2018 Buick Regal Sportback

ok, fine – Hatchback

I picked up this Regal on a hot Saturday afternoon and as I was leaving one of my co-workers said, “Oh, that’s just a Malibu with Buick badges on it.”

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OUCH!  What did that Buick ever do to you?  My employer classifies the Malibu as a full size car while the Regal is considered a one step up premium.  As I sat down in the driver’s seat, I could see the resemblance immediately on the dashboard.  Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the interior of a Lacrosse which I also hope to thoroughly review soon.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the Regal was how abnormally high the seats were for a sedan. After fidgeting with the 8-way power seat with lumbar support, I noticed that the seat was as high as it would go making the interior nearly SUV like in height. My head was less than 2 inches from the roof so the previous renter must have been extraordinarily petite! The absent sunroof would have made that clearance even smaller. I lowered the seats as far as they could go down and couldn’t help but notice how long it took to bottom out. My rough measurements calculated about a 5″ difference between top to bottom of the seat controls.

As a fan of the sheer practicality of hatchbacks and wagons, I’ll never understand the fear of automakers attaching something that could remotely be considered a ‘family car’.  The Chrysler PT Cruiser was absolutely a wagon, but sold like crazy back in the day, yet the more recent Acura TSX wagon only sold by the hundreds.  At one time my family had a 1981 Buick Century Wagon, 1985 Nissan Maxima Wagon, and a 1988 Plymouth Grand Voyager.  Since my parents were self-employed, we were all about the cargo space in the late 1980’s.  I’m not ashamed to admit I’d commit a felony for a free and clear Crystal Black Pearl TSX wagon.  Well, maybe just a misdemeanor.

This particular Regal in Rioja Red Metallic paint was sharp on the outside but lacked a lot on the inside considering it’d be difficult to drive one home at MSRP under $30,000.

20180831_163215_burst01The front fascia was very stately with the prominent Buick logo and well place LED daytime running lamps on the top of the headlights.

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I’d like to think I’m pretty intuitive when it comes to getting accustomed to a new car. I can usually figure out controls, buttons, and knobs within a few minutes, but the trunk/hatch release had me stumped to the point I had to google it. The only way to open the rear was to have all four passenger doors unlocked and to manually press the giant Buick logo down on the trunk. That’s right, there’s no interior release inside the cabin nor on the key fob.

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The sides and back end were. . . we’ll say as well done as possible with so much Malibu influence.  The 8-speed automatic mated to the 250hp engine was very capable for a vehicle of this size and weight plus smooth at all speeds.

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We’ll say a little TOO smooth.  As proven by the cop that pulled me over and gave me a ticket, 71mph was effortless.  I explained I needed a tire balance on my TL and had no idea I was going that fast, but he didn’t care and said that on this particular road, they don’t give it warnings, just tickets.  I have a hot date with a traffic school class sometime in the next 6 weeks.  On this 31st day of the month, I’ll continue to question “police don’t have ticket quotas” with a raised eyebrow.

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As with most cars nowadays, many parts are covered with plastic shielding, even the battery is encased.  I couldn’t help but notice how unusually shiny was the front of the block, almost like a fresh aluminum can.  This particular model has 7300 miles and looks nearly showroom new under the hood sans the dirty black plastic covers.

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The center stack was acceptable, but it’s hard to ignore the climate control did not have an automatic temperature setting, in-dash navigation, nor satellite radio.  This particular Friday was about 90 degrees and cloudy with spurts of bright sun requiring constant reaching for the fan control.  Wow. . . this thing costs how much again?  On a positive note, this was the fastest Bluetooth connection I’d ever had.  The easy to figure out controls allowed search to pair was less than 5 seconds.

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The top of the gear shifter just emphasizes this bare bones model.  Those first 2 blank tabs on the left are for the GS model driving modes, the other 4 are a mystery.  Can we hope they are reserved for a future Grand National model?  I know I know, dream on!

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I found the driver’s seat comfort average in my 75 mile city tour, so it’d be impossible to judge how it’d be on my normal 600-mile rental jaunts.  I had two passengers in the car this time around and the rear passenger said the seats were not comfortable and too low to the ground.  Full disclosure:  she has back issues and very accustomed to her Lexus RX350 seats.  Regardless, being uncomfortable after 2 ten-mile trips is unpleasant by any standard and noteworthy.  The seat material was a disappointment for all 3 of us.  It wasn’t really a cloth material, but more like the common neoprene type fabric that is taking over the automotive world as of late.  Figure a $10,000 premium for a loaded GS model with leather seating.

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The beauty of a hatchback. . . wait. . . Sportback is the huge rear opening for cargo.  There isn’t a suitcase out there that won’t fit into this opening.

Things of note:
Very classy LED daytime running lamps, but old school incandescent headlights
26.6 on my city local trip was expected with the EPA stated 22CITY/32HWY
Nearly $30,000 and no auto climate control, Nav, sunroof, or interior trunk release.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
I know the Buick name commands a premium in China, but unfortunately my co-worker was correct that this is way too similar to a Malibu that’s nearly $5000 less.  I’ll test a Malibu soon to do a more thorough comparison.  The Regal would be a great highway cruiser for 4, but 5 people would be tight.  It’s a great city car if you can ignore the greatly diminishing climate control fan speeds when the engine shuts down at stop lights, but the engine re-start is the smoothest I’ve experienced yet.    The Buick fleet overall is a perennial reliability favorite.
Buick if you’re listening . . .
The 3.6 liter V6 Regal GS is a valiant attempt at enticing a younger customer base, but what could a 2020 Buick Grand National V6 twin turbo do?
On a scale from 1-100: (1-I’d rather eat a kidney – 100-I’ll sell a kidney)
Buy it now – 45
Buy it later at half the current price – 70
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 50
Oooh and ahhh factor – 35
Recommended – (60 to buy / 70 to rent)

 

 

2 thoughts on “2018 Buick Regal Sportback

  1. Sorry to hear about the run in with the law, but it made for a good story at least. Agree with you on the distaste for “blank panels” (like those ones above the shifter) that make a car feel like you’re driving a bare bones base model. Sounds like overall the Regal does what’s intended to do. Does it share underpinnings with the Malibu? Didn’t know that! Nice magnets 🙂

    Like

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