HOLDEN'S 2015/2016 CASCADA IS STRONG ON LUXURY AND STYLE, BUT HAS MORE ON-ROAD SHOW THAN GO.
The sleek two-door, four seater drop-top delivers affordable luxury at a sub-$45k price. It comes in just two specifications – Cascada at $42,990, and the top line Launch Edition (now getting scarce) at $44,990.
The Cascada is built for cruising and its almost 1750kgs kerb weight blunts the performance of the direct injection 1.6 litre, four-cylinder turbo engine.
That said, it is rather good at imparting a relaxed and enjoyable driving feel, even more so with the top down. But don’t plan on a lot of luggage; boot space is limited with the roof folded, and, with the top up, head-room can be an issue.
Vehicle Style: Sports convertible
Price: $44,990 (Cascada Launch Edition), $42,990 (Cascada) plus on-roads
Engine/Trans: 125kW/260Nm 1.6 4cyl turbo petrol | 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.5 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
Despite our love of the outdoors and the benign sunny climate, convertibles are not big sellers here. But Holden is having a go with the Cascada, which has been designed as a drop-top from the outset and not a converted sedan or hatch body.
And it manages to pull off the rare double of looking good with the roof up or down, from any angle.
Though now thin on the ground (there were only 50 in the original shipment), the Launch Edition we’re driving here is well appointed with Nappa leather seats and door trims, chrome highlights and up-market soft touch surfaces.
- Standard features: Nappa leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats with electric adjustment, dual-zone climate control, multi-funtion steering wheel, cruise control with speed limiter, trip computer, rain sensing wipers, electric park brake, front and rear park sensors
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch MyLink infotainment system, smartphone app integration, voice control, iPod-compatible USB port, aux-in socket, MP3/CD, seven-speaker audio, Bluetooth audio streaming, satellite navigation, DAB digital audio
- Cargo volume: 280 litres minimum, 380 litres maximum
Quality: The surfaces on the dash, doors and console have a premium feel and are uniform in appearance. Classy touches include the double row of stitching across the dash top and door panels, brushed aluminum console and gloss-black garnish.
As it is an older system, a dial in the console, rather than a touchscreen, operates the seven-inch MyLink infotainment system. This adds extra steps to switch or start functions and often you need to look at the screen, making it difficult to do much on the go.
But there is otherwise a plush, quality feel to the interior that embodies the luxo persona of the four-seat Cascada.
Comfort: The Nappa leather trimmed front seats are supremely comfortable and supportive across the middle and lower back and under the thighs.
A small console separates the two rear seats, and though comfortable enough, they lack under-thigh support.
The three-stage heated front seats are adjusted manually (driver’s 8-ways, passenger 6) and both have a powered lumbar-support, as well as a mechanical arm that feeds the seatbelt to you.
Finding your ideal driving position is easy with a wide range of tilt and reach for the heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel and the good fore, aft and height adjustment of the driver’s seat.
Legroom was not an issue up front and I was able to sit ‘behind myself’ (with my knees just missing the back of the driver’s seat).
With the roof up, this 178cm reviewer had sufficient headroom in the front, but sitting in the rear, my head lightly grazed the fabric roof.
Equipment: The Launch Edition of the Cascada serves up a long list of standard fare. The seven-inch MyLink infotainment system with sat-nav has smartphone app integration, Bluetooth audio streaming, digital audio broadcast apps and the sound quality of the seven-speaker system is clear and strong, with the roof up or down.
However, the voice activation for the phone doesn’t recognise short names like Dan or Jim or Pat, no matter how clearly or slowly I spoke, and this was despite my phonebook having been downloaded into the car’s system.
It also comes with dual-zone air-conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, trip computer, iPod-compatible USB port, steering wheel mounted phone and cruise control functions, rain-sensing wipers, an electric hand-brake, reversing camera and parking sensors front and rear.
Storage: With the roof in place, the boot space is an acceptable 380 litres, which borders on the capacity of some hatchbacks. But this shrinks to just 280 litres when the roof is down (adequate for two soft overnight bags).
The boot opening isn’t big either, making modest-sized items a struggle to fit, although the seat backs split-fold 50/50 for longer cargo. There are front-door pockets, front and rear cup holders, and a decent-sized lockable glove box.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 125kW.260Nm 1.6 litre turbo petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: ‘HiPer Strut’ front and Watts Link rear suspension
- Brakes: front - 326mm ventilated discs; rear 325mm solid discs.
Driveability: The Cascada isn’t really a sports convertible, rather a competent, luxury cruiser.
The electric power steering though is reasonably sharp and nicely weighted at low and high speeds.
There’s only one transmission choice, an ‘Active Select’ six-speed automatic with well-spread ratios to extract the most from the engine’s power and torque characteristics.
There is a tap forward/backward function for manual changing, but no sports mode or wheel-mounted paddle shifts (which is a bit of a fizz).
The direct injection, 1.6 litre turbo, four-cylinder petrol engine puts out a modest 125kW and 260Nm (requiring 98RON); not a lot of power and torque when it has over 1750kgs to push around.
Despite this, it does feel livelier than its figures suggest.
It is no rocketship away from the line, but has enough in reserve when overtaking (without needing too much of a run-up), provided you’re prepared to work the gears. In fact, with the roof down, it borders on being sporty when given the whip around a winding road.
Refinement: Noise, vibration and harshness are surprisingly good for a convertible.
In ‘coupé mode’, with the roof in place, it is very quiet and when lowered there are only low levels of buffeting and wind noise to contend with.
The 20-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres inflict a degree of road noise into the cabin, but mostly only noticeable on coarse bitumen. On most surfaces, with the roof either up or down, normal levels of conversation aren’t an issue.
Ride and handling: Designed as a convertible from the outset, the Cascada has a taut chassis set up to combat torsional twisting, which also aids its ride and handling qualities.
In keeping with its cruisy nature, the Cascada’s pliable ride suppresses most bumps, despite the 20-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres standard on the Launch Edition model.
When cornering, the ‘HiPer Strut’ front and Watts Link rear suspension keep things nicely in check. Overall, it corners predictably and flat with little in the way of scuttle shudder (that is common to most convertibles).
Braking: Given the weight of the Cascada, the brakes have a lot of work to do. Stopping power comes from 326mm ventilated front and 325mm solid rear discs.
We found no evidence of brake fade even after a good workout on back roads and the pedal has a solid, progressive feel.
ANCAP rating: The Cascada has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Headlining the list of safety features is the Active rollover protection system - a steel roll bar instantly pops up, protecting occupants if the sensors detect a rollover is imminent.
The Cascada also has auto headlamps, daytime running lamps (DRLs), reversing camera, electronic stability & traction control, brake fade assist, cornering brake control, 4 airbags (dual front, side), two rear seat ISOFIX anchor points, parking sensors front and rear and a speed limiter.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: The Holden Cascada comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service costs: The Cascada is covered by Holden’s Lifetime Capped Price Service program. Service intervals are every 15,000 or nine months, whichever comes first. According to the Holden Service Calculator the 15/30/45/60,000km services are $229 with a jump of $60 for the 75 and 90,000km services.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY:
The first thing we can tell you is the Cascada is finding plenty of buyers in this small niche segment, outselling the Renault Megane Convertible, Mini Cabrio and VW Golf Cabriolet, even though it has only been on the market since May this year.
The Megane Dynamique Coupe Cabrio is quite good buying at $38,990, but its CVT transmission and relatively low engine power and torque outputs take the edge off its performance.
Also cheaper is the really appealing Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet 118TSI; there are some good deals at the moment with sub-$45k pricing, driveaway.
The more expensive $52,600 Audi A3 Ambition Cabriolet, in both diesel and petrol, is a lively proposition and a sporty and classy drive.
Note: All prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the Cascada, Holden has given us a glimpse of what we can expect from its post-2017 future with a largely European-sourced product portfolio headed this way.
For budget-conscious convertible buyers, we can recommend the Cascada, especially in its Launch Edition form. Holden, (or should we say Opel), has produced a fashionable cruiser that looks good with the top up or down, and which is quite an enjoyable drive.
It's luxurious, loaded with features, and, at a sub-$45k price, won’t break the bank.
If you want svelte coupé styling with the drop-top option at a flick of a switch, the Cascada is certainly worth your consideration. It is more resolved and quite a bit better than we expected.