Opel's new model elbows its way into the premium cabriolet segment
Cushy Cascada Big and spacious, the Opel Cascada makes you feel like you are in a premium tourer. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

The Cascada is a Spanish name for a German car owned by an American group.

It means "waterfall", which conjures up words of association such as "power", "life", "seamlessness" and "majesty".

Less positive words would be adjectives such as "damp", "foggy", "noisy" and "monotonous".

Strangely enough, those words would be apt in a review of the Opel cabriolet.

Before we get to that, here is a brief description of the Cascada: It is a big two-door, with key dimensions exceeding those of the biggish 9-3 Convertible, from Opel's former sister brand Saab in the General Motors family.

In terms of size and space, it rivals leading soft-top four-seaters such as the Audi A5 convertible and Mercedes-Benz E-class cabriolet.

Compared with smaller convertibles such as the VW Golf Cabrio and Opel's own Astra TwinTop, the Cascada may even be termed majestic. It certainly commands a strong road presence.

But unlike the convertibles from Mercedes and Audi, the Cascada here is fitted with a pocket-friendly 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. There is also a 1.4-litre petrol and 2-litre turbodiesel in the global line-up.

The 1.6-litre inline-four is surprisingly punchy and does not feel weighed down by the Cascada's size at all. In fact, it feels quicker than its stated century sprint timing of 9.9 seconds.

While peak power is a relatively modest 170bhp, torque is an adequate 280Nm, available from just 1,650rpm.

Thankfully, the Cascada is fitted with a traditional six-speed autobox, and not a clutch-actuated manual you find in some previous Opels. The gearbox is comparatively seamless, matching the engine's torque curve with the right cog.

Throw open its throttle, and the topless Opel comes eagerly to life, piling on the revs like a car with an engine one size bigger.

The Cascada's well-insulated fabric roof keeps outside noises down to a whisper. And it can be opened and closed when the car is on the move at speeds of up to 48kmh - which means you will rarely be caught damp when the skies turn grey suddenly.

Its roof control brings down all the windows in top-down mode, and brings them back up when the top is up. This is unlike most convertibles, which tend to bring up the windows when you fold the roof away.

Nestled in its roomy cabin, you feel like you are in a premium tourer. For one thing, the Cascada's ride is superb, with its comfort-biased suspension that mimics the air suspension employed in limos.

The trim level is more than decent, and the equipment level high. The navigation system is among the best sampled, with actual location photos poping up ahead of major expressway junctions.

The system is also intuitive and has a responsive prompt that cuts keystrokes down to a minimum.

The convertible has automatic extenders for front seat-belts, a useful tool usually found in upmarket two-doors.

It is also equipped with frontal collision warning and blind-spot warning.

As mentioned, space is aplenty onboard the four-seater. Access to the roomy second row is easy with the front seat gliding forward once you flip it, and gliding back to set position once you right the backrest.

There is a proper footrest for the driver - a small item that makes a huge difference, especially on long drives.

The boot is surprisingly spacious too. Even with the recess for the canvas canopy in place, it will accommodate two medium-sized suitcases.

The only thing that mars the driving experience is the smallish rear windscreen. On rainy days, visibility gets foggy, as the rear demister does not seem to be effective.

Also, the reverse camera is glitchy and does not come on at times. In a big car with such a small rear glass aperture, a reverse camera is not a luxury, but a necessity.

The other thing that irritates a little are the massive doors. While large doors are a given for coupes and cabriolets, they should be properly and firmly hinged. The ones on the Opel are prone to rebounds and tend to open too little or too much. Hence, opening them in perpendicular parking spaces can be a chore.

Finally, as smooth, lively and refined as the Cascada is, it is not really what you would call an exciting car. In fact, it comes across as monotonous at times.

For a bit of spice, we will probably need an OPC (Opel Performance Centre) version.

Meanwhile, delivering a big, well-built and well-equipped topless four-seater with a tax-friendly 1.6-litre engine for under $200,000 would be a feat, even for first-liner marques. For Opel, it is nothing short of paddling up a waterfall.

 

CAR INFORMATION

Opel Cascada 1.6 Turbo (A)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line SIDI Turbo EcoFlex

Engine Cap

:

1,598 cc

Horsepower

:

167 bhp / 4,250 rpm

Torque

:

280 Nm / 4,250 rpm

Transmission

:

6-speed (A)

Acceleration

:

9.9 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

-