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Opel Cascada unveiled

New import Opel has unveiled its mid-size Cascada convertible in the lead up to European sales in early 2013 and likely for Australia at the end of 2013. 

While it effectively replaces - though is bigger than - the Opel Astra TwinTop, it doesn't have that model's metal folding roof.  Instead, the Cascada - to be sold under the Vauxhall and Opel nameplates and be clones into a Buick version - has a taut fabric roof that can be opened in 17 seconds up to 50km/h.

The two-door, four-seat is nearly 4.7m long - bigger than an Audi A5 Convertible - and Opel says it positions it in a sector it hasn't occupied since the 1930s. The Cascada sits on an Astra platform and shares its drivetrain. It is 26mm longer than the Astra sedan but shares its wheelbase. But it's not all Astra - the front suspension and the HiPerStrut geometry that reduces torque steer are borrowed from the Insignia.

This system separates damping and steering functions, reducing torque steer, while also improving steering feel and cornering control. Opel is pushing the Cascada's safety credentials, claiming it to be an exceptionally rigid open-top with 43 per cent more rigidity than the smaller, steel-roofed TwinTop.

Safety technology for Europe that is likely to drain down to Australia - either standard or optional - includes adaptive forward lighting, a front camera system with traffic-sign recognition, lane departure warning, a following-distance indicator, blind-side monitor and forward collision alert.

Opel Australia hasn't committed itself to the car but it's on the wish list. The A-pillars supporting the windscreen are made from press-hardened steel while in the event of a roll-over, pyrotechnically activated, spring-loaded high strength bars automatically deploy behind the rear seats. These rollbars are also triggered during other severe impacts, for example, when airbags are deployed. With the roof raised, boot capacity is 350 litres - only 80 litres less than the Astra sedan - and when the roof is down, drops to 280 litres.

But for extra room, Opel has an optional FlexFold system that electrically releases and folds down the 50/50 split rear seats, allowing longer objects to be stored. As announced last night, the European-spec Cascada initially will be sold with the choice of three four-cylinder engines. One is the 121kW/380Nm 2.0 CDTi turbo-diesel engine - also in the Insignia - with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. 

But the highlight of Cascada's engine line-up will be the all-new 125kW/280Nm 1.6 SIDI Ecotec turbo-petrol engine. This is the first of Opel's new MGE (Mid-Size Gasoline Engine) family. The other engine is Opel's 103kW/220Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol. It may not make the boat to Australia given Opel's endeavour to lift the car closer to the prestige market. Opel originally planned to launch the Cascada as a convertible and coupe however it's delicate financial position in Europe has put the steel-top on hold.