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2016 Buick Cascada Road Test and Review

by Colin Ryan
April 26, 2016
4 min. Reading Time
2016 Buick Cascada cargo in backseat ・  Photo by General Motors

2016 Buick Cascada cargo in backseat ・ Photo by General Motors

The 2016 Buick Cascada is a four-seater convertible based on a compact car platform from General Motors’ European division. It’s the marque’s first convertible sold in the United States in 25 years. And coming from the Old World is no bad thing. Ford has had amazing and much-deserved success with the Euro-derived Focus. People over there really know how to make a compact car and how to get the chassis just right.

The big challenge in a convertible is body flex. Buick claims a high level of rigidity for the Cascada. A rigid body does not mean a rigid ride, though. Far from it. It means a more finely tuned suspension. It’s impossible to tune a guitar string when it’s being pulled this way and that, and it’s a similar principle with suspensions. If there’s little or no flex to contend with, then that’s a whole set of troublesome variables no one has to worry about.

Buick is in the process of reinventing itself. The new LaCrosse large sedan is another excellent vehicle and the Encore is a popular compact crossover. With the new-for-2016 Cascada, Buick continues to shrug off that dusty reputation of being a brand that appeals only to the older generation and generates a more contemporary shine.


Trims levels are base and Premium. Base starts at $33,990. The Premium model starts at $36,990. Both prices include destination charges. Buicks tend to occupy an area that’s a little more premium than the mainstream (think Chevrolet) yet not quite so luxurious as, say, Cadillac. And the Cascada follows that formula.

The base car is well equipped, including leather upholstery and a navigation system. Premium brings mainly some extra active safety features. Beyond that, there are no real optional extras.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors


Just as Europeans do well in making a compact car drive like a champ, they’re also pretty good at styling. With the roof up, the Cascada presents a sporty, coupe-like profile. The proportions all seem to harmonize and there’s a flat section that goes over the folded-down roof, keeping the lines clean and sleek. The chrome trim that goes around it and continues through to the base of the windshield is a classy little addition. So is the character line that starts in the front door, arcs above the handle and sweeps back to the top edge of the tail lights.

The only main gripe in this area is the actual quality of the cabin materials. Again, it’s at that “slightly better than mainstream, but not quite luxury” level. The thing is, the mainstream is catching up fast. Look at any new Volkswagen or Mazda.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Comfort and Cargo

There’s a lot to be said for the comfort that comes with heat-reflective leather upholstery as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, as anyone who has sat on a leather car seat that’s been out in the full glare of the sun will attest. The front seats are well shaped, but tend to feel under-cushioned during longer journeys.

With the roof in place, total trunk space is 13.4 cubic feet. That’s more than adequate. When the roof is under its hard tonneau cover, that area shrinks to 9.8 cubic feet, which is still useable. The rear seats can split 50/50 and fold down for a little extra versatility.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Features and Controls

The main feature is the powered retractable soft top. Operation is simple, just the touch of a button and about 17 seconds later it’s either sheltering its occupants from that sudden summer downpour or completely folded into the body. And it can do so at up to 31 mph.

Other standard equipment includes 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats/mirrors/steering wheel, LED daytime running lights/tail lights, and a rearview camera.

The infotainment system has a seven-inch touchscreen, navigation, Wi-fi hot spot with 4G LTE connectivity, satellite radio, USB port, auxiliary audio input and a seven-speaker audio system.

Premium models have a different design of 20-inch alloy wheel, plus front and rear air deflectors.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors


As well as all the mandatory features like anti-lock disc brakes, airbags (including front side and front knee) and traction/stability control, the Cascada also has two metal posts behind the rear seats that pop up automatically (to the same level as the top of the windshield) if the car senses an imminent rollover. The A-pillars have extra reinforcement as well.

The Premium trim level also has forward collision alert, lane departure warning, automatic headlamps with tunnel detection, rain-sensing wipers, and parking sensors at both ends. There’s no provision for blind spot monitoring in either trim level—a major shortcoming. At least the Cascade comes with OnStar, General Motors’ subscription service that brings roadside assistance, remote unlocking, automatic crash notification and stolen vehicle location.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have put the 2016 Buick Cascada through their crash test programs so far.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Engines and Economy

There’s only one engine propelling the Cascada, a 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder unit. That’s not an impressive amount of displacement, but it is turbocharged to produce a fairly healthy 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission sends that power to the front wheels.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. Which is about as average as average can get. However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect better from just 1.6 liters.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors


Despite almost no one ever sprinting from standstill to 60 mph, it’s still an accepted way of measuring and comparing. Buick claims 8.6 seconds for the Cascada, which is, frankly, about as much accelerative fun as a wet weekend.

The trouble is the weight, about two tons of it. Because the Cascada is a convertible without the structural benefit of a fixed metal roof, there has to be extra reinforcement underneath the car to keep the body rigid. It’s a compromise, a question of priorities.

The Cascada brings enjoyable, composed yet sedate open-air cruising, whereas something like a Ford Mustang convertible with a V8 engine could achieve higher rates of acceleration. But that’s really a different kind of car with a greater thirst for gasoline.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Final Thoughts

The 2016 Buick Cascada has this little corner of the automotive market almost to itself. There’s the Golf-based 2016 Volkswagen Eos, with a retractable hard top, but VW says this is the last year of its production run. For a sophomore college student with well-off and generous parents or an older couple of empty-nesters, the Cascada could be an ideal fun little runabout.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors

Pros and Cons

: It’s a convertible, which is its whole reason for existence. It can seat four. And the price is not crazy considering the amount of standard equipment. : So-so fuel economy, interior and performance. No blind spot monitoring available—when the roof is up, that could have been really useful.

 Photo by General Motors

Photo by General Motors


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