Renault Megane GT220 2014 Review
Ewan Kennedy road tests and reviews the Renault Megane, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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The Holden Astra convertible is due back in local showrooms later this year after a four-year absence, but the all-new model will be wearing a different badge.
It’s part of revival of General Motors’ German brand Opel in Australia and is now called the Cascada, which is Spanish for waterfall, an unusual choice for a car with a soft-top.
We won’t know how much the Opel Cascada costs until later in the year but its pricing in Germany is a decent clue. There it is priced five per cent less than the Volkswagen Eos and Peugeot CC convertibles, which cost about $50,000 in Australia. The Cascada is bigger than its former peers, too, with the promise of more metal for the money (even if it does have a fabric roof).
Opel’s drop-top is now closer in size to the BMW 3 Series or Audi A5 sun-lovers. Previously it competed with the Volkswagen Golf and Peugeot CC cabriolets in size. Given its new dimensions Opel may be tempted to inch the price of the Cascada closer to the $80,000 starting prices of its similarly-sized German peers.
However, that would be a brave move. If Opel can get the Cascada comfortably under $50,000 it will have a winner on its hands.
It might have the Astra’s familiar good looks but the only exterior parts carried over are the headlights, front fenders and door handles. The rest is all-new. It sits on the same underbody as the Opel GTC coupe but has extra strengthening to compensate for the lack of a roof.
Imagine twisting a shoebox with its lid on, now imagine twisting the same shoebox box with the lid off and you’ll understand why the extra bracing is required. The structural reinforcements add up to 150kg to the car’s overall weight compared to the coupe.
Opel opted for a fabric roof (with extra sound-deadening as an option) because it is lighter than the folding metal roofs (50kg all told) and more compact. This gives the Cascada a decent-sized boot (280 litres with the roof down versus 380 litres with the roof up). The boot is quite shallow but at least the back seats flip down so you can fit larger cargo (180cm long and 570cm wide if needed).
Opel claims to have invented a special coating for the leather seats that reduces the temperature by at least 30 degrees Celsius no matter how hot the day, and whether the roof is up or down. We weren’t brave enough to test the theory with the backs of our legs. Besides, it’s winter in Europe any way. We’ll add it to the ‘to do’ list.
When it comes to convertibles the figure that matters most is not the 0 to 100km/h time but how long it takes for the roof to open or close. In the Opel Cascada’s case, it can lift its lid in 17 seconds, and then put it back on in the same amount of time. Only the Audi A5 (15 seconds) and Volkswagen Golf (9 seconds) can deliver open-air driving quicker, according to figures supplied by Opel.
The Opel Cascada can also raise or lower its roof while moving up to 50km/h – or while standing next to it and using the remote key fob.
Opel’s standard array of bells and whistles are available, too, such as lane keeping, blind zone warning and a crash alert system (although that does not yet automatically apply the brakes as do similar systems from others brands).
As with many convertibles the Opel Cascada comes with only four airbags (two front, and two side-mounted in the front seats) because they are difficult to package in the roof or the rear of the car.
Nevertheless a five-star Euro NCAP rating would be likely given the extra body strengthening, although the independent authority rarely tests niche models such as this.
Stability control and hill-hold assist are standard. A rear camera was fitted to the test car sampled in Europe. We hope this becomes a standard feature on Australian models given that the rearward visibility is limited.
It might only have a relatively small 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol engine but don’t be discouraged by its size. It is one of a new generation of engines that deliver big performance in a tiny package. And is miserly to boot.
The Opel Cascada is not supposed to be a race car but it has sufficient urge to keep with the flow of the traffic and to keep up appearances. There is even a nice, subtle engine and exhaust note for those with a trained ear.
The suspension is like a magic carpet ride. I’m not sure what has happened at Opel in the years since its cars left Australia, but they’ve clearly hired some talented people in the suspension engineering section.
Most convertibles get a bit of a wobble over rutted roads, and it’s true the Opel Cascada is not as taut as a hatchback, coupe or a sedan. But as far as convertibles go, it’s more than adequate.
The suspension tends to glide over the worst the road can throw at it, and yet it’s not floaty. The steering is also pleasant enough, although on the tight European roads the car felt wide.
The seats are comfortable, and the roof lived up to its promise of keeping most of the road noise at bay.
The only real blots on the report card are the usual complaints about the too fussy and confusing air-conditioning and radio controls, and the fact that we can’t tell you what the automatic is like because there were none available to test.
Anyone looking to buy a pose chariot that’s nice to drive will feel at home in the Opel Cascada. Anyone looking for a performance sports-car that puts the wind in your hair will likely look elsewhere.
|(base)||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$15,400 – 21,780||2015 Holden Cascada 2015 (base) Pricing and Specs|
|Launch Edition||1.6L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$21,900 – 29,700||2015 Holden Cascada 2015 Launch Edition Pricing and Specs|
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