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.
Jeremy The Cascada is turning headings in Cornwall. Today we were picking up a mammoth supply of pasties from the village Post Office and received admiring glances from tractor drivers and caravan owners alike.
I’m going to side with them. The ‘stubby bonnet-high boot’ look works on Vauxhall’s four-seater cabriolet. The rear end, in particular, has an uncluttered and rather chic appeal. A good deal of style for your £24,000 – but is there any substance?
As pretty as the Cascada is, the 1.4 suffers from being woefully underpowered. To achieve any kind of performance, you have to work the gearbox very hard indeed, straining the engine and reducing everyday performance down to around 37mpg max.
Changing gear through the six-speed manual transmission is also a tiresome ordeal. There’s nothing sporty about the experience, with a long throw gearstick and rather clunky changes in first, second and third. Ouch.
On a positive note, the Cascada is quiet at motorway speeds despite the canvass hood and comfortable. You can genuinely fit two adults in the back seats too, although headroom is a little claustrophobic.
Maybe we should be testing the more powerful 2.0 diesel? Vauxhall has announced new engines for the Cascada this week. I would strongly suggest you wait and purchase one of them – unless you buy a car on looks alone?
Jeremy It’s not as a bad as beating your dog or eating a McDonald’s but I’m going to admit to road rage. Actually, it wasn’t so much road rage as ‘driveway‘ rage. I’m 50 years old and I should be over it but the Cascada got the better of me today.
Jessica and I were rushing to get on the road to Cornwall. The Cascada has a soft-top roof which folds into the boot and eats up on space when it is hidden away. For the mechanism to work, an internal boot liner has to be in place to ensure there is enough room for the roof to fit in.
This means you lose a large chunk of luggage area (100 litres out of 380 litres) but I packed what I could underneath the liner and threw the rest of our kit on the back seat. They it all went wrong when I pressed the one-touch button – and the roof refused to budge.
With my blood pressure soaring I checked the boot. Everything was in place so why wouldn’t it fold down? Then I had to find the right part of the manual to see what the problem might be. Manuals aren’t what they use to be, they are complicated and designed for the whole range of Cascadas, not just your model.
When this failed I went back to the boot and ripped all my luggage out, tossing it across the driveway. After repacked again, it worked. I still have no idea what the problem was but the effect was similar to a wasp sting.
The bigger point here is why does a folding soft-top have to fold into the boot? A folding hard-top needs the extra storage space for all that metal but if a tiny Mazda MX-5 can store a convertible top without touching boot space, why can’t a Vauxhall Cascada?
Jessica The Mitsubishi GX5 is a curious car. On guessing the price I was wildly inaccurate as the drive quality and slightly bizarre choice of trimmings didn’t lead me to believe I was driving a car that sells in the £34,000 price bracket.
Talking about trimmings, there is retro and there is ‘why use old design…’ This car has an old style automatic gear stick which reminds me (vaguely) of the old red Jaguar my Father drove in the 1980s with it’s super 8 casettes. This, however, is a strangely cheap copy and looks out of place among the modern gadgetry.
Looking at cars and prices below is a random selection of seven-seaters which made me wonder where and how this Mitsubshi model competes…
Jeep Grand Cherokee £36,995.00
Volvo XC90 £36,865
Land Rover Discovery GS SDV6 3.0 AUTOMATIC £38,850
My biggest difficulty was the slow responds under acceleration and spongy steering. I would have happily swapped fewer gadgets and alarms for a better driving experience.
That said, the Outlander doesn’t look bad from the outside with its sleek lines. It’s also well considered from all angles.
I must say that after many years of visiting Badminton Horse Trials and seeing the sponsorship logos, I always imagined Mitsubishi was at the utilitarian end of the 4×4 market. It obviously has a healthy approach to country living and moving various types of livestock around the country. Such is the power of marketing!