The Cascadas fabric roof opens in 17 seconds at driving speeds of up to 30mph

The Cascada's fabric roof opens in 17 seconds at driving speeds of up to 30mph

Might there be a niche for a mass market convertible that's not only larger than the Renault Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet and Peugeot 308 CC, but also the Audi A5 Cabriolet? Glenn Brooks ponders the question as he tries the new Vauxhall Cascada.

Have you seen many Cascadas? Me neither but to be fair, it's only been in dealerships for a month or two. I was invited to a preview event the afternoon before this year's Geneva show media day and that was the first time I saw it in the metal. My first impression was how big it is, but when you drive it, it doesn't feel that way. It's a mix of Insignia and Astra inside but touches such as the automatic arms which hand you your seatbelt are more Mercedes than mass market - something like that will be a great first impression for anyone taking a test drive.

Quite a few people took notice of the press vehicle during the days it was with me so that's no doubt a good sign. I recall Vauxhall's boss Duncan Aldred telling me at the preview event that he thought the Cascada was good enough to tackle premium brand convertibles and he might well be right. The styling is certainly a major part of the car's appeal, at least to my eyes. Unlike cars such as the recently discontinued Volvo C70, there is no overly long boot, necessary to accommodate big metal roof panels - the Vauxhall has a more easily stowed fabric top.

If the looks are spot on, so is the engineering. Opel used the same Delta platform as the Astra but gave it extensive modifications, bringing in many components from the Insignia which will itself be relaunched in updated form this October. The 4.7m long Cascada has a lengthy 2,700mm wheelbase, and that's also unique to the car. It means there is a lot of legroom for front seat occupants as well as a decent amount in the rear too, and good luggage capacity (380 litres with the roof up, 280 with it lowered).

If you're familiar with other GM cars, you'll recognise lots of the switchgear. That means Camaro as well as Corsa and it all feels of good quality. The dashboard is covered in leather and there's a lot of subtle chrome-effect detailing. The seats grip you tightly and each is height adjustable. On the downside, if you don't like lots of buttons, you might find the main part of the dashboard a bit too busy. And as for visibility, it's obviously terrific with the roof down but you'll need the optional reversing radar with it up. One point that might be relevant for some people - the doors feel wonderfully solid but they are also heavy and long, so you need to be careful where you park or it can be a squeezy and graceless exit.

Opel began building the car at its Gliwice plant in Poland during the first quarter of this year, adding right-hand drive versions soon after. There is a base 88kW (120hp) 1.4 turbo that is not available in the Vauxhall but the following three engines are shared: 103kW (140hp) 1.4 turbo, 125kW (170hp) 1.6 turbo and 121kW (165hp) 2.0 diesel. A 195PS version of the diesel is due to be added soon.

More powerful versions engines will also become available later in the year, Vauxhall says. One of those might be the 250hp 2.0-litre petrol turbo that has just been announced for the refreshed Insignia.

While Opel's engineers fitted this car with a version of the Insignia's acclaimed 'HiPerStrut' front suspension - designed to limit torque steer - you wouldn't call this a sports car. Think of it as a sporty cruiser. In fully loaded test form it weighs in excess of 1,900kg and you can feel it. There's a lot of diving under braking and for a German engineered car the steering is surprisingly light. As the Cascada is 1.8 metres wide, you probably won't be chucking it around on B-roads like you might a Golf GTI Cabriolet.

I mentioned the power output of the 1,956cc engine but torque of 350Nm should also be noted. Top speed is said to be 135mph, while 0-60mph takes 9.6 seconds. The insurance group is 23E and the CO2 average is 138g/km. For such a heavy car, the Urban fuel consumption of 44.8mpg is impressive (Extra-urban is 61.4 and Combined is 54.3).

Do you think GBP34,055 is a lot to pay for a Vauxhall? The car I borrowed came fully loaded with options such as two-coat metallic paint (GBP525), a Premium Forward Lighting Pack (GBP790 for the bundling of Intelligent Adaptive Forward Lighting incorporating dark bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights), the Navi 900 SatNav package (GBP1,200), 19-inch alloys (GBP750), Park and Go Technology Pack (GBP1,800 for a back-up camera, parking assist, blind spot alert and electrically folding mirrors). You'd need to pay over forty grand to get a less powerful A5 Cabrio TDI equipped to that sort of spec.

There were a few other extras included in the total noted above but without any of these, the price drops to the standard GBP27,595 (or just under GBP24,000 for the 1.4 turbo in SE trim), which seems fair, especially when that gets you the top Elite model grade. It still costs more than an equivalent Golf Cabrio but the Cascada is, and feels like, a car from a higher class up. And as something to help lift Vauxhall's brand image, it succeeds.