By Bob Nagy
KBB Expert Rating: 8.4
The new 2016 Buick Cascada is the first convertible to grace the division’s product portfolio in a quarter century. Based on an existing model of the same name from General Motors' German subsidiary, Opel, the Buick version benefits from significant upgrades that add more content, enhance refinement, and improve handling. This compact, front-wheel-driver is a surprisingly roomy 2+2 available in two trim grades: base (1SV) and Premium. Both are fitted with an enthusiastic 200-horspower/1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and come with a comprehensive array of standard features to complement their decidedly sophisticated and sporty character. Although lacking the cache and a few advanced tech touches of rivals like the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series Cabriolets, the Cascada represents an attractive, high-value alternative for budget-conscious droptop fans of all ages.
Anyone looking for a well-finished, feature-rich convertible that looks sharp, drives well and is attractively priced for the exceptional content level it offers will find the new Cascada well worth consideration.
Derived from a 3-year-old Opel, the Buick Cascada does lack several of the latest electronic touches found on its divisional siblings, including push-button starting and blind-spot warning as well as smartphone connectivity using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. While the Cascada’s handling is more than competent, it’s far from a 4-seat Mazda MX-5.
KBB Expert Ratings
Based on an Opel model already on sale in Europe, the Buick Cascada is the division’s first convertible model in 25 years and introduces its own unique blend of youthful style and charm to the lineup.
Although not a hard-core corner carver, the Cascada is a genuinely engaging ride that should have no trouble pleasing buyers in search of a vehicle that offers sporty character to...
... match its Euro-flavored appearance. Designed from the start as a convertible, this new Buick boasts an extremely rigid structure that minimizes cowl shake and serves as a solid foundation for its HiPer Strut front suspension and space-saving Z-link rear setup. Coupled with responsive electric power steering and an aggressive 20-inch wheel/tire package, that combination gives the Cascada an impressive mix of comfort and control with minimal torque steer. The turbo-4 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission work well together and endow the car with quickness that belies its 3,979-pound presence while the anti-lock brakes do an equally credible job of serving up drama-free stops.
POWER-ACTIVATED SOFT TOP
Well fitted and well designed, the new Cascada’s full-power, multilayer fabric top does a superb job of sealing out noise as well as the elements. The top can be cycled up or down in just 17 seconds at up to 31 mph, and tucks away neatly beneath a hard tonneau cover.
EASY REAR-SEAT ENTRY/EXIT SYSTEM
The Cascada’s standard 8-way power front bucket seats automatically slide fore and aft when the seatback is moved to facilitate rear-seat access. They also incorporate a nifty feature that stops rearward travel and slides the seat an inch ahead when sensors in the seatback encounter a rear-passenger’s knees.
Nicely detailed and well appointed, the Cascada’s leather-lined cabin can be criticized a bit for displaying a few dated design details. However, it’s impressively roomy for a 2+2, and the car’s individual fold-down rear seats will accommodate a pair of average-size adults if its well-formed, 8-way power front seats also are carrying similarly scaled occupants. Although Buick’s signature Quiet Tuning is most evident with the top up, sound levels and wind buffeting remain commendably low even when the Cascada is running in al fresco mode. However, flipping its lid does trim the car’s generous 13.4 cubic-foot trunk capacity to a still-serviceable 9.8 cubic feet.
Save for minor cosmetic detailing on the grille, lighting elements and rolling stock, the Buick Cascada’s styling is virtually identical to its Opel-badged alter ego. But that’s hardly a bad thing. Open or closed, the new Cascada’s cleanly styled convertible bodywork and well-rendered top treatment ensure great curb appeal from virtually any angle. Save for unique finishes, the standard Cascada and Premium variant fill their nicely flared wheel arches with 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels wrapped in beefy 245/40 all-season tires.
To enhance the Cascada’s appeal, both the base and the Premium variant come with a bounty of upline features that complement the excellent soft top, and a full range of power assists. Highlighting that formidable roster are auto-controlled high-intensity headlights, heat-reflective leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and seats, Buick's IntelliLink system with a 7.0-inch color display, OnStar with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi hotspot, Siri Eyes Free for iOS phones, a navigation system, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, Rear Park Assist, electric seatbelt presenters, dual 12V powerpoints, and spring-loaded/pyrotechnically activated popup rollover bars behind the rear seat linked to the car’s seatbelt system.
Options are a relative commodity on the Cascada. Save for a few extra-cost exterior colors, both versions of the Cascada convertible are mono-spec offerings. The only upgrades are included on the Cascada Premium model that adds Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, front as well as rear Park Assist, tunnel detection for the automatic headlight control, Rainsense automatic wipers, front/rear air deflectors, and a unique “diamond graphic” finish on the wheels.
There’s just one powertrain in both Cascada variants, a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that drives the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Part of GM’s new-generation Ecotec family, this free-revving four boasts direct injection and continuously variable valve timing that help it turn out 200 horsepower – a heady 125 horsepower per liter. It also develops 207 lb-ft of torque from 1,800-4,500 rpm, which can be cranked up to 221 lb-ft in 10-second bursts thanks to an overboost function. A remapping of throttle response also helps enhance the car’s pleasantly brisk acceleration. The modest downside to that enthusiasm is fuel economy. With EPA ratings of 20/27 city/highway mpg, the Cascada falls well shy of best in class.
1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4
200 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,500 rpm (221 lb-ft @ 2,200-4,000 rpm w/overboost)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg
The 2016 Buick Cascada starts just under $34,000 in base 1SV trim, while the Premium model with its more comprehensive selection of active/passive driver assists opens at the slightest nudge under $37,000. That latter figure is roughly where the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series convertibles commence and while domestic droptop alternatives like the Ford Mustang and upcoming Chevy Camaro may start lower, neither of those models include standards like leather, power seats and navigation, items that further burnish the Cascada’s overall value story. KBB has not yet established a Fair Purchase Price or a 5-year Cost to Own figure for the new Cascada. As for residuals, after five years, the new Cascada is projected to retain a slightly larger percentage of its original value than an Audi A3 Cabriolet, but fall slightly behind the BMW 2 Series and Ford Mustang droptop models.