2016 Cascada in Toasted Coconut
Patrick Rall's picture

2016 Buick Cascada Review: The Most Interesting Buick of the Modern Era

The 2016 Buick Cascada is first convertible from the brand in many moons while also being one of the most affordable 4-seat convertibles in America – making it the most interesting model from Buick in decades and a car that is fun to drive with the top up or down.
Advertisement


When I first saw the Buick Cascada at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, I thought that it was a great looking small car, but I immediately thought that it was going to be another one of those concept cars from GM that doesn’t make it to showrooms in the US. The Opel Cascada has been available overseas since 2013, but it seemed to unusual that General Motors would roll out a sporty, luxury, compact convertible from Buick.

I was surprised when GM confirmed that the Cascada would go on sale in the US for the 2016, marking the first Buick convertible since the Reatta in the early 1990s, but I was even more surprised when I took delivery of my first Cascada test car and I liked it. I really, really liked it. In fact, the Cascada quickly climbed over the Regal GS as my favorite modern Buick, and while the convertible doesn’t pack the performance punch of the sporty sedan – the Cascada is an all-around more entertaining and more interesting car.

Before getting into what I enjoyed so much about the 2016 Buick Cascada, here is a quick rundown of the pricing. My test car was a Cascada Premium, which is the top of the line with an MSRP of $36,065. That price includes everything mentioned in this review and there are really no optional features, as the Premium package comes packed to the gills. The price as tested of my Cascada was increased by $395 via the Toasted Coconut exterior paint and the $925 destination fee for a total price of $37,385.

Exterior
The 2016 Buick Cascada looks essentially the same as the Cascada sold by Opel or Vauxhall in overseas markets, with some minor exceptions including the Buick tri-shield badges. The Cascada looks fairly small from the outside, with a sharply angled body lines that create a very sporty feel with the top or up down. It isn’t shaped like a great many other small convertibles sold in the US, but the overall design of this small Opel-built Buick makes for a great looking car.

16 cascada side profile

Up front, LED trimmed projection headlights, projection fog lights and a spread of chrome bits give the Cascada a very luxurious look and the back end has big, bright LED taillights under a subtle rear spoiler that is integrated into the trunk lid. Along the sides of the car, this compact Buick has swooping body lines that work perfectly with the 20 inch split-spoke wheels to bolster the sporty feel of this plush little drop top.

16 cascada top up

The most significant aspect of the Buick Cascada is, of course, the retractable soft top. With the push of a button, the top slips quickly under the built-in hard tonneau cover in similar form to that of the Camaro convertible. When you push the button to open the Cascada’s top, the rear panel which bridges the gap between the cloth top and the actual trunk lid swivels up and the top stows quickly under it – creating a very clean look when the top is down. This isn’t like older convertibles that have the ugly gears exposed or require you to carry around a cover that snaps in place when the top is down.

16 cascada rear

The Cascada top takes just 17 seconds to go from up and locked to down and ready to drive away and in the event that you decide that you want to drop the top while sitting in traffic, the top will function at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. With this system, even if you have to begin to move with traffic, the top will continue the retraction process at speeds under 31, so you don’t need to worry about staying stopped to put the top up or down.

The 2016 Buick Cascada is a little sporty, a little luxury and a whole lot of great-looking convertible whether the top is up or down. It is a fun-looking little car and it is easily one of the brand’s sportiest looking cars in years – all without going away from the affordable luxury aim of the modern Buick lineup.

Interior
Like the exterior, the interior of the 2016 Buick Cascada is a combination of sporty and luxurious design, although the area under the retractable top leans more towards the luxury end of things.

The front and rear seats are all leather wrapped, but they are not just regular leather. The Cascada convertible features heat reflective black leather that stays a bit cooler than normal black leather when the sun is beating down on it. I still opted to close the top when parked in direct sunlight on a hot day, but I’ve sat in seats of cars with fixed roofs that were hotter to the touch than the Cascada’s heat reflective leather. Oddly, these seats are not cooled, but both front sport bucket seats feature 8-way power control and a heated base for cool days.
In addition to having cooler surfaces, the Cascada seats were sporty enough to keep the driver and passenger planted during stints of spirited driving, with prominent side and hip bolsters, but these seats are still wide enough between the bolsters to accommodate a wide range of drivers. Most importantly, these seats are comfortable enough for the daily grind of a long road trip through the countryside.

16 cascada fr seats

The back seats of the Buick Cascada have a deep base design similar to the front seats and they are surprisingly comfortable for the rear seats of a small car. Of course, with the front seats moved all of the way back, the leg room gets a little tight for an adult in the rear seats, but there is plenty of room for kids. Also, if found that if the driver’s seat and front passenger seat were adjusted to comfortable seat a pair of 6 foot tall adults, the back seats have enough legroom to comfortably seat a pair of adults – although using it to transport a quartet of 6 foot tall adults on a long trip might be a little tight. Also, the Cascada is a 2+2, meaning that there is no rear middle seat, so that clears up some space for a center armrest and cup holders, there is no way to transport 5 people safely in this car.

Speaking of interior space, while the rear footwell area is a little tight for a taller adult, the front seats of the Cascada have a ton of room – with enough adjustment for very tall adults. Even with the top up, there was a ton of headroom and while I’m a little under 6 foot tall, a taller driver shouldn’t have any issues fitting comfortable under the retractable roof after adjusting the seat relative to the controls.

16 cascada rear seats

Like the seats, the dash board of the Buick Cascada is clad in black leather with contrasting white stitching, gloss black hard trim and silver accents around the HVAC vents. The gauge cluster is simple, but very classy looking, with a large analog speedometer on one side, a large analog tachometer on the other side and a pair of small gauges in the middle – all trimmed in chrome. Below the two small gauges is a simple information screen with your fuel economy numbers, a digital speedometer and other basic vehicle details.

The Cascada doesn’t have a fancy gauge cluster, but it does come with a premium infotainment system that is highlighted by a large touchscreen mounted high on the dash. Below the touchscreen is a huge array of buttons and knobs, and while some people will criticized the Cascada for having too many buttons – all of those buttons will come as a relief for those folks who prefer traditional controls over the touch screen. There are also some basic steering wheel controls, so you rarely need to take your hands off of the wheel, but if you do, you don’t have to always reach up to the touch screen.

16 cascada dash

Before the panel of infotainment controls is the HVAC panel, with knobs for the driver and passenger temperatures, the buttons for the heated seats, the button for the heated steering wheel and the front and rear window defrosters. Like the infotainment system, the HVAC system has a big spread of knobs and buttons, but it makes using the interior functions very simple and very user friendly.

The interior of the 2016 Buick Cascada Premium is loaded to the hilt with heated, power leather seats featuring a unique reflective surface, a premium infotainment system and plenty of space for four adults. For a car of this size, there is little else you could want, shy of a fancier gauge setup – although the gauges of the Cascada don’t have any negative impact on the fun of driving this car.

The Drive
The 2016 Buick Cascada is only available in the US with one engine and one transmission – a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder mill sending 200 horsepower and 227lb-ft of torque to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The Cascada weighs just over 4,000lbs with a driver and this isn’t a car that many people are going to buy to go racing, but it is a fun little car to drive. That available power makes the Cascada quick from a stop, although I would love to experience it with a manual transmission – as that would almost certainly make it a little swifter from 0-60. That being said, the Cascada has plenty of gusto on the low end when you are accelerating hard to merge into fast moving traffic and it will climb well above the speed limit when the need arises to slip around another car on the highway.

16 cascada low road

Really, the Cascada shines the brightest when you are cruising along an empty country road, where you can exercise the midrange performance of this small Buick. Due to the high curb weight, the Cascada feels best from a roll, and when you are cutting through the twists and turns of a tight 2-lane road, the 1.6L turbocharged engine does a fine job of getting this Buick into the straights. Helping in this effort is a sport tuned suspension that perfectly balances handling and ride quality – leading to a car that is fun to toss through the turns while being equally fun on a long, bumpy highway ride.

I think that the biggest shortcoming of the 2016 Buick Cascada comes at the gas pump, as the 1.6L turbocharged engine only averaged around 21mpg when I had the car for a week. The EPA expects figures of 20mpg around town, 27mpg on the highway and 23mpg combined and while I was happy with the 21.8mpg I got over the course of a week – that falls well short of many small cars in terms of fuel economy. That being said, none of those 40+mpg small cars are sporty convertibles, so in my opinion, fuel economy shouldn’t be used as a slight against the Cascada. Ultimately, if you are that worried about fuel economy – you probably shouldn’t be shopping for a convertible.

16 cascada road low rear

The Cascada is not a race car and it isn’t fair to compare this small Buick to a performance-themed vehicle, but for a compact convertible, it is quick, agile and fun to drive.

The Final Word
The entire time I was driving the Buick Cascada, people asked me what I thought of it – and it was hard to describe. The best way that I could describe it was to tell people that it the most interesting Buick I have ever tested while surely being the most interesting Buick in decades.

The Cascada isn’t incredibly quick or fast, it doesn’t offer the high performance handling that you get from some compacts, not does it offer the fuel economy of others and the interior isn’t going to blow you away with high tech goodies. However, the Cascada is a ton of fun to drive in every condition – top up or down. It is nimble on twisty roads and comfortable on long drives, with seats that hug the body and keep everyone comfortable for longer trips. The car looks great with the top of up down and with the top down, the Cascada has a super clear tonneau design that bolsters the premium feel of this small Buick.

16 cascada front

The Buick Cascada doesn’t do any one thing well enough for me to rave about that particular aspect, but it really doesn’t fall short in any category. It looks great, it is comfortable, it is fun to drive and it has a loaded price under $40k – making it one of the most affordable and most well-appointed 4-seat convertibles sold in the US.

The Cascada is certainly an oddity in the modern Buick lineup of sedans and SUVs, but it is a fantastic small car for someone who is looking for a luxurious convertible with 4 seats that won’t break the bank. The Regal GS might pack more performance – but the Cascada is an all-around more entertaining car to drive and that is why it is my new favorite Buick of the modern era.


Sign-up to our email newsletter for daily perspectives on car design, trends, events and news, not found elsewhere.