Sometime ago in a previous century, I was driving in Scotland on the launch of a crazy little vehicle called a Suzuki Jimny. It was the smallest 4×4 since the arrival of the donkey and a pack of journalists from around the world were causing chaos in the Glens.
It was a slightly surreal moment seeing four Japanese writers squeezed in tiny Jimny. One had bought a kilt and wore it later at supper. While the new Suzuki was definitely flawed, it was also bloody good fun to drive and superb in the dirt – thanks to a short wheelbase and light weight.
I can see similarities with the Trax. It’s nowhere near as light as the Jimny of course and beautifully flawed too – but I can’t help but like it. Why? Because although the Chevrolet is noisy at speed, jittery on the corners and not blessed with the most refined of diesel engines, it has bags of spirit.
Like all great flawed cars – think Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Renault Avantime, Citroen 2CV – you just can’t help but like a machine that puts a smile on your face. Winding the Trax up to speed involves a lot of leg and arm work through the gears, it rolls slightly alarmingly on corners and the ride is somewhat lacking but would I want one if I lived up a slightly muddy lane in the Trossachs? Yes.
Chevrolet – it’s a name that conjures up images of all things American, from Bruce Springsteen to apple pie. Chevy is at the heart of it, famed for producing bold and brash cars that really don’t have any place on the streets of England.
Until now that is. Today there’s a whole range of smaller Chevrolets out there to back up the feel-good Corvette and Camaro. Newest of them all is the Trax. In the US it would probably be used as a golf buggy but here, Trax is classed as a small SUV and competes against cars like the Nissan Juke and Skoda Yeti.
Chevrolet has the advantage of a great name though (would you rather own up to driving a Skoda or a Chevy?) and they’ve used it to full effect with the largest darn grille you will see this side of the Mississippi.
It’s the only feature that is big, bold and brash about this little car. You can’t miss it and the grille sets up the rest of the car’s curvy shape nicely. Our bright blue example seems a steal at under £19,000 and with a frugal diesel engine capable of more than 60mpg, what’s not to like about this baby Chevy so far?
Jessica and I have been discussing the Cascada a lot this week. It would be easy to just compare the Vauxhall to premium brand cabriolets from the likes of BMW and Audi.
However, at £24,000, the Cascada is a much cheaper alternative and for the money, it does provide comfortable soft-top motoring for four people.
We have been blessed with great weather over the last seven days but in the depths of winter, I wonder if the Cascada would prove to be equally as likeable? I suspect not.
If you are an ‘enthusiastic’ driver, then there is no doubt you should be looking to spend your wages elsewhere because the 1.4 engine and notchy gearbox are disappointing.
It’s sadly a poor relation to the VW Golf Cabriolet but the Cascada should be on your test drive list if you are already looking at cars like the Peugeot 308 CC, or the Renault Megane C-C.
Jeremy A 150-mile round trip to London and back today should have been enough time to get to know somebody. Sat at my desk again this evening, I still don’t feel I truly know the Cascada.
On the one hand, it looks like a pretty car, with an interior that’s roomy enough for four and very well equipped for the money. On the other, it’s heavy, soulless and with the 1.4 petrol engine under the bonnet, rather slow to get up and running.
If you are considering a Cascada – or an Audi A4 Cabriolet, BMW 3 Series etc – then for heaven’s sake, make sure you test drive the forthcoming 195bhp 2.0 biturbo diesel version because I imagine it will provide the extra grunt this Vauxhall needs.
Overtaking in the 1.4 requires a lot of ‘winding up’ first. Drop down to third, find a long, straight stretch of road and cross your fingers. It’s just not an engine suited to this car.
Jeremy I had one of those potentially life-changing moments today. I was driving the Cascada back home through Longleat in Wiltshire when the driver’s seat back suddenly gave way behind me!
Jessica has been using the car over the weekend so this morning, I re-set the seat to suit my driving position. Our Cascada has a manual adjustment and the rake of the seat is altered by a large wheel grip as the base of the upright.
I thought the seat had locked in the correct position but something obviously wasn’t locked in correctly – which caused my slightly anxious moment at the wheel of the Vauxhall a few minutes later.
Fortunately, I was on a straight stretch of A-road at the time and not accelerating. Otherwise I might have lost my grip on the steering wheel altogether.
Jeremy Even if the Cascada doesn’t lure you to a Vauxhall dealer, you can’t help but be impressed by the folding mechanism of the roof.
Bank Holidays can be a mixed bag of weather but today we were able to enjoy the last throws of the summer with the wind in our hair. The roof lowers quickly, without the need to undo any catches and folds neatly into a large slice of your boot space. Never mind.
Our 1.4 test car doesn’t have one of those annoying wind deflectors that take up all of the back seat when in place. Instead, the aerodynamics are slippery enough to direct the wind well away from the cabin area, even at motorway speed.
It’s a hairdryer job if you are sat in the back but up front, the Cascada is very refined, especially with all four windows up. Your summer hat should stay in place and you can even hear the sound system.
Jeremy There were three, perfectly placed ashtrays in my 1972 Alfa Romeo GT Junior – two in the back and one in the rear. The most memorable, fold-out cupholder of all time was in the Saab 9-3, it just glided out and open with a brush of the index finger.
There are two cupholders in the Vauxhall Cascada. I’m not a a big fan of Starbucks or Costa but they are probably the biggest suppliers of take-away coffee in Britain. If I was designing a centre console for a new car, I would probably take two coffee cups from Starbucks/Costa/both and make sure they fitted.
They don’t in the Cascada. You can squeeze one in but add another cup and there is an unfortunate clash of lids. Frustrating isn’t the word. Don’t try holding one between your legs, just open the cubbyhole box and it should slot in nicely.
This isn’t what the cubby box was designed for I think. Next time, Jessica and I will just have to share a latte.