- Quiet and comfortable ride on the highway and over bumpy roads
- Lots of features for a reasonable price
- It's heavy and not very powerful, and that results in underwhelming acceleration and fuel economy
- Dashboard controls all look alike, which can be distracting on the road
- Tech interface is dated compared to rivals
- Mediocre interior quality
Shop for a convertible nowadays and you'll find yourself choosing between muscle cars like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, compacts like the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle, and luxury cars like the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series. You might then wonder: Whatever happened to the reasonably priced convertible with four usable seats? Well, put simply, automakers stopped making them. But now one automaker, Buick, is jumping back in with its all-new 2016 Cascada.It's heavy and not very powerful, and that results in underwhelming acceleration and fuel economy; dashboard controls all look alike, which can be distracting on the road; tech interface is dated compared to rivals; mediocre interior quality.
Like Buick's four-door Regal, the Cascada has been plucked directly from Opel, General Motors' European division. In order to naturalize the Cascada, Buick outfitted it with suspension components that provide a softer, quieter ride. Thanks to a stiff body structure, Buick's engineers were able to tune the Cascada to provide a compliant ride quality while also maintaining a decent amount of handling capability. Take the Cascada through some curves and you'll find its well-mannered European heritage indeed remains largely intact.
Every convertible requires some compromises to practicality, but the Cascada requests fewer than most. The rear seat, though not generous with stretch-out space, can accommodate two smaller passengers. The trunk is a little bigger than normal, too, and it's augmented by fold-down rear seatbacks with a handy pass-through for larger cargo. Additional thoughtful details include a one-touch power top that can be raised or lowered at speeds up to 31 mph and electric seat-belt presenters that bring the front shoulder belts into easy reach when the door is closed.
That said, some features we expect to see in a luxury car, such as keyless ignition and blind-spot monitoring, aren't offered in the Cascada, and its interior design and acceleration are underwhelming. If you take a test drive and don't find the Cascada luxurious or sporty enough, you'll probably prefer luxury-brand rivals like the Audi A3 Cabriolet and BMW 2 Series. Those models cost more, though. On the other side of the pricing spectrum, the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Beetle are certainly fun cars to drive, but they don't offer as much interior or trunk space as the Buick. Perhaps closest in mission to the Cascada is the Volkswagen Eos, which also boasts a retractable hardtop roof. Overall, the 2016 Buick Cascada is far from perfect, but it's good to see another affordable option in this underserved segment.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
The Buick Cascada is an all-new model.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2016 Buick Cascada convertible is offered in two trim levels: Base (1SV) and Premium (1SP).
Standard equipment for the base model includes 20-inch wheels, a power-operated convertible soft top, foglights, adaptive xenon headlights, heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, remote engine start, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, heated eight-way power front seats, 50/50-split folding rear seats, a 7-inch touchscreen display (with Buick's Intellilink interface), voice controls, smartphone integration, a rearview camera, OnStar (with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hot spot), a navigation system and a seven-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, a USB media interface and an auxiliary input jack.
Although the 2016 Cascada comes with a long list of standard features, keyless ignition is curiously unavailable.
The Cascada Premium adds automatic wipers, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, and air deflectors for the front and rear seats. There are no other factory-installed options for either trim level.
INTERIOR & SAFETYThe Cascada's cabin is something of a letdown. Materials quality is passable, but it's a notch below luxury-branded vehicles such as the Audi A3. The touchscreen is an older design that suffers from a cluttered look and so-so graphics. On top of that, the center stack is cluttered with a dizzying array of buttons that are difficult to locate and use correctly while you're on the move.
The front seats are initially comfortable, but the stiff leather upholstery and light padding can cause some pressure points on long road trips. At least the Cascada's rear seats are suitably sized for kids or shorter adults, though as in many convertibles, they can feel confining with the top up.
One of the interior highlights is the Cascada's power top, which raises and lowers with a single switch located between the seats (no separate roof latches to break fingernails or skin knuckles). The top can be raised or lowered while the car is moving at speeds up to 31 mph, and the lowering process takes a manageable 17 seconds. Rearward visibility with the top up is passable, but the high rear deck and small rear window make the lack of blind-spot monitoring that much more of an oversight.
The Cascada's rear seatbacks fold down to reveal a pass-through for oversized cargo, an unexpected perk in this segment.
The trunk offers 13.4 cubic feet of space with the top up. A movable divider must be pulled down into place to make room for the roof, though, which decreases trunk space to a still-respectable 9.8 cubic feet. Folding the rear seatbacks opens up a cargo pass-through for longer items.
Standard safety features for the 2016 Buick Cascada include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and front knee airbags. Like other GM vehicles, the Cascada comes with the subscription-based OnStar system, which can provide roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.
In the event of a rollover, two stout metal posts, spring-loaded and pyrotechnically actuated, pop up from behind the rear seats to provide added occupant protection.
All Cascadas also come with a rearview camera, and premium models include forward collision and lane-departure warning systems. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert isn't offered, however. In Edmunds emergency brake testing, the Cascada came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet. That's an average distance for the segment.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2016 Buick Cascada is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. It drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. These are strong numbers for such a small engine, but the powertrain has its work cut out for it because the Cascada, with its heavily reinforced body, weighs nearly 2 tons. During Edmunds testing, a Cascada accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, which is slow for this class of car.
The 2016 Cascada's six-speed automatic transmission gets the job done, but it's down a couple of gears compared to some rivals.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Cascada is an underwhelming 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway). For context, the VW Eos offers the same horsepower and gets 25 mpg combined, while the BMW 228i convertible boasts 40 more hp and gets 27 mpg combined.
The 2016 Buick Cascada has a turbocharged 200-hp engine under the hood, but those horses have to haul almost 4,000 pounds of weight. As such, acceleration is unremarkable. You typically won't have a problem pulling into fast-moving traffic, but passing on a two-lane road requires a long stretch of open blacktop.
Performance is tepid in the 2016 Cascada, but the quiet, supple ride makes for serene top-down motoring on a sunny day.
As a highway cruiser, the Cascada is pleasantly hushed and smooth, and it feels pretty solid, even when driving over choppy pavement. Slower speeds reveal a bit of bounciness over uneven surfaces, but we'd still call the Cascada’s ride pleasant. Around turns, other smaller convertibles like the Mini Cooper are sportier and more fun to drive, even if the Cascada's planted feel is pleasing in its own right.
Buick is back in the drop-top business with a new convertible, the 2016 Cascada. It's comfortable, as you would expect a Buick to be, and competitively priced. Ready to find out if getting a breeze through your hair in a Cascada is right for you?