Vauxhall Cascada

Elite 1.4i Turbo

Vauxhall Cascada, interior, Route Napoleon
Vauxhall Cascada, front, action, Route Napoleon
Vauxhall Cascada, roof up
Vauxhall Cascada, front, static
Vauxhall Cascada, rear, static
Vauxhall Cascada, side, static
Vauxhall Cascada, rear, action
Vauxhall Cascada, front, action

WE'RE a pretty weather-hardened lot here aren't we? Well, aren't we?

T-shirts and shorts in the bleak mid-winter and should the sun break through - even if the temperature is below freezing - the trainers are substituted for flip flops.

And when it comes to cars, no nation latches on to convertibles quite like the Brits. Never mind that you can count the hot sunny days on one hand, that lid's coming down.

Problem is, we get wind, sleet, hailstones and rain by the bucket load, so it helps if that soft-top will keep out everything mother nature can hurl at it.

Vauxhall reckons it has done just that with the fabric hood crowning its full-blown four-seater rag-top the Cascada.

My few days with the 'practical all- year round model' coincided with the sort of conditions that transport your wheelie bin to other end of the street and free your roof of a dozen slates.

Not much hope for the hood of the Vauxhall then, even if it can be opened in 17 seconds at speeds up to 30mph. Except the Cascada proved something of a revelation.

The official line is that it has superior acoustic and thermal insulation thanks to a special layer of polyester fleece between the outer and inner linings.

Whatever. It definitely works. There was none of that noisy, draughty, misty menace that has hampered convertibles of the past.

Equally appealing were dynamics heightened by a rigid body that's 43 per cent stiffer than Vauxhall's last open-topped car, the discontinued Astra Twin Top, and the Cascada also uses the HiPerStrut front suspension initially featured on the fiery Insignia VXR.

With a minimum load volume of 280 litres with the roof down, and up to 350 litres with it up, the Cascada has some practicality too, while the FlexFold rear seats electrically release and fold down for carrying longer items.

As for quality there's nothing tacky about the Cascada, it's a beautifully engineered car with loads of technology on board - though you have to pay extra for some of it - and even has an electric seatbelt presenter that automatically moves forward to meet you.

Another Vauxhall first is heat reflective leather seats that reduce the temperature up to 20-30 degrees - for those days when the sun does actually shine.

A decent engine line-up comprises a 1.4-litre Turbo petrol, a pair of 1.6 petrol units and a 2.0-litre CDTi diesel with two different power outputs and in two trim grades, Elite and SE.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Cascada Elite 1.4i Turbo

Price: £26,715

Mechanical: 140PS, 1,364cc 4-cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via six-speed manual transmission

Max Speed: 129mph

0-62mph: 10.9 seconds

Combined MPG: 44.1

Insurance Group: 21

C02 emissions: 149g/km

Bik rating: 22%

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