When you think about affordable European convertibles, you probably don’t think of homegrown General Motors brand Holden. But that’s set to change thanks to the addition of a budget-conscious drop-top - the 2015 Holden Cascada.
The Holden Cascada was originally slated to be sold here as an Opel before that sub-brand of GM folded in Australia in August, 2013. As such it arrives wearing a Holden badge, ready to take the fight to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet and the Renault Megane CC, among others. It does so as the first convertible to be offered by Holden since the old Astra Twin Top that finished up here in 2009.
The Astra links are still strong in the case of the Cascada, with underpinnings and drivetrains shared between the drop-top and the regular range in Europe – and in the case of the Holden versions, the drivetrain is the same as the one seen in the Astra GTC. See full pricing and specifications for the 2015 Holden Cascada here.
That means a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 125kW of power and 260Nm of torque, which is teamed solely to a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is claimed at 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, and its 0-100km/h sprint time is 9.9 seconds.
So, it’s not a super sporty convertible based on those numbers, and part of that comes down to the weight of the Cascada – it’s a bulky 1744 kilograms, which is exactly the same as a Holden Commodore SS … just without the grunt to offset that mass.
Still, it’s not a slow coach, and pushes along nicely on the open road. The 1.6-litre engine is relatively refined and reacts well when you plant your foot, aided by that auto gearbox which, although a little sluggish to react at times (particularly when swapping through gears at urban speeds), generally shifts through gears smoothly and cleverly – but there are no paddleshifters, and there’s no sports mode to make it hold revs longer. If you so choose, the gearstick itself can be used to siphon through the gears.
You can feel the Cascada’s weight when cornering, as it never feels nimble or overly agile under hard driving through tight twisty corners – but it does turn in nicely and the steering response is adequate and predictable. Indeed, it feels more like a cruiser – swallowing up long sweeping bends with ease, and remaining composed and easy to drive around town.
The Cascada’s ride comfort is quite good – we sampled it across a range of roads, including some bumpy country back roads, where we found the suspension would deal with big bumps very well despite transmitting some smaller bumps on the road into the cockpit.
You do notice some body shudder through the cabin due to the lack of a fixed roof, but that’s typical of convertibles and the Cascada isn’t the flimsiest of drop-tops in terms of the car’s body stiffness. This is exacerbated even further in the Launch Edition model, which has 20-inch wheels that seem to pick up a lot more of the fine inconsistencies of the road surface. You can feel the steering wheel jiggling about over road bumps and you see it when you glance at the rear-view mirror – and it’s most noticeable when you drop the top.
Speaking of the roof, the electric opening and closing lid takes 17 seconds to operate and can be used at speeds up to 50km/h. You need to push a flap in the boot before dropping the top, and that cuts boot space down to 280 litres from 380L when the roof is up.
There are split-fold rear seats that allow you to store longer items like skis or surfboards, and loading items into the boot is quite easy given the size of the aperture.
The Cascada offers a contemporary – if not cutting-edge – interior with comfortable leather seats featuring etched inserts and stitching highlights, as well as red ambient lighting around the cabin. The Exclusive model adds extra flair, with tan leather and mauve piping that makes it stand out as a more stylish pick. Storage is decent in the cabin, with big door pockets and cup-holders front and rear.
While this time of year isn’t ideal for convertible motoring, the Cascada has you covered – included as standard is a heated steering wheel and heated seats, as well as dual-zone climate control so the passenger and driver can set their own temperature preferences.
There’s not a huge amount of space in the back seat, but it is roomier than, say, the Audi A3 Cabriolet long-termer CarAdvice has recently had in its garage. For someone like myself - 6'0" and not slim - it's cozy, with limited knee and head room. Ingress and egress is a lot easier with the roof stowed out of the way, but it’s not as challenging to get in to and out of the rear seat with the roof in place as some other convertibles on the market.
That’s aided by the fact the Cascada has big door openings – which can be a pain in some cars, particularly if they don’t have a seatbelt feeding mechanism. The Cascada, however, does, and it means you don’t have to reach over behind your shoulder awkwardly to get your seatbelt.
The biggest bugbear of the interior is the MyLink media system. It has a decent quality 7.0-inch media screen that has plenty of handy items such as satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with smartphone app connectivity (including Pandora, Stitcher and Tune In internet radio applications), which is worthy of a big tick.
The big cross comes by way of the media screen’s usability. It’s not a touchscreen – instead, there’s an array of confusing buttons that make it difficult to jump between menus, and inputting an address in the sat-nav unit is frustrating, to say the least. You need to use the centre console-mounted rotary knob to individually select letters, and rather than pushing down the button on top of the knob to select an item, you need to press down on the ring surround the toggle. It is, frankly, a bit dumb.
That said, if you can adapt to new systems easily – for example, if switching from an Apple smartphone to an Android comes as second nature to you – there’s every chance you’ll get used to the system pretty easily.
Ownership prospects for the Cascada appear pretty strong on paper. It is covered by Holden’s three-year, 100,000 kilometre warranty, with three years roadside assistance and a lifetime capped-price servicing program. Maintenance costs are still to be confirmed, but expect it to cost $299 per visit.
There’s no denying the Holden Cascada is a good car – it has a great price, plenty of kit and is roomy enough for most drop-top buyers’ needs. It’s not a driver’s car as such – but if you’re in the market for a convertible cruiser with decent rear seat space, there's probably no better European option for this sort of price.