18/10/12

Overview: Vauxhall Cascada

Vauxhall has released the first details of its new Cascada, a ‘full-size’ convertible — a little smaller than the Insignia — that will launch the company into a fourth new sector this year, following on from its Ampera, Mokka and Adam models.

The Cascada is a full four-seat, fabric-roof convertible which, at 4697mm in length, is a little longer than an Audi A5 Cabriolet — the latter measures 4626mm in length. The Cascada’s design team was headed by Brit Mark Adams.

An all-new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, producing 170PS and 280Nm, and marking the first outing of Vauxhall’s MGE (Mid-Size Gasoline Engine) family, will be the highlight of a three-engine range available from the car’s launch.

Crucially for weather-hardened U.K. buyers, there will be a high-quality fabric hood, with superior acoustic and thermal insulation thanks to a special layer of polyester fleece between the outer and inner linings. Making the Cascada a practical year-round car, the hood can be opened in just 17 seconds at speeds up to 30mph by an interior switch, or via a button on the key fob.

The Cascada’s dynamic credentials will be highlighted by a particularly rigid body, which is torsionally 43 per cent stiffer than Vauxhall’s last open-topped car, the Astra Twin Top. It will also use the HiPerStrut front suspension which was initially used on the 325PS Insignia VXR.

‘Cascada is set to change people’s perception of Vauxhall once again,’ commented Duncan Aldred, Vauxhall’s Chairman and Managing Director. ‘The full-size convertible sector tends only to be occupied by very high-priced cars from premium manufacturers. With Cascada, we’re offering customers high levels of equipment, technology and luxury but at an affordable price.’

With a minimum load volume of 280l with the roof down — a supermini typically will hold 300l — and up to 350l with the roof up, the Cascada is quite practical for a convertible. Also, the rear seats benefit from Vauxhall’s FlexFold system, which electrically releases and folds down the 50:50 split rear seats, allowing longer objects to be carried.

Chassis and dynamics

Maximising torsional stiffness in a convertible’s body is critical to maintaining a good standard of handling. Despite being significantly larger, the Cascada’s body is 43 per cent. stiffer torsionally and 10 per cent. more resistant to bending forces than the Astra Twin-Top, Vauxhall’s last open-topped car. Impressive underbody reinforcement comprises crossed steel bars and strengthened rocker panels, which also contribute towards a significant reduction in NVH.

The Cascada’s wheelbase is 71mm longer than the Astra Twin-Top’s, while the front and rear tracks are 56mm and 70mm wider respectively.

Vauxhall’s HiPerStrut front suspension, first used in the 325PS Insignia VXR, will also be standard across the Cascada range. The system separates damping and steering functions, reducing torque steer, while also improving steering feel and cornering control. In addition to this, the Cascada’s electric power steering module is mounted direct to the rack, which Vauxhall says offers greater feel and precision.

Also available across the Cascada range is FlexRide, Vauxhall’s fully adaptive chassis control system, which automatically adapts to suit driving style and prevailing road conditions, or can be over-ridden with one of three driver-controlled modes.

The Cascada can be equipped with a range of wheels, from 18 to 20 inches in diameter. Brake disc sizes are up to 326mm (front) and 325mm (rear).

Powertrains

At entry level, G.M.’s familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine produces 140PS and up to 220Nm, the latter thanks to an overboost function.

Also familiar is the two-litre CDTi diesel, offering 165PS. This can also be found in Insignia and Zafira Sports Tourer models, and is available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. It delivers up to 380Nm of torque on overboost.

But the most interesting power-plant in the Cascada line-up will be the all-new 1.6 SIDI Turbo ECOTEC petrol engine. The first production engine from Vauxhall’s MGE (Mid-Size Gasoline Engine) family, the unit offers major improvements in torque, linearity and overall efficiency. It produces a maximum 170PS and 280Nm from 1650-3200rpm, again thanks to an overboost function. Initially this engine will only be available with a new, low-friction automatic six-speed gearbox.

More powerful versions of both petrol and diesel engines will be launched in the Cascada ‘in due course’.

Technology

The Cascada brings together a good many of the industry’s current driver-assistance technologies. These include options like AFL+ (Adaptive Forward Lighting) with up to 11 automatic lighting functions; Front Camera System, including Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Following Dis­tance Indication and Forward Collision Alert; rear-view camera; heated steering wheel; Hill Start Assist; and Side Blind Spot Alert.

Using an extremely rigid passenger cell made mainly from high-strength steel, the Cascada is designed for the least deformation and largest possible survival space in the event of a crash. Its doors have diagonally-mounted ultra-high strength steel beams and beltline reinforcements. The A-pillars supporting the windscreen are made from press-hardened steel. And in the event of a roll-over incident, pyrotechnically activated, spring-loaded high strength bars automatically deploy behind the rear seats. These pop-ups are also triggered during other severe impacts — for example, when airbags are deployed. Front seats both benefit from two-way active headrests and double seat belt pre-tensioners; the two rear seats also benefit from seat belt pre-tensioners.

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