Holden Cascada

Classy, if tubby, affordable rag-top

JAMES WHITBOURN

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

DRIVER appeal in the Holden Cascada comes from dropping the top on a nice day, rather than the drive experience itself, though that’s true of the small convertible class as a whole, including the ageing VW Golf and Renault Megane drop-tops. Like the Cascada, they’re heavier and slower than the hatches from which they’re derived, come only as autos, and ultimately place frills ahead of thrills.

But this Astra-derived cabrio holds several aces. The Cascada offers more performance than the Megane CC, thanks to a new-gen 1.6-litre direct injection turbo four shared with the Astra GTC, and while it’s not as swift as the Golf Cabriolet, it’s better equipped and has more space in its cabin and boot. Cascada is also cheaper than Audi’s A3 convertible, at $41,990 (or $44,990 for the 50 Launch Edition examples – see sidebar), yet it’s roughly the size of an A5.

Cascada’s engine offers 125kW and 260Nm and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

A hefty 1744kg weighbridge ticket means performance is only okay – 9.9sec for 0-100km/h – and the engine’s note does little to make it feel any quicker.

That flab conspires to remove agility and involvement compared with an Astra coupe, even though the Cascada shares the Astra’s clever HiPerStrut dual-axis front suspension, which can be sensed in the steering’s connected feel and the chassis’ agreeable country-road manners.

The ride on the Gold Coast hinterland roads of our test was taut, but with enough elasticity to smother most bumps on the standard 18-inch wheels. It’s a bit busier at low speeds, especially on the Launch Edition’s 20s, which transmit more NVH.

The Cascada’s roof is folding fabric, and it operates quickly, powering open or shut in 17sec at road speeds up to 50km/h. When stowed, the roof reduces boot space by 100 litres, to 280 litres. There’s some scuttle shake, as there is in almost every convertible, though windscreen wobble isn’t too obvious.

Cascada’s interior will be familiar to anyone who has driven a new Holden Astra – or a 2012 Opel Astra. The multimedia screen looks dated and provides a less-than-intuitive interface, though LED ambient lighting adds class, while a heated steering wheel and front seats, dual-zone climate control and a reversing camera are standard.

We’re not sure why the Cascada weighs as much as it does, and steering-wheel paddles would inject a bit more involvement.

However, despite suffering its share of small-cabrio issues, the Cascada is good enough to lure Euro-cabrio buyers away from the pricier prestige players. peeds

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Holden Cascada 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 125kW @ 4750-6000rpm 260Nm @ 1650-4500rpm 6-speed automatic 1744kg 9.9sec (claimed) 7.5L/100km $41,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

No shift paddles; weight versus agility/performance; control design Connected steering; capable chassis; equipment levels; spacious cabin

Strutting its stuff

GM’S ‘HiPerStrut’ suspension is designed to deliver the dynamics of a double A-arm front suspension without the cost, and while the benefit is a bit lost in the Cascada, and even the Astra GTC, it’s valuable in the VXR, which is more cut-cat than dog-onlino.

Yet there’s a Cascada that certainly looks fast. The $45K Launch Editon scores 20s, plush Nappa leather, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, heated electric front seats, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps and LED running lights.

LIKE IT? LEASE IT!

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