As a sedate, stylish droptop, the Buick Cascada is an excellent choice; it’s also the only choice.
MSRP: From $38,120
Horsepower: 200 hp
MPG: 20 city/ 27 highway
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Dimensions: 185” L, 72” W, 57” H
Curb weight: 3,979 lbs.
There’s more than meets the eye with the 2018 Buick Cascada. The stylish, sedate droptop is hardly a reboot of the old Riviera. Instead, Buick parent General Motors plucked the Cascada from its European Opel lineup and brought it to America, where it is one of the least expensive convertibles on the market.
We rate the Cascada, available in base, Premium, and Sport Touring trim levels, a 5.6 out of 10, based mostly on its style and its high level of standard features.
The Cascada sees only a minor shuffling of its color palette to mark 2018. Last year, a new Sport Touring trim level arrived with its own special styling details, but all versions of the Cascada are attractive in a decidedly continental way. Inside, however, a button-heavy control layout and a previous generation infotainment system mark the Cascada’s age. This design hit the European market more than five years ago and hasn’t been significantly altered since.
Just one engine and transmission combination—a 1.6-liter inline-4 mated to a 6-speed automatic—is available and all Cascadas are front-wheel drive. Although pleasant to drive, the Cascada is hardly sporty. Instead, it’s more of a boulevardier, a model essentially without direct rivals any longer.
One notable demerit is that the Cascada lacks some of the most advanced safety tech; it’s one of few vehicles to not offer automatic emergency braking or active lane control, another telltale of this droptop’s real age.
The Buick Cascada is attractive, but its button-heavy interior ultimately lets it down.
The 2018 Buick Cascada’s curvy exterior style elevates it above average, but we’re not enamored with its dated, button-heavy interior. As a result, it’s a 6 out of 10 on our scale.
The Cascada’s heritage is international; it was largely designed and engineered in Germany and it’s actually assembled in Poland. The only thing American about it is its Buick badge. Given its German lineage, the Cascada’s relatively conservative style is hardly a surprise. But it’s neat and tidy, a well-proportioned convertible that manages to look as good with its top down as it does with the power, fabric roof erected.
Some hints of formality contrast nicely with the Cascada’s swoopy detailing. Its chrome-heavy grille—blacked out on Sport Touring models—works well with another hint of flashiness linking its taillights at the rear. All versions have one of three 20-inch wheel designs wrapped in relatively low-profile rubber.
It’s inside where things start to fall apart as the Cascada reveals its age. Its center stack is riddled with buttons, a look that’s decidedly aeronautical—not in a good way. The basic design with its instrument panel canted slightly toward the driver isn’t offensive, but it’s also hardly memorable.
As a boulevardier, the Buick Cascada is fine; it’s just not particularly polished.
If you equate European lineage with blistering performance, the 2018 Buick Cascada won’t be for you. But if it’s a relaxed demeanor you’re after, keep reading.
We’ve given the Cascada a 4 out of 10, deducting a point for the choppy ride imposed by its too-large wheels with their too-small sidewalls. There’s simply not enough rubber to make things comfortable, while an underwhelming engine is neither quick nor efficient.
Every Cascada tells the same story under its hood: a 1.6-liter inline-4 rated at 200 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission shuttles power forward; there’s no all-wheel drive offering.
That’s a lot of power for a little engine. The problem here is weight. At a hair under 4,000 pounds, the Buick Cascada is as plump as some SUVs and crossovers thanks to all of the chassis bracing needed to retain its stiffness with an open roof.
The engine is mostly refined and quiet, humming away under the hood. The Cascada’s automatic doesn’t really help matters, however, since it can be slow to downshift when called upon and can deliver occasional slurred shifts.
The Cascada’s thick-rimmed steering wheel suggests a sporting pedigree, but in reality this droptop is more of a boulevardier than a sports car. Its steering is well-weighted and accurate, albeit light on road feel, while its suspension doesn’t keep body lean in check. Compounding the confused situation are the Cascada’s big 20-inch alloy wheels, which deliver too much of a clomping, clydesdale-inspired ride.
Comfort & Quality
The Buick Cascada is comfortable for two, but tight for more.
Front seat passengers in the Buick Cascada will find supportive seats and good room, but there’s not much room for four and cargo storage is just adequate.
The Cascada is a four-seater in name only; row two is best for children, but that’s about what we expect from a convertible. With 13.4 cubic feet—with the roof raised—there’s enough cargo room for a couple to take suitcases on vacation without having to worry about room for souvenirs. Fold the top and that figure drops to just under 10 cubes, which still isn’t bad for a convertible.
The top folds in under 20 seconds at up to 30 mph, which is useful for stop-and-go driving. The cloth roof is thickly lined, which helps muffle road noise well.
The Cascada is nicely outfitted inside with standard leather upholstery that’s perforated in an attractive pattern. Its materials are generally soft-touch and pleasing, but not particularly upscale. After all, the Cascada is based on a European-market Opel small car, not a high-end vehicle.
The Buick Cascada has done well in one crash test, but it lacks some high-tech safety features.
Not all crash tests have been performed on the 2018 Buick Cascada, so we can’t award it a score here. However, the federal government rated it five stars overall, a commendable score.
The Cascada earned four stars in the frontal crash test evaluation and four in the rollover measurement, but its five-star side impact rating was enough to elevate it to the top final score.
All Cascadas have six airbags, including front, seat-mounted side, and knee bolster units. Additionally, ABS and stability control are standard. Forward collision alerts and lane departure warnings are optional, but no Cascada is available with automatic emergency braking. That’s something of a surprise given the Cascada’s price tag and its premium positioning, especially since all major automakers have agreed to begin installing automatic emergency braking on nearly every new car within the next couple years. The Cascada is one of few new cars that can’t stop itself if it detects an impending crash and no driver intervention.
Three Buick Cascada trim levels are well-equipped, but that’s about it for choices.
In terms of its feature count, the 2018 Buick Cascada is well-equipped from the get-go, but even with three trim levels on offer, there’s no chance to customize this droptop into a bespoke, luxurious automobile.
Our final score reflects the Cascada’s outdated 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, too. It’s a generation behind what’s offered in the rest of the Buick lineup, and while it’s not difficult to use, the system lacks some of the latest and greatest like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. That said, the infotainment package also includes OnStar with a 4G LTE wi-fi antenna that can turn the car into a hotspot (although there’s a subscription charge after an initial trial period).
Cascadas start in the mid-$30,000 range with leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats, heated seats, rear parking sensors, and even a heated steering wheel. That’s not bad, but the Premium bundles on that navigation, lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings, front parking sensors, and automatic headlights.
The range-topping Sport Touring trim level delivers a flat-bottomed steering wheel that hints at performance (unfortunately lacking in the Cascada), plus unique wheels and a few distinct exterior color paint shades.
Other than those three trim levels and a choice of paint shades and wheel designs, Buick offers no individual options on the Cascada lineup.
Given its weight, the 2018 Buick Cascada’s fairly hefty fuel consumption is no surprise.
The 2018 Buick Cascada neither sips nor guzzles fuel.
Its 1.6-liter engine comes in at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. That’s neither great nor terrible, especially when this portly convertible’s nearly 4,000-pound weight is factored in. On our scale, it rates a 6 out of 10.
We’ve seen around 17 mpg in mixed-condition, largely urban driving in Los Angeles but a good bit higher on the open road. The Cascada’s small engine is tasked with moving a lot of mass, which means its turbocharger is hard at work. That’s a recipe for hefty fuel consumption.
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