March 1, 2012
The main display doesn’t feature a rear back-up camera, but there are available front and rear audible proximity warnings. It does include a “powerflow” readout to monitor the operation of the hybrid system, supplemented by an analogue “eco” gauge that you can use to better manage your fuel efficient driving style.
2012 Buick Regal eAssist. Click image to enlarge
Interior and exterior styling is pleasant and the Regal is certainly easy to identify with its signature grille, now worn by all Buick vehicles. But for some reason it looks smaller than its competition, even thought the raw numbers don’t necessarily bear this out. It’s a little taller than the Toyota Camry and Hyundai Sonata, but about the same length. Shoulder room inside is a little tighter; front legroom is shorter; rear legroom is longer. Perhaps its style seems more rounded than linear, but the Regal is certainly not a “small” midsize car.
The rear seat folds to reveal a pass-through, rather than an opening that fully extends to the cargo area, and occupants there sit rather high. As with all hybrid sedans, trunk space is compromised by about 25 per cent.
While the interior door handles look sleek and stylish, they are too far away from occupants when the door is opened (it would be better if the handles were inverted). Front and rear mats are standard, but factory winter mats are not available. And a note about the three-position heated front seats: they are quick to heat, and on the high setting, they are hot, indeed!
But it’s the Regal’s handling that represents the car’s high point, in my view, and along with its supportive seats and sporty steering wheel, the on-road driving experience really does recall the precision of European sport sedans. It is, however a much heavier car than its competition, which while contributing to a feeling of solidity, may also impact other driving dynamics.
For instance, although the Regal eAssist can be a pleasure to drive, acceleration is not as lusty as you might want. While it can merge into highway traffic willingly when asked, the Regal’s “sport” credentials are understandably compromised by the eAssist’s “eco” orientation. That would be more acceptable if the Regal eAssist offered killer fuel economy, but out tester was delivered showing an average of 13.2 L/100km. Even after a 120 km highway run, I was only able to bring the combined fuel consumption down to 12.2 L/100 km, according to the Regal’s trip computer.
This is puzzling. A comparative road test in the 2012 Toyota Camry returned 9.5 L/100 km, and a 2011 Hyundai Sonata was able to manage 9.3 L/100 km. These cars aren’t hybrids, don’t forget, so I’m not sure why the Regal eAssist was unable to at least match the fuel efficiency of them.
The 2012 Buick Regal eAssist will come with an OnStar RemoteLink smartphone app that can be used to check a variety of systems and access a number of vehicle functions. The app will permit owners to lock or unlock the doors and check the amount of gas in the tank, among other tasks. OnStar communications is provided free for six months.
Compared with hybrids from Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, the Regal eAssist’s fuel consumption didn’t meet expectations, However, the Regal eAssist is a thoroughly modern Buick that has European road manners, up-to-date connectivity and luxury level appointments.
Pricing: 2012 Buick Regal eAssist
Crash test results