The 2018 Buick Cascada returns for another year as the most appealing convertible of its kind. With four reasonably useful back seats, a comparably low price and an emphasis on comfort, the Cascada certainly satisfies a niche. The thing is, though, it’s easy to be the top dog when there’s only a pair of cats and a goldfish living in the same house. There’s just nothing else like the Cascada out there, which may be good for Buick, but it does limit your like-to-like choices.
Indeed, the Cascada’s competitors are either smaller, more performance oriented, more expensive or some combination thereof. Admittedly, the Cascada’s trunk and back seat wouldn’t be what we’d typically consider spacious, but in the drop-top realm, they’re actually quite good. At the same time, other similarly sized and equipped convertibles from luxury makers can cost tens of thousands more.
So, for the right buyer, this Buick could be the default choice. However, we don’t need to tell you that "default" does not equal "great." For starters, the Cascada isn’t really a Buick at all. It’s built in Poland and imported from General Motors’ former European Opel division. This is a problem for multiple reasons. First, it might have been introduced in the United States for 2016, but it was new to Europe three years prior (and based on even older vehicle architecture). Second, it might wear a Buick badge, but its Opel styling and interior design remain. Its antiquated, button-excessive center control stack in particular separates it from Buick’s other models in terms of design, feature content and functionality. And finally, be it age or just a lack of refinement, the Cascada’s jiggling and shaking over bumps is reminiscent of much older convertibles.
This Buick convertible is therefore a very imperfect car, but it may also be the only shoe that fits.
What’s New for 2018?
The Cascada gets new paint and roof colors for 2018.
What We Like
Ample standard equipment; large-enough back seat; smooth ride; one of the few convertibles around
What We Don’t
Jiggles and shakes over bumps; ridiculous amount of interior buttons; old-school technology; expectedly small trunk space
The Cascada offers one engine: a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Available only with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission, it returns 21 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Buick Cascada offers three trim levels: base, Premium and Sport Touring
The base-level Cascada ($33,100) touts a surprisingly long list of standard equipment that includes a power soft-top, 20-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, remote ignition, heated 8-way power front seats, heat-reflective leather upholstery, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, OnStar emergency communications, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, the 7-in touchscreen interface, one USB port and a 7-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Step up to the Premium ($36,100), and you get forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, front parking sensors, interior wind deflectors and a navigation system.
The new Sport Touring trim ($37,100) only adds a flat-bottom steering wheel, special wheels and unique paint choices. The Cascada doesn’t offer any options.
Standard on all models are pop-up roll bars, rear parking sensors, front-side airbags, a driver-knee airbag, antilock brakes and a rearview camera. Drivers who step up to the Premium trim will be rewarded with forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning and front parking sensors. We only wish the Cascada offered a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert, as both can be important for convertibles given their notoriously large blind spots.
The federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Cascada a 5-star overall crash rating, plus four stars for frontal impacts and a 5-star side-impact rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash-tested it.
Behind the Wheel
Despite the fact that the Cascada isn’t a high-performance convertible, we were impressed with its sporty handling characteristics — something we weren’t expecting from a car focused more on relaxed, top-down style. Admittedly, the 200-hp engine doesn’t provide much performance, as it’s burdened by a rather hefty curb weight. The Cascada also tends to jiggle excessively over bumps (known as cowl shake), which is something that has been greatly reduced or eliminated altogether in other convertibles.
On the road, the Cascada is quiet and smooth, with a relaxed, supple ride. With the top up, there’s surprisingly little wind noise for a convertible. Top up or down, the interior is a little cramped for larger drivers, though the back seats are surprisingly large (while still not exactly roomy) for a car this size.
To us, the Cascada’s biggest disappointment is its technology, which is no surprise considering that this car actually went on sale more than 5 years ago in foreign markets. It certainly feels old, with the center control stack cluttered by a multitude of buttons and a traditional key — rather than now-common push-button starting — to start the engine. Buick’s otherwise user-friendly IntelliLink system is also saddled with a smaller touchscreen than you’ll find in other Buicks, and its placement deep within a cowl can make it difficult to reach.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Audi A3 Convertible — Audi’s soft-top A3 Cabriolet convertible is more expensive than the Cascada, and it offers less standard equipment, but it boasts a stiffer structure, a higher-end cabin and better driving dynamics.
2018 Volkswagen Beetle — The Beetle is smaller and has a lower base price than the Cascada, but it’s also more modern on the inside and zippier to drive. Even if its retro styling isn’t your first choice, it’s still a pretty good convertible.
2018 Ford Mustang Convertible — Admittedly, the Mustang is a fundamentally different type of car than the Cascada. However, given the Buick’s price and available feature content, there are only so many convertibles to compare it with.
Used Audi A5 Convertible — The A5 convertible offers more interior room than the Cascada, along with better available performance and optional all-wheel drive. Prices are steep, though, so you may want to consider a used model.
We’d go with the base-level Cascada. It offers an abundance of equipment and reasonable pricing, and we’re not sure if the Premium model’s additional features justify its price increase.