Until the Buick Cascada made its debut, GM’s premium brand hadn’t had a convertible for decades. Now it’s going to be without one again. New for 2016, the Cascada will end its run with the 2019 model year.
Nothing significant has changed for the 2019 model year. Buick offers its Cascada in three trim levels: base 1SV, Premium, and Sport Touring.
A relatively small turbocharged engine goes into every Cascada. The 1.6-liter turbo-4 makes 200 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, delivered through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Cascadas come only with front-wheel drive.
Crash-test scores have been reasonably good, but such active-safety features as automatic emergency braking are absent. The NHTSA gave the 2019 Cascada five-star ratings overall and for the side-impact test, but only a four-star score for the frontal collision.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet rated the Cascada for crashworthiness.
Six airbags are standard, including side-impact airbags for rear-seat passengers. Premium and Sport Touring trim levels come with forward-collision warnings, but not automatic emergency braking.
The Cascada is a compact, so its interior space can seem snug. It makes up for that with quite an elegantly appealing body. All Cascadas have a power-folding fabric roof that folds neatly into the trunk, in less than 20 seconds.
Prices do not include $925 destination charge.
Base Cascada 1SV ($33,070) includes leather seat upholstery, heated power front seats, keyless start, a heated steering wheel, 20-inch twin-spoke wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, wi-fi hotspot, and Bluetooth.
Premium ($36,070) adds forward-collision warnings, lane-departure warnings, front/rear parking sensors, foglights, and automatic headlights.
Sport Touring ($37,070) adds sport pedals, a flat-bottom sport steering wheel, unique interior accents, and black pocket wheels.
Unlike some convertibles, Buick’s sharply-styled Cascada looks almost as appealing with its fabric top up, as it does with the roof lowered. Base (1SV) and midrange Premium trim levels rely on abundant but subtly-applied chrome, at both the front and rear ends. The end result is flashy, yet traditional, reflecting Buick’s lengthy heritage.
Topping the lineup, the Sport Touring version omits the chrome pieces. Instead, it features blacked-out body trim.
All Cascadas roll on 20-inch wheels that hold relatively narrow tires.
The cabin shapes look appealing, but the dash has numerous buttons and switches. There seems to be a button for every function. All trim levels are upholstered with handsome leather, though.
Heated front seats are helpfully supportive, with 10-way power adjustments, even in base-model trim. Seats also include two-way lumbar support.
Two adults fit comfortably up front, but rear-seat occupants have less space. Specifically, rear legroom measures 32.8 inches, on the small side. Generously-sized doors make entry and exit easy enough.
Even a golf bag probably won’t fit easily into the trunk, which promises 13.4 cubic feet of cargo volume if the roof is raised. Lower the top and install the trunk partition, and space shrinks to 9.8 cubic feet.
Comfortable top-down cruising is the Cascada’s main attraction. Performance is hampered by a heavy curb weight of just under two tons; the Cascada has a lot of reinforcement added to keep its topless body from shaking.
In ordinary driving, the Cascada never really seems to be in a rush. The powertrain performs adequately, and the Cascada’s 6-speed automatic transmission slows down shifts in the name of smoothness.
Big (20-inch) wheels result in a ride that’s more choppy than smooth. But the Cascada’s steering is accurate and well-weighted. On long highway stretches and glassy-smooth pavement, the Cascada is in its elementâ€”and with the top up, the cabin is quiet.
Compared to most small cars, the Cascada has lower fuel economy. Buick’s convertible is EPA-rated at 21/29 mpg City/Highway, or 24 mpg Combined. Several more expensive European convertibles are thriftier, including the Audi A3 and BMW 4-Series.
Standard equipment abounds in each trim level, but the 2019 Buick Cascada lacks active safety features and performance is canted toward cruising, not handling. The best value is the base model, which includes most of the desirable features.
Driving impressions by Aaron Cole, TheCarConnection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.