Most Americans seem to have an aversion to hatchbacks and yet they buy SUVs and crossovers in the millions….. reality check folks …..they all have a hatchback mechanism to open the trunk. Offer up an alternative name, however, and it becomes cool and not a car for college students. Hatchbacks don’t sell well (except for niche sporting models) because they have a persistent image problem in a status-symbol world. Hatchbacks will always define the cheap end of the car-buying scale. Buick has taken a page from the German book of car design by redesigning the Regal and adding a hatchback, but calling it a Sportback. Sure it looks like a sedan and has a trunk lid complete with a fake shut line that seems like a conventional one but opens a massive hatch to reveal enough space for almost everything including the kitchen sink. Put the seats flat, throw in a dog bed and two 90 lb dogs have room to travel. Put the seats back back up and you have acres of room for 6 footers to romp around in. There’s more space because it’s 2.7 inches longer than its predecessor and has a wheelbase that is 3.6 inches wider. It’s also been lowered by just over an inch and the end result is a very good looking car indeed.
Under the hood is the familiar 2.0-liter turbo-four with 250 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque in the front drive version, in the all-wheel-drive versions this jumps to 295 lb-ft. Power is routed through a beautifully smooth nine-speed transmission which has virtually imperceptible shifts even when downshifting. In a week of driving our 2018 Buick Regal I never found a situation where I thought it didn’t have enough power and that’s right after I had spent a week with the tremendous Audi RS 3.
Buick doesn’t publish acceleration numbers but after a day of driving I estimated a 0-60 time of around 6.5 seconds. How wrong was I…….with test gear attached, traction control off and revs set to 2,500 rpm I launched. This first run got me to 60 mph in six seconds flat so I turned around and took another run. This time I set the rpm at 3,000 and mashed the throttle into the carpet. The front wheels spun for a second and the Buick took off eventually reaching 60 mph in a very impressive 5.68 seconds.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter exhibits almost no turbo lag and has plenty power available in all of the rev range, making passing a fairly simple affair. In some cases, however, the transmission won’t drop into a lower gear unless you plant your right foot and activate the kick-down switch. It was a small thing and I only needed it on a couple of occasions. Steering is light but direct, and despite having the front drive model, grip from the Continentals is decent. The Regal has the new Continental ContiSilent tires which use a polyurethane foam inside tire to reduce road noise…..and it works. You can tell the Regal Sportback has been engineered for quietness, in fact it’s so quiet you really notice. Laminated glass as well as under hood baffles and NVH insulation pads keep most of the engine noise subdued, but even when you push it the 2.0 turbo sounds pretty good and never strained. Above all, ride quality is superb being neither too stiff nor too soft, balanced enough to soak up San Diego’s miserable pot holes and also provide a very comfortable highway ride. The only problem I could find is there is no way to turn off the stop/start system. It’s not that it’s a bad system more that you can’t come to a stop and then creep forward without the engine shutting off. The GM system is one of the best I have used but I would still like the ability to turn it off on occasion.
The materials on the most-expensive Essence trim that we had are mostly soft to the touch on the door panels, armrest and dash, with some harder plastics lurking below knee level but all in all it’s a nice place to be. The front seats are comfortable and had power and memory functionality, always a useful feature when that giant basketball player friend borrows your car. Our tester came with ebony leather seats and a shale dash with accents, a much better option than all black. The 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is flush-mounted into the dash and offers a one stop shop for HVAC, Navigation, Phone and Media and is very easy to use. Options on my tester included safety features like cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert, forward automatic braking, lane keep assist, front pedestrian braking and adaptive cruise control. In a US first, as standard, the Regal comes with an active hood system engineered to help reduce injuries to pedestrians in frontal crashes. Using sensors located behind the grille, the system senses imminent impact with a pedestrian at speeds between 16 and 30 miles per hour. At the instant of impact, pyrotechnic actuators like in an airbag, fire to lift the rear of the hood four inches. This provides a cushion on which the pedestrian lands. Thankfully we were not able to test this.
The new Regal Sportback certainly exceeded my expectations, it’s an extremely comfortable, fun-to-drive car that isn’t sporty but offers supreme quietness and I never once minded getting stuck in traffic. When I wanted to go quickly it delivered and will attack corners with vigor, and although it’s not an out and out sporting machine, it’s still very enjoyable. The result is a car that is way more premium than its price suggests, our top of the line 2018 Buick Regal FWD Essence coming in at a shade over $35K……a serious bargain. If this one isn’t thrilling enough for you then wait for the 310 hp GS model that arrives in February for $39,990. I can’t wait to drive that one.
2018 Buick Regal Numbers
|VEHICLE TYPE:||Front-engine, front wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback|
|PRICE AS TESTED:||$35,615|
|ENGINE TYPE:||Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS:||9-speed automatic with manual shifting mode|
|CARGO VOLUME:||32 cu ft, 60.7 ft³ with seats folded|
|CURB WEIGHT:||3,707 lb (mfr)|
|ZERO TO 60 mph:||5.68 seconds|
|TOP SPEED:||130 mph|
|OUR OBSERVED:||23.7 mpg|
|PROS:||Faster than expected, super smooth transmission, quiet, refined|
|CONS:||Undefeatable stop/start system, premium fuel only|