2011 Buick Regal fun, but not spacious

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal (Credit: GM)

For 2011, the Regal name has returned to Buick's lineup in the form of a midsize sedan. The 2011 Regal is a good-looking car that seats five, but I found it wasn't a good fit for my family of four.

The Regal felt cramped in the front row, but the backseat offered my boys a little more breathing room. However, they struggled with recessed seat belt buckles that made it impossible for them to buckle up independently.

The performance category is where the Regal really shined. This little Buick is fast! Without any clues that it would be so spry -- no rumbling engine noises or vibrating gearshift -- the Regal blasted down the freeway, ramping up to 80 mph before I was even aware it had done so. My test car, the Regal CXL Turbo, had an impressive turbocharged engine, and the Regal's handling was just as impressive. The CXL Turbo has an optional adaptive suspension that automatically adapts to road conditions and driving style. This system has three modes -- Normal, Tour and Sport -- and it modifies the suspension, gas pedal, automatic transmission and steering.

The Regal is a performance car in a Buick body. Once again, it proves that the new generation of Buick is nothing like what your grandpa has been driving.

The non-turbo Regal base model starts at $26,245, while my test car cost $31,975.

Exterior

The Regal is not a show-stopper. None of my neighbors, friends or family fawned over the Regal the same way they would a loaded minivan or trouble-inducing coupe.

The lack of attention made me feel lukewarm about the car. I wanted to tell people how fun Regal is to drive and how surprisingly spacious the trunk is. I wanted to point out the sporty details intended to set the Regal apart from other Buicks. I especially liked the horizontal lines inset near the fog lights, which were even further defined by a chrome perimeter. In the back, the Regal was highly sculpted with scrolling lines created by a shapely trunklid. More chrome touches and the slight slope of an integrated spoiler also made the Regal's eat-my-dust view more interesting.

Luxury touches like power heated side mirrors, the keyfob's push-button trunk release and ultrasonic rear parking assist were conveniences that I'd expect to see in a Buick, so they didn't do much to impress me.

My two school-age boys had no problems getting into and out of the Regal, which was great because we all had problems once we got settled inside the sedan.

The Regal's 220-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is optional. The Regal gets an EPA-estimated 18/28 mpg city/highway and uses regular gasoline. Its 18-gallon gas tank made sure that fuel fill-ups wouldn't cramp my already loaded schedule. The CXL Turbo can also run on E85 ethanol, but it lowers the car's fuel economy numbers to 13/21 mpg.

The base Regal has a 182-hp, 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder that gets 19/30 mpg and uses regular gas.

Sense and style

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

Interior

The Regal's interior was too close for comfort. Although it had plenty of luxurious touches, I felt claustrophobic in it. Perhaps the wrap-around dash was hugging me a bit too closely.

The Regal has standard heated leather seats and a dual-zone climate control system with air filtration. I didn't notice the air filtration system when I was test-driving the Regal, but I did the next week when I test-drove a car that didn't have a similar system. Without a filtration system, I couldn't stop sneezing.

The Regal's power-adjustable driver's seat and tilt/telescoping steering wheel helped me customize my driver's side fit while the XM Satellite Radio kept my hubby entertained. The optional navigation system kept the kids focused on where we were on the map. I was surprised that the nav system didn't include a backup camera, especially since the LCD screen atop the dash was capable of displaying various bits of vehicle data as well as DVD movies. It certainly could have displayed the rear view just as well. This five-seat sedan also has a power sunroof, but its average size didn't thrill me.

It felt like my boys had more space in the backseat than I had in the front row. The Regal has two cupholders and some storage in the fold-down armrest that they put to good use.

When I opened up the trunk, I realized where the front row's space went. There was plenty of room in the never-ending cargo area that looked like it was built for golf bags. This trunk could swallow a lot of kids' gear without any complaints.

The little things

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Safety

The 2011 Regal has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in front-, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests as well as have a standard electronic stability system.

The Regal also has standard four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, front-wheel drive and six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front row and side curtains for both rows.

Buick offers side-impact airbags for the second row that are optional. The Regal comes with a six-month free trial of OnStar, a communication system. It then becomes a subscription-based service.

This sedan has five lower Latch anchors with two sets in the outboard seats and one anchor in the middle position. These anchors were buried beneath the seat cushions and really frustrating to use. They were so frustrating that they kept me from using the Latch system with my boys' booster seats. My boys had problems buckling up independently because of the Regal's recessed seat belt buckles in the backseat. Recessed seat belt receptors meant I had to revert back to toddler-dom with my older children and help them both buckle in every single time we got in the car.

In MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check of the 2011 Regal, the testers found that a forward- and rear-facing convertible as well as a rear-facing infant-safety seat fit well in the sedan.

© 2011, Cars.com

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