After a string of successes in recent years that has revitalized its brand, Buick is venturing into the convertible market for the first time in 25 years with the introduction of its Cascada mid-size car. It’s a curious time to be jumping into the convertible market, which has been relatively dormant recently with three automakers withdrawing their offerings.
But Buick sees that as an opportunity for its new model. The Cascada (pronounced Kahs-kah-da – Spanish for waterfall), was unveiled to journalists in Key West and Miami, Fla.
Other automakers decided it just wasn’t worth it to make convertibles anymore. They include Volkswagen, which pulled its Eos, Chrysler, which withdrew its 200 convertible and Volvo, which yanked its C70. Buick officials at the unveiling in Florida said they saw that as the opportune time to unveil this drop top.
The Cascada is new to the USA, but it has been alive overseas for about three years, being sold as the Opel Cascada in Europe. The Holden and Vauxhall brands also sold versions of the car in other parts of the world.
The Cascada has attractive, but not ground-breaking, looks. It catches attention probably mostly because to see a new convertible model on the roads these days is so infrequent. Its lines aren’t dramatic, but they’re mildly chiseled.
The interior looks all Buick. It has a neat center dash arrangement of controls for climate, audio and more that drivers of other recent Buick models will find quite familiar.
Interior seating is comfortable up front, with a surprising amount of width and adequate leg room and head room. Rear seating is pretty snug, but not too many people buy convertibles so they can tote other folks around in the back seat.
The Cascada is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 200 horsepower. That power plant is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive. Driving dynamics are solid, if not spectacular. Acceleration is pretty effortless and handling and braking leave you with no complaints. Mind you, it might not drive quite like the convertibles offered by the German luxury brands, but the Cascada isn’t truly in competition with them – it seems to have a niche of its own.
Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city, 27 highway, which isn’t bad considering this is a convertible, making it heavier than similarly sized cars because of the mechanisms needed to operate the roof. Operating the roof is done with just the push of a button and can be completed in about 17 seconds, Buick officials said. It can also be done at speeds of up to about 30 mph.
Buick officials say they’re trying to get a safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which typically does not rate convertibles. But the company is confident the Cascada would score well. That’s despite the fact that there is no blind spot monitoring, which could be an issue when the top is up.
Buick has priced the Cascada starting at around $34,000, with it topping out at about $37,000. That’s not bad, and with the demographic that this car is likely aimed at, it should keep it competitive in the market.
Buick officials were wise to acknowledge that this vehicle won’t be a high volume item, but what they hope to achieve is greater recognition for the brand. Drawing in some curious folks with the convertible, then selling them a crossover or sedan, is not a bad thing.