By Patrick James on 2013-11-30 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Vauxhall Cascada 1.4
WE all know about the British weather, but our damp and often cold climate does little to deter those wanting to own a convertible.
When the weather allows, they are a delight and most car makers have the option in their range of models.
Vauxhall's latest offering, the Cascada, is a full sized drop top that offers comfort for four, has a premium feel and eye-catching styling, just like the equally good looking Astra and Insignia.
It follows the Astra Twin Top, but this is a bigger car and comes with a fabric roof which has a choice of three colours.
It also offers up to three layers which can keep out the worst the weather has to offer as well as deadening sound from the outside world.
The roof folds away into a concealed boot compartment in just 17 seconds which can be achieved at speeds up to 30mph with an interior switch, or via a button on the key fob.
Style wise it has a distinctive wedge shape, a deep front grille and uses LED technology. The daytime running lights in the headlamps and the rear lights incorporate Vauxhall's ‘wing' signature and with the roof down, looks as good as any convertible on the road.
Vauxhall says the car, which at nearly 4.7 metres in length is longer than an Audi A5 convertible, positions the firm in a sector that it hasn't occupied since the 1930s.
It is not cheap with the entry level model costing a shade under £24,000, but is competitive against its rivals and undercuts most.
For the price there is long list of standard equipment, including electric windows and mirrors, air con, cruise control and parking sensors.
The range topping Elite adds leather dash trim, heated leather seats and climate control. All feature stylish alloy wheels and stability programme.
Vauxhall have also made sure a stiffer body build cuts down on body flex often found with convertibles. This improves both the ride and handling which are both good.
On the road, the 1.4-litre petrol engine pulls the big body with ease and is capable of propelling the car from 0-60mph in just over 10 seconds.
It is also economical with an offical average mpg figure of 44.8, aided by stop/start technology. It certainly is not a thirsty beast and, mated to a six-speed gearbox, is a pleasant drive.
Inside the car, the dashboard design has the look of a cockpit with banks of buttons around the central console, where sat nav, radio and climate functions are controlled. Switches and dials are neatly and logically laid out and feel sturdy and durable.
As a drop top, it is not the most practical of cars, but still has reasonable boot space.
With the roof folded, there is 280 litres available, which increases to 350 litres with the roof up.
Vauxhall's FlexFold system allows the two rear seats, which split 50/50 to be electrically released, freeing up even more space for longer objects.
Storage is supplemented by pockets in each door and one under the instrument panel with a storage bin between the front seats.
In the event of a roll-over incident, pyrotechnically activated, spring-loaded bars deploy behind the rear seats. These pop-ups are also triggered during other severe impacts.
Vauxhall Cascada 1.4 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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