When was the last time you went for a drive? No, not just a commute or a run to the shops – a real drive, just for the hell of it. The sheer enjoyment derived from simply going for a drive is seldom realised, with punters opting to take the fastest and most direct route in order to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. This isn’t to say that everyone should be finding driving nirvana whenever they jump in a car, however, the art of ‘taking the scenic route’ is long lost.
Working a long week in the office usually results in a lazy weekend, but I couldn’t remember the last time I went out of my way to go explore Victoria. So, with Melbourne’s warmer weather winding down, I was in the mood to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Luckily enough, a Carbon Flash (black) 2016 Holden Cascada was sitting pride of place in the CarAdvice Melbourne driveway ready to venture out.
The Holden Cascada launched locally last year, despite being on sale in Europe since 2013. Attached to a pretty sharp sticker price of $42,990 (before on-road costs), the Cascada has all the kit you would ever need in a sporty convertible.
We’re talking 20-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, rear-view camera, sports front seats, and all in a four-seater that measures in 230mm longer than its Holden Astra sibling.
After quickly picking up a friend – we all know you can’t road trip alone – it was decision time. We needed to decide where to head.
Not wanting to go too far, yet still keen to enjoy some fun driving roads, we settle on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as a happy medium.
Plan is, take the coastal route down past Frankston and through Dromana, ending up somewhere in Portsea, then go back inland through Flinders to find more nice roads. Being a 35-degree celcius day, every man and his dog was keen to be by the seaside, which made for a slow and tedious trip down the coast.
Nonetheless, the time was well spent getting familiar with the stylish Holden convertible.
One of the first things you often do when jumping into a new car is get acquainted with its infotainment system. And one of the first things we do is pair a phone via Bluetooth. If manufacturers do it right, this task shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. Unfortunately, in the Cascada, we couldn’t get it done at all. So apart from being bitterly disappointed that no personalised driving tunes were able to be blasted through the Cascada’s standard seven-speaker stereo, worse, I couldn’t make or receive any hands-free calls.
Bluetooth glitch aside, the interior itself is quite a nice place to be.
The soft leather seats are comfortable, if a little tight around the base. Being both heated and ventilated, it makes a hot summer’s day drive just that little bit easier to enjoy.
The cabin comprises premium materials at most touch points, with a leather dash, door inserts and heated leather steering wheel. Take a brief look at the centre stack though, and you’re confronted by an easily confusing array of buttons. There is essentially a button for everything you could imagine, and it does take longer than usual to confidently command the infotainment system – not helped by the slow-to-respond and slightly glitchy 7.0-inch MyLink display screen. Once you become familiar with it though, you’ll find the system is home to one of the better navigation units going around.
Being able to retract the Cascada’s fabric roof while on the move – a trick that can be completed in 17 seconds and at speeds up to 50km/h – is a big plus too, and a feature missing from the likes of even the all-new Ford Mustang Convertible.
After passing through Mornington, the traffic thins, the roads become windier, and the pace picks up. Pinning the throttle from low in the rev range is characterised by a throaty bark, which is amplified by having the roof down.
‘Roof Down Unless Raining‘ is a rule initiated by James Ward back in 2014, and despite the constant sting of the sun, rules are rules, hence we keep the lid off for the stretch of road between Mount Martha and Dromana – a fun little stint, if not quite long enough to satiate the appetite for a good drive.
With smooth bitumen beneath us and intermittent bay views out to our right, the tight, flowing roads reveal much about how the Cascada responds to spirited driving. Moreover, the experience sure beats sitting on a four-lane freeway.
Although we only get to push on through a relatively short section of blacktop, the Cascada sticks to the road nicely, only occasionally getting thrown off balance.
Over certain road joins and potholes, the Cascada jiggles and takes longer than it should to settle post-impact. This is emphasised by the scuttle-shake attributed to lopping the roof off. Place one hand on the windscreen while you’re driving along and you’ll pick up the unnerving sensation of the windscreen flexing. It’s a small thing perhaps, but it’s the sort of thing you’d imagine would have been engineered out too.
Cracking on, we drive through the Martha Cove tunnel that borders Mt Martha and Safety Beach, before settling the pace back down once again.
Rolling past beach-goers and campers, we note the brief glances looking back to check what had just passed them by. And it’s little wonder, the Cascada is an attractive car that possesses form beyond its price bracket.
Additionally, we can’t remember the last time we saw a sub-$50k convertible sports car with as many creature comforts as grace the Cascada. Apart from the previously highlighted heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats, the Cascada is also equipped with automatic headlights, daytime running lights and digital radio (DAB+). There’s not a whole heap of choice in terms of direct rivals, but if you do decide on a Cascada, you know you’re getting a lot for your money.
Arriving in Portsea, we contemplate stopping for a quick food break and a stretch of the legs. Yet, being a sunny Sunday, plenty of others have the same idea with the postcode bursting at the seams, so we soldier on and explore inland in order to find some better and less populated twisty roads.
Through Rye and back in towards Flinders, the roads start to go quiet again, with most motorists opting to go along highways – thank you, more fun for us.
Coming into some tight corners, the low drone of the exhaust turns into a higher pitch whine as you downshift through the gears using the gear selector. Turn-in is reasonably sharp for a semi-sports convertible but hit a mid-corner bump and you’ll quickly notice the Holden wobbling about.
Power out of a corner in the front-wheel-drive and the 125kW/260Nm turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder feels as though it wants to get moving, but the Cascada’s hefty 1786kg holds the package back – especially in the uphill sections experienced.
You wouldn’t normally think of the Mornington Peninsula as a great haven for driving, but every so often you come across a neat ribbon of tarmac that’s surrounded by stunning views. And that’s exactly what we experience: flowing roads, gorgeous farmlands, crisp water, and picturesque tree canopies.
Ordinarily, the trip from Melbourne down to the peninsula via the freeway would take just over an hour, and while it’s direct, you don’t get to experience the scenery, the towns and the fresh country air.
Driving along the hilltops, the view of the ocean beyond the grassy fields is spectacular. Still relatively unpopulated, its fantastic to see untouched meadows that back onto great surf beaches. And the open top of the Cascada only adds to the experience by affording those on board a full 360-degree view.
Whizzing by the countryside, the Cascada feels right at home. This is where the Cascada feels like it belongs – passing by the beachside on a hot summer’s day. This is reaffirmed when the roads become curvy once more and the car again feels a touch out of its depth.
Pulling into Flinders, we stop, open the long doors carefully so as not to ruin someone else’s day, and find something to eat. At the end of a beautiful day’s drive, overall, the Cascada performed quite well.
Highways, beachside drives, twisties, and towns – the Cascada coped well with just about all we threw at it. It also returned a reasonable average fuel consumption figure for the day of 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres (up from a claimed 7.5L/100km).
Although it might not be brilliant in every respect, the 2016 Holden Cascada is still a great little package for the price. Things like the clunky infotainment system and Bluetooth connectivity not working perfectly are fairly disappointing, however, once you pair it up, it will (hopefully) work every time.
Leaning more toward the ‘cruiser’ side of the spectrum rather than traditional ‘sports’, the Cascada feels better suited to city runabout duties with the occasional weekend road trip. The ride is generally pleasant, despite some unsettledness (and scuttle shake), and it has plenty of kit to make for an enjoyable day-to-day commuter.
If your dream car is a convertible and you’re not keen on breaking the bank, the 2016 Holden Cascada is definitely worth a test drive.
As for taking the road less travelled… What an excellent way to spend a sunny day. Making a journey out of a destination, rather than simply taking the most direct route, only adds to the trip and results in a more enjoyable experience. We certainly wish more people were into driving rather than merely transportation. The worst part of the day was having to take the packed Mornington-Peninsula freeway on the way home… Can’t win ’em all.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.