Wednesday – Cross Your Fingers


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.


Monday – Wind Assisted


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.

Sunday – Coffee For One


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.

Saturday – Style & Substance?


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?


Friday – Don’t Drive Angry


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?

Wednesday – Pulling It’s Weight


Jeremy I’ve always towed boats but this is the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire and that means horseboxes. The ‘Glossy Possy’ who live here aren’t short of a bob or two and you are judged by the size of your horsebox – just like actors always want the biggest Winnebago mobile home on location.

There are no ponies grazing on our lawn but Jessica has owned a few in her time. Her grandfather, Jack, was the youngest member of the British equestrian team at the Berlin Olympics in 1936!

Mitsubishi UK are based just up the road in Cirencester, so hard-working Shoguns and L200’s are as common as muck with the equine set. But they shouldn’t rule out the Outlander, mainly because it has an impressive tow weight of two tons – more than many key rivals.

And with just the front two rows of seats in place, the boot space is massive. Plenty big enough for two or three large dogs, although if you pull out the two third row seats at the rear, luggage capacity is severely  limited.



Monday – Pretty On The Outside


Jeremy If I had to choose a small SUV on style alone, then the Kia Sportage would be top choice. The Honda CR-V now has the blandest backside in motoring history and I wasn’t too sure about the Outlander when it arrived either.

Then something happened. I took ten paces backwards and suddenly the Mitsubishi became a vehicle transformed. It’s as dull as a block of butter close up but this is a vehicle that needs a little space to be appreciated.

The slippery shape isn’t that different to many an SUV on the market but the new Outlander nose gives it something extra. It looks especially good with privacy glass too.

So it’s a shame the interior is less impressive. The centre console housing the automatic gearstick looks like it could have come from a Mitsubishi utility vehicle and is totally out of place in a £34k family car.

Mitsubishi need to look at a Land Rover Freelander. Fixtures and fittings are important and the Outlander lacks the finish to put it in this price bracket.



Monday – Fare Exchange


Jeremy Taxi drivers don’t get excited about much in the car department – they’ve seen it all. So parking up at Westbury Railway Station this morning, I was surprised to be engulfed by a group of three cabbies who weren’t quite sure what the noisy blue monster was in their midst.

Not surprisingly, it was the rasp from the four exhaust pipes that caught their attention. The R-S sounds very different to the standard XKR, especially if you rev the engine about 3000rpm and feel the 5.0-litre rocking on its engine mounts. Now that has to be one of the joys of a grumbling V8…

It’s worth remembering that the standard XK pumps out a ‘modest’ 379bhp, while the R model a hefty 503bhp. The R-S is 542bhp and in full roar, you could probably hear it a mile away!

While the taxi guys weren’t that impressed with the in-yer-face blue paintjob, they thought the aerodynamic tweaks to the front and rear in black were what made the difference. Jaguar say it is these enhancements that help keep the R-S on the road at speeds approaching 186mph, which is limited by the way!

Frankly, while they were purring over the long bonnet, none of them fancied picking up a fare in the Jaguar. It’s not the tiny back seats or the lack of luggage space, just that the average of 18mpg would give their accountant a heart attack…

Tuesday – Fairy Lights


Jeremy One of the reasons I like our silver HSE Discovery is that Land Rover has resisted the temptation to turn this particular vehicle into a bling thing.

You know the sort of 4x4s I’m talking about – the ones that never get muddy tyres and have been loaded with chrome wheels, blacked out privacy glass and side steps (if you can’t step up into a 4×4 what are you doing driving it?).

So today I was slightly taken aback to find that I was driving around conservative north Yorkshire sporting fairy lights on the front of the Discovery. That’s right – the Disco has sidelights that look like something you would drape over a council house at Christmas.

No privacy glass, no chrome wheels but headlights that are quite shocking to behold in the Dales or elsewhere. Fortunately, it’s possible to turn them off and still be seen in the daytime…

Monday – Camera Capers


Jeremy – It’s Monday and it’s Yorkshire. A wet 190 miles up the M1 to Knaresborough, a pretty town with a wonderful railway viaduct that towers ominously above our guest house. The Discovery is parked underneath the bridge. Any more rain and I will be looking for the button on the dashboard that operates a propeller.

It wouldn’t surprise me if there is one – the HSE has just about everything else. Included in this is  the ‘4×4 info page’ on the sat nav screen. No idea what purpose it really serves, apart from impressing friends who don’t own a Discovery every once in a while.

And have I mentioned the cameras? The Land Rover is a moving CCTV station, with six of them dotted around the car in strategic places. Again, just what they do is baffling. One screen allows all the camera images to be displayed on screen at once. It’s like a scene from a drug induced nightmare. You can see this screen while the car is on the move, yet you cannot operate the TV (for good reason – but why then the six camera images!?).

Jessica is still struggling with the rather harsh blower on the air con. Is there a secret setting we don’t know about?