Review: Buick Cascada fills the droptop gap – USA TODAY

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USA TODAY’s Chris Woodyard gets behind the wheel of the new 2016 Buick Cascada.

MALIBU, Calif. — These are tough times for convertibles.

Except for a handful of performance, luxury cars or subcompacts, most of the mainstream models have disappeared. With its new Cascada, Buick is filling the gap. And the gambit appears to be paying off: In the first few months that Cascada has been on sale, 64% of buyers are coming from other brands, Buick says.

Cascada (pronounced Cas-CAH-dah) is a compact droptop that has no coupe counterpart. It’s powered by a fuel-thrifty 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 200 horsepower. Yet it has the silky-smooth ride and quiet that drivers have come to expect from Buick, and is loaded with nifty features.

Even though it feels distinctly American, filling the convertible gap left by the likes of Chrysler’s 200, Cascada is actually a European import. It’s made by General Motors’ Opel division in Poland.

Driving around the hills above Malibu on a picture-perfect day, it’s easy to remember what’s so wonderful about convertibles. Wind blows through your hair, a blue sky and wispy clouds unfold overhead and you can greet bicyclists or walkers as you pass by them on a country road.

Cascada makes it easy. One of its most appealing features is the ability to put its fabric roof up or down at the touch of a button while driving along at speeds up to 31 miles per hour. We tried it multiple times and the system worked flawlessly.

To a large extent, Cascada is going to be sold based on the number of standard features it offers. Even though it’s a convertible that excels in spring and summer, those extras appear aimed at fending off cold weather. They include heated steering wheel and seats, and remote start.

There are some quirky features as well. To open the trunk, you push the Buick emblem on the back of the car. Maybe not terribly intuitive, but it sure is easy. Once the trunk is open, a second set of taillights appears underneath so other drivers can still see the Cascada on a darkened highway.

Even though the car felt like a traditional Buick as we drove it, there were some elements that are distinctly European. The power door lock button, for instance, is on the center console. And at a time when automakers are trying to unclutter their dashboards to relieve driver distraction, the Cascada’s center console was a maze of buttons.

Another nit: Settling deeply into Cascada’s comfortable front seats, the sides of the car seem relatively high. That might be a problem for some shorter drivers. Also, the rear seat is cramped — although Cascada isn’t meant to be the family car.

Buick doesn’t see much competition for Cascada. The primary one is Audi with its A3 Cabriolet. Cascada is priced at $33,990 to start, including destination fees, about $3,000 less than the Audi. There’s also a more upscale version of the Cascada at $36,990 that adds a lot of nice safety gear, including forward collision alert, lane-departure warnings and parking assist.

To buyers of the Cascada, what will really matter is that there’s still a way to put the top down on a car and enjoy a drive on a pretty day.

What Stands Out

Droptop: Top can go up or down as you drive.

Quiet: It’s a Buick. Shhhh.

Fun: Wind in your hair. What a concept!

2016 Buick Cascada

What? A nifty compact convertible

When? In showrooms now

Where? Built in Poland

How much: $33,990 to start, including $925 in shipping charges

What makes it go? A zippy 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission

How big: 15.4 feet

How thirsty: 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg overall

Overall: Pure fun on four wheels

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