Archive | August, 2014

Convertible Cruising

In the UK, sadly, there’s not a lot of point in having a convertible when it rains. Yet when the sun does come out there are few things more fun that cruising in a convertible. Many soft-tops only have two seats – or at best are 2+2 – which isn‘t the most convenient thing in a daily driver, so how about a more family friendly option – the Vauxhall Cascada?

Forget what you knew about badge snobbery. The fact is that Vauxhall make very good cars these days and no longer should be out of the running simply because of some lacklustre cars from the past. The Cascada has a premium feel. Although there are some company styling similarities as is usual these days, this is a new car from the ground up.cas1 Convertible Cruising

The inside is spacious and refined. The leather sports seats are supremely adjustable and super-comfortable. I especially liked the pull-out seat squab for extra support beneath the thighs. The two passenger doors are wide and allow easy access to the back thanks to the auto-operation of the front seats. Tilt the back rest and the seat glides forward. Push it back and it reverses. Easy. The rest of the interior is well designed and made with little evidence of cheap materials and there is absolutely loads of kit – sat-nav, connectivity, climate, heated leather steering wheel and plenty more – as standard.

cas2 Convertible CruisingThe large, steeply raked windscreen and rising window line give the Cascada a purposeful stance. The fabric roof creates a low roofline, although the steeply raked back window means a somewhat narrow view in the rear view mirror. Lower the hood and you get frameless windows and a flat rear deck not unlike the stern of a pleasure cruiser.

The roof stows itself very neatly in about 12 seconds into a recessed area which inevitably compromises the boot space although there’s still room for an overnight bag and some shopping. With the roof in place the boot is deep and capacious although not the easiest to access. It’s a convertible – you can’t have it all ways.

Driving with the top down, the Cascada is pretty refined. As speeds increase so there is some wind buffeting, although front and rear wind deflectors are available. The model featured in our images is in Elite trim and drive comes from a 1.6L turbo-petrol engine with 170PS. Inevitably, the car is heavy but the engine still delivers lively performance but, alas, is not the most economical choice. Thinking about economy I rejected the ‘Sport’ mode button in favour of ‘Tour’ but still only achieved an average of 30mpg in mixed motoring. As a long distance tourer I would think that the 2.0L diesel engine would be a better choice.

Handling is good thanks Vauxhall’s ‘HiPerStrut’ suspension but it’s not a sports car so don’t expect sharp cornering attributes. For Motor Blogger, the very lightly weighted power steering lacked feel although the ‘Sport’ mode weights it up a bit. Overall though the Cascada has a composed and supple ride making long trips a pleasure.

So, the Vauxhall Cascada is a poised and comfortable four-seat drop-top. It is quiet and spacious enough for everyday use whilst remaining a great long distance tourer. None of the currently available versions cost over £30,000 which seems like value for money. An excellent convertible.

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Connected Cars

Did you know that once upon a time during the 1950’s and 1960’s actual in-car record players were available as options. Older readers may remember the ‘Highway Hi-Fi’. Following on, there was eight-track, the cassette tape and the good old CD.

In car entertainment and infotainment has come a long way since those olden times and now it is going further.

Today’s car infotainment systems offer a panoply of great features. As far as audio is concerned, for example, the options are vast, including AM/FM, satellite, and internet radio, CDs and DVDs, and audio files you play via plugged-in or Bluetooth-enabled smart phones and so on.

Turns out we like all this stuff. We appreciate the ease with which we can connect our mobile devices to most of the cars on our roads. Now, with the arrival of Apple CarPlay for iPhones (available this year on some brands) and the forthcoming Android Auto (which will also be featured on many automotive brands) we are going to become even more connected.

Demand for connected cars is growing and apparently more than seventy percent of drivers are said to be interested in using, or are already using, connected car services. In a recent survey many people said that they would now consider connected features to be an important part of their next new car purchase. What modern motorists want the technology for is primarily increased safety, early warning systems, smarter navigation and diagnostics. Most want to access connected services through a single user point on their dashboard.

In short, drivers want to be able to access all the same features that they can get at home. They want to send and receive messages and they want SIRI to do it for them. They want up-to-the-minute traffic reports and idiot-proof navigation that doesn’t put them in a remote field somewhere. They want to play their choice of music at the touch of a button or a spoken word and they want apps for everything else. The infotainment future is here.

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bG9nZ2VyX0xvZ28uanBnIjtpOjI7czo3MzoiaHR0cDovL21vdG9yYmxvZ2dlci5jby51ay93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzMtTW90b3JfQmxvZ2dlcl9Mb2dvLnBuZyI7fTwvbGk+PGxpPjxzdHJvbmc+d29vX3ZpZGVvX2NhdGVnb3J5PC9zdHJvbmc+IC0gQXV0byBOZXdzPC9saT48L3VsPg==