Vauxhall Cascada 1.4

VVT Turbo

Vauxhall Cascada, upright
Vauxhall Cascada, interior
Vauxhall Cascada, rear seats
Vauxhall Cascada, rear, static
Vauxhall Cascada, front, action
Vauxhall Cascada, side, twilight
Vauxhall Cascada, overhead
Vauxhall Cascada, rear, action

AT last there's a premium quality soft top that looks amazing, is packed with technology, delivers blistering driving dynamics and has a price-tag that won't break the bank.

With such a description you would be expecting this car to come from one of the highly-established German brands - but not this time.

That's because the beautifully-crafted Cascada is produced by Vauxhall - the first four-seater open-top to be designed, engineered and manufactured by the company since the 1930s.

And it has certainly been worth the wait because the fabric-roof Cascada convertible is every inch a premium contender with drop dead gorgeous lines, 18-inch alloys, daytime running lights, LED rear lights, body-coloured door mirrors and plenty more to catch the eye.

The interior oozes quality and is feature-rich with techno treats. The main central control stack is very Volvo-esque with its V-shaped design and there are creature comforts at every turn.

Features include a CD audio system with digital radio, USB and iPod connectivity, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, a multi-function three-spoke leather steering wheel, cruise control, front sports seats and push-button roof operation.

This car was supplied with some optional extras such as a comprehensive sat nav system, front parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and specialist paintwork which all helped to bump up the asking price from £23,995 to £25,980, but that is still incredibly competitive compared to Audi or BMW models of a similar style.

The interior is very spacious and there is ample room for four adults to travel in comfort, although luggage restrictions will apply because the boot is very limited as it also houses the fold-away roof. However, folding rear seats do increase the storage capacity if needed.

But in fairness to Vauxhall, the Cascada hasn't been designed to take large families complete with all their suitcases on holiday - it has fun written all over it and certainly lives up to expectations.

Thankfully, a heat wave swept across the UK during my week-long loan and almost all my hours of driving were completed with the roof down.

It may add to the noise factor and the fumes are not the best in built-up traffic, but this is the British summertime and open-top motoring should be encouraged at all times, especially when the roof can be closed at speeds up to 30mph should an unexpected shower appear from nowhere.

The six-speed manual transmission was beautifully smooth and the 1.4-litre petrol engine meant there was a constant supply of power on tap.

As one would expect, the Cascada has been kitted out with a comprehensive range of safety features such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability programme, an active roll-over system, numerous airbags and lots more besides.

Duncan Aldred, Vauxhall's chairman and managing director, has said about the car: "The full-sized convertible sector tends only to be occupied by very high-priced cars from premium manufacturers. With Cascada, we're offering customers high levels of equipment, technology and luxury but at an affordable price."

I couldn't agree more.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Cascada 1.4 VVT Turbo

Price: £25,980

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: 20

C02 emissions: 148g/km

Bik rating: 21%

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