Car reviews - Holden - Cascada - convertible
Four luxurious and usable seats, everyday convertible fun, value
Room for improvement
Rear seat headroom, limited dynamic performance
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28 Apr 2015
OUR brief time with Holden’s first convertible in about a decade started on Queensland’s Gold Coast, but despite the Vegas of the southern hemisphere’s reputation for balmy weather, it was raining hard.
That gave us a chance to test the Cascada’s defining feature – its ‘acoustic’ three-layer fabric roof.
With the folding top in place, the cabin was a pleasant place to be, with well-appointed leather seats that offered versatile adjustment and support in all the right spots, while the rag-top gave effective insulation from the sounds and elements of the outside world.
The cabin is cosy and compact with heated front seats and steering wheel that would prove invaluable in the southern states, and only the slightly basic dash materials and layout detracted from the feeling of quality instilled by the leather bits.
The back seats are adult sized but only just, and the head of our 188cm reviewer touched the roof when seated without slouching. Legroom would be acceptable for shorter journeys.
The centre console is littered with buttons and finding your way around to the required function took some time, but regular users would soon get used to that. Perhaps a touchscreen could have tidied up the layout.
Upholstery with contrasting stitching on the dash certainly helps to lift the quality over the related Astra’s interior, but the occasional flash of shiny plastic reminded us of its origins.
Holden is marketing its Cascada as a luxurious sportscar option, and with a few good enhancements the newest Holden is well priced at $41,990 even if it didn’t quite sneak in under the $40,000 mark as some reports had predicted.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.6-litre version of GM’s EcoTec engine, producing 125kW and 360Nm of torque.
Unlike the Astra, the Cascada is only available with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which is a shame because the self-serve manual can take more power, with 147kW and 380Nm available in manual Astras.
The extra grunt would be handy in the Cascada because its convertible top and associated chassis stiffening has added a sizeable 241kg to the kerb weight of the equivalent hatchback – a mass that is noticeable when behind the wheel.
Acceleration about town is acceptable with the auto responding well when taking off, but out of town the engine struggles to lug the bulky Cascada around with enthusiasm.
Driving the four-cylinder turbo in the low-down torque range was more rewarding with little lag and a more relaxing ride for passengers.
We wouldn’t go so far as to say it is slow, but the performance doesn’t quite match the convertible styling or sporty persona Holden is trying to create for the Cascada. It is also some way behind the sprightly nature of the lighter Astra range.
But designing any convertible requires a trade-off with weight versus handling.
By chopping off the roof alone, many convertibles would be light but unforgivably flaccid, and by adding in essential chassis stiffening the weight soon piles on.
At least with the Cascada, the weight-adding chassis work has paid off to a degree, and piloting the convertible through a few bends was good fun as any drop-top should be.
We detected some scuttle shake but notably less than some significantly more expensive heavy hitters including Audi’s RS5 Cabriolet and the M4 Convertible from BMW.
Generally the ride is best described as rigid with surprisingly little flex through the body – as one would hope from extra engineering weighing the equivalent of three average people onboard.
We liked the steering weight and roadholding once up to speed and looked past the lack of power almost like a game to maintain momentum with the enjoyable handling. Ride quality is firm but good on varying road surfaces.
As the clouds cleared and let a little sunlight in we dropped the hood without having to pull over – it will work at speeds of up to 50km/h – and with the 26-degree air circulating around the cabin we soon forgot about the oily bits.
With all four windows wound down the Cascada’s interior is surprisingly serene and the standard heated seats enable topless motoring in cooler temperatures too.
Opt for the strictly limited Launch Edition version and you’ll get cooled seats in addition to big 20-inch alloy wheels, luscious Nappa leather seats and higher-tech Xenon headlights. The exclusive version is strictly limited to 50 examples costing $44,990 each.
At a snip under $42,000, the Cascada is still $2000 cheaper than Volkswagen’s Golf Cabriolet, which has less power at 118kW and less boot space with the Golf’s 250 litres versus the Holden’s maximum of 380L (280L with the roof open).
At 1443kg, the Golf does weigh significantly less than the Cascada though, but until Holden releases performance information we cannot report how far off the Golf’s 8.4-second 0-100km/h acceleration time it is.
Realistically though, choosing a convertible often comes down to the most intangible and subjective of all features – looks.
If you prefer the look of the Golf then it will be easy to forget about its smaller capacity for luggage, if you go weak at the knees for a BMW 2 Series Convertible you might consider the extra $13,000 it costs, and if you would like to be seen getting around in the new Cascada then we recommend taking one for a spin.
With good levels of comfort, a little European charm and all the enjoyment of true drop-top motoring, Holden’s return to convertibles offers an affordable and attractive way into the four-seat convertible club.
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