By Mike Torpey on 2013-06-08 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
FINDING a niche that no one else has spotted is something of a rarity these days, but that's precisely what Vauxhall has managed with its latest model the Cascada convertible.
And the brand is in the throes of exploiting that gap in the market with considerable vigour.
While there's been no shortage of small to medium-sized tin-top coupe cabriolets, like the Renault Megane CC and Peugeot 308 CC, people wanting a full blown four-seat with fabric hood have found choice limited to premium or prestige cars.
Until now - because the new Cascada not only fits the bill on size it also has a price tag that starts from Â£23,995, and that's nearly Â£8,000 less than rivals like the Audi A5 Cabriolet.
There are no snags either, as the Cascada not only looks the business, it's beautifully engineered, has a decent choice of engines and drives like a dream too.
Brits have always loved a convertible but you need to go back almost 30 years, and the Vauxhall Cavalier MkII, since a blue collar manufacturer offered a true four-seater soft top.
With an upmarket interior quality and lack of the rattles and squeaks often associated with a convertible, the motor industry analysts are predicting that three years down the line the Vauxhall will still retain at least 33 per cent of its value.
The Cascada's arrival takes Vauxhall into its fourth new area of the market in a year, following on from the Ampera range extender, Mokka compact SUV and urban chic Adam models.
Mindful of the vagaries of the British weather, the company has aimed to make the Cascada a practical all year round car.
So its hood, which can be opened in 17 seconds at speeds up to 30mph, has top notch acoustic and thermal insulation thanks to a special layer of polyester fleece between the outer and inner linings.
And the car's dynamics are heightened by a rigid body that's 43 per cent stiffer than Vauxhall's last open-topped car, the discontinued Astra Twin Top, and also uses the HiPerStrut front suspension initially featured on the fiery Insignia VXR.
While a new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 170ps is the highlight of the powertrain line-up, the tested - and lowest powered - 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol unit still produces 140ps.
Only under heavy acceleration, especially going uphill, does the Cascada labour in any way, but there's still plenty of performance, and a potential 45 miles per gallon for light-footed drivers.
With a minimum load volume of 280 litres with the roof down, and up to 350 litres roof up, the Cascada has some practicality too, and the FlexFold rear seats electrically release and fold down for carrying longer items.
Technology is also to the fore with options like adaptive forward lighting, front camera system including traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, following distance indication and forward collision alert, rear-view camera, heated steering wheel, hill start assist and side blind spot alert.
So it's a techno tour de force, as well as a welcome return to the old fashioned spirit of wind in the hair motoring.
Vauxhall Cascada 1.4i Turbo Start/Stop Elite
Mechanical: 140ps, 1,364cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 10.2 seconds
Combined MPG: 44.8
Insurance Group: 21
C02 emissions: 148g/km
Bik rating: 21%
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