NAMING an open-top model "Waterfall" may not seem like a particularly good idea but the handsome new Opel Cascada convertible's good build quality should dispel any concerns immediately.
Cascada is Spanish for "waterfall" and this new Opel with a classic soft top is special for two reasons.
The first is that it is bigger and more useable than the previous Opel convertible, the Astra TwinTop.
The second is that it is more refined than other Opels you are used to.
The German car maker calls the Cascada its first premium lifestyle model. But since Opel is a mass market brand, the Cascada is likely to be viewed by prospective buyers as "near-premium". It helps that it has rather glamourous styling.
This Opel is attractively robust and from the rear three-quarter angle, there are shades of the BMW 6 Series convertible. It is not a dinky car. This mid-sized convertible is 4.7m in length, with a relatively long 2,695mm wheelbase. The rear legroom for the back seats is good although the headroom may be snug for taller passengers. More importantly, there is good elbow room, so it doesn't feel unnecessarily tight.
Overall, the cabin's premium feel is obvious. The dashboard has the same Opel family look but there are upscale touches in the contrast stitching of the dashtop and the piping on the factory-fitted fabric-cum-leather seats.
The standard equipment is suitably high-end too. There is an anti-collision system and blind spot detection. There are even seatbelt feeders to automatically extend the seat belt to the front seat occupants.
But it is the Cascada's build quality and body rigidity that have to be the most pertinent considerations when choosing an open-air model and both do not disappoint. There is no discernible scuttle shake when driving normally. The Opel's chassis and body feel suitably "tight", thus benefiting ride comfort. The Cascada's suspension soaks up bumps rather well, and you get the impression that this is a well-made Opel convertible that has left its "toy car" past behind. As it is loosely based on the Astra platform but bigger, the Cascada uses the familiar front struts and rear torsion beam suspension.
Under the hood is Opel's new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. It drives the front wheels through the familiar six-speed automatic transmission. Strangely, the engine's 170 hp and impressive torque of 280 Newton-metres do not make the Cascada feel more potent. But one thing is certain - the Cascada won't get a chance to run out of breath on Singapore roads. Rolling on 18-inch wheels with a well-weighted steering for confident, high-speed progress, this open-top Opel is almost a sporty drive.
The fabric roof takes 17 seconds to open or close and this can be done at speeds of up to 50 kmh. When cruising with the top down, the interior is pleasantly calm for the front occupants.
Opel intended the Cascada to take on luxury alternatives such as the Audi A5 and BMW 3 Series convertibles. It may not have quite the same level of branding but the Cascada is certainly a stellar effort.
Opel Cascada 1.6 Turbo Ecotec
Engine 1,598cc turbocharged
Gearbox 6-speed automatic transmission
Max power 170 hp @ 4,250 rpm
Max torque 280 Nm @ 1,650-4,250 rpm
0-100 kmh 9.9 secs
Top speed 217 kmh
CO2 emissions 168 g/km
Average OMV $36,000
Price $189,999 (with COE)
Distributor Auto Germany
Tel 6922 3288