It’s ironic but true: despite our often inclement weather, per capita more convertibles are sold in the UK and Ireland than in any other territory.
The arrival of Vauxhall’s sleek new Cascada will surely open up the market even more. Forget the draughty ragtops of the past. Thanks to a special layer of polyester fleece, with the hood up this one is as noise and wind proof as any contemporary saloon. It also has a real advantage over most of its competitors by being a proper four-seater, with a spacious and luxuriously appointed cabin.
Of course, there’s a price to be paid for giving rear-seat passengers generous legroom and that’s a boot that will carry a minimal amount of luggage. Given a cleverly designed chassis, there’s none of the scuttle shake that too often affects convertibles.
At nearly 4.7 metres in length, the full size, fabric-roof Cascada convertible is longer than both the BMW 3-Series Convertible and the soon to arrive Audi A5 Convertible, which is likely to be its main competition. The Cascada is the first full-sized convertible designed, engineered and manufactured by Vauxhall since the 1930s. It will fill the gap left by the much-missed Saab drop-tops.
Vauxhall is positioning the Cascada in the C-sector due to its highly competitive pricing. The C-segment accounts for approximately one per cent of the total UK car market – that’s around 21,000 units per annum – and Vauxhall expects the Cascada to make up approximately ten per cent of this segment’s volume per year.
Based on price rather than size, the Cascada’s key competitors include the Volkswagen Eos and Golf Cabriolet, the BMW 1 Series Convertible and the Audi A3 Cabriolet, all of which are all considerably smaller.
The new challenger comes with a comprehensive range of powertrains. The highlight is the all-new 1.6 SIDI Turbo ECOTEC petrol engine. The first production engine from Vauxhall’s MGE (Mid-Size Gasoline Engine) family, this unit offers major improvements in torque, linearity and overall efficiency. It produces a maximum 170PS from 1650 to 3200rpm and up to 280Nm of torque, giving a 0-60 time of 9.2 seconds and top speed of 135mph. This engine will be available shortly after launch with a new, low-friction automatic six-speed gearbox that contributes towards combined fuel consumption of 39.2mpg and emissions of 168g/km.
The Cascada range will be priced from just £23,995 on-the-road, nearly £8,000 less than an Audi A5 Cabriolet will cost when it arrives in showrooms this April.