhall’s bold new line-up following on from the hybrid Ampera, which to my mind has been widely under-rated; the compact SUV Mokka which is still struggling to find its place; and the quirky and stylish Adam, which also still has to generate the enthusiasm it deserves. The Cascada certainly attracted looks from passers-by and that wasn’t just down to the unusual burgundy-tinted Mercure Red paint-job. It does have an unusual look, reminiscent to me of recent American dropheads. It goes head-to-head on price against the VW Eos and Golf cabrio, the BMW Series 1 convertible and the Audi A3 cabrio but is longer than Audi’s A5 convertible and is the first full-sized soft-top designed, engineered and manufactured by Vauxhall’s sister company Opel since the 1930s. The Cascada aims to bring full-sized convertible standards at a much lower price than the models from the premium German names, and while the range starts at just under £24,000, you have to find quite a few more quid if you want to get some of the useful toys. The test car – a 2.0-litre diesel Elite – starts at £27,595 but with a few extras that quickly bumped up to more than £34,000. The £1,200 sat nav and DAB radio system was good but £1,800 seems a lot for the Park and Go Technology – rear view camera, park assist, side blind spot alert and foldable door mirrors.
The car looks good with its top down with a nice clean profile unspoilt by unsightly roll-over protection or roof-top cover. With the roof up, it also has clean lines with a seamless profile rather than the often clumsy look of most full-size convertibles. The fabric top could have done with more soundproofing as at full motorway speed, road and wind noise sometimes made it difficult to get the full benefit of the audio system.
Inside, the car is well-equipped but not as spacious as I had expected, and while full size adults could certainly get in the back they might feel a wee bit cramped. Because of the folding roof mechanism, boot space is fairly restricted. The finish around the dashboard and seats is good and in the test car the Nappa leather-trimmed heated seats were firm but comfortable.
The heated leather steering wheel won’t be fully appreciated until the first icy morning of winter, and it’s especially welcome on a top-down chilly autumn drive. On the road it feels strong and secure, with precise handling and little shake. The test car came with the FlexRide adaptive chassis control – a £790 option – which dealt with changing road and driving conditions.
Vauxhall aim to sell only around 2,000 Cascadas a year, so even if that ambitious target is achieved, they’re still going to be something of a rare bird.
Car Vauxhall Cascada 2.0CDTi 16v
Price £34,055 as tested
Performance Top speed 135mph; 0-62mph 9 secs
Economy 54 mpg
CO2 emissions 138 g/km