It’s easy to see why many buyers are fleeing midsize cars in favor of crossovers. A crossover provides more cargo room and available all-wheel-drive at an affordable price, along with steadily improving driving dynamics and fuel economy.
But if you prefer the looks or the lower seating position of a sedan, you’ll want to check out the new 2018 Buick Regal Sportback.
The Regal Sportback is a five-door hatchback that’s disguised as a sedan and that offers all-wheel-drive. A little trunk lid sticks out behind the rear windshield, but the metal and glass all lift up as one piece. This design opens up a large, open cargo hold — unlike the closed-off trunk of a sedan — to provide greater cargo flexibility and total volume.
The five-door midsize hatchback is a common body style in Europe, and in fact Buick sourced the Regal Sportback from Opel, General Motors’ former European subsidiary. In the U.S., the most popular vehicles in this style are luxury cars: the Audi A5 Sportback and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, which cost over $10,000 more than a comparably-equipped Regal. But on the outside, the Regal looks like a true premium car, with subtly elegant lines and no garish details.
On the inside, the Regal feels more like its base price of $25,915. There’s lots of plastic trim that looks and feels budget-grade — it’s not terrible, but you wouldn’t mistake it for an Audi. Similarly, the leather upholstery on the tested $35,615 Essence version feels more sturdy than fancy.
The interior’s design and layout just looks like a pleasant but ordinary family sedan, without any of the dazzling technology or design details that you’d find at a higher price point. Even a few modern family sedans, in fact, feel more luxury-grade and cutting-edge. The good news: The Regal has user-friendly controls and room for five.
The Regal’s driving dynamics are in line with the interior: pleasant but not amazing. Given the car’s European pedigree and standard 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, one might think it could be a sporty vehicle. Indeed, last year’s Regal (sold only as a four-door sedan) was unexpectedly frisky on a winding road.
But the 2018 Regal has a more sedate experience, without the tautness you’d find in an Audi or even a Honda Accord. That’s not to say it’s like a big couch on wheels, in line with old Buick stereotypes. It feels fairly compact and decently composed, just not zesty.
Meanwhile, the four-cylinder engine that’s standard on all but the top-of-the-line Regal GS doesn’t get super-thrifty gas mileage. It’s rated for 26 mpg with front-wheel-drive and 24 mpg with all-wheel-drive, on premium fuel. That’s not unreasonable among midsize cars with around 250 horsepower, but most of the others let you also choose a more economical smaller engine.
The Regal GS, priced from $39,995, adds a V6 engine and some suspension enhancements to offer greater performance. Its fuel economy falls to just 22 mpg, though on regular fuel.
The Regal Sportback has a sticker price that’s several thousand dollars more than a comparably-equipped midsize sedan. Furthermore, pricing site Truecar.com says that dealers aren’t budging too much yet on the price, compared to $4,000 to $5,000 on a Ford Fusion or Chevrolet Malibu. Big discounts on the Acura TLX sedan can also bring that model’s posh interior down below the Regal’s price point.
But if you’re interested in a hatchback body style or all-wheel-drive, the Regal Sportback is a pleasant option you won’t want to miss. Shop it against the all-new Kia Stinger, which is the only other midsize hatchback available for less than $4,000; the Kia tries to look and feel more sporty and aggressive, compared to the quiet Regal.
Lastly, note that the 2018 Regal is also available as a station wagon called the TourX, which adds even more cargo space to compete with the Subaru Outback.