Is China’s latest Buick our next Skyhawk?
Built by GM’s Chinese joint venture—Shanghai GM—the 2011 Buick Excelle GT compact sedan (above) will be available in China with either a 108 hp 1.8-litre four or 181 hp 1.6-litre turbo four. The sedan joins an existing five-door hatchback model.
In regards to meeting Buick’s previous small car standards, the Excelle should be an improvement.
The last Buick compact was the 1989 Skyhawk (left), a badge-engineered Chevy Cavalier that started life as a badge-engineered Chevy Vega in 1974 (right)—two of the hoariest, most dreadful platforms ever to emerge from Detroit, and a big reason why Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas and Mazda3s rule the top of the Canadian sales charts today.
But I digress...
Without a bit of irony, in the U.S., the original Skyhawk replaced the imported Opel Manta. And this latest small Buick, like the majority of the current sedans, shares a lot with its European cousins.
While previous Skyhawks were available in a variety of body styles, from two-door hatchbacks to station wagons, the Excelle is strictly a five-passenger, four-door sedan. Underneath, the Excelle’s nuts and bolts comes from GM’s global compact platform that supports the Opel Astra, as well as the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedan coming to Canada this fall.
But here’s the rub: Will GM do enough to differentiate the Excelle—or whatever it’s going to be called here in Canada—from the mainstream Cruze?
Will it offer enough powertrain or feature differentiation over the Chevy to take on the likes of other premium compact sedans like the new 2011 VW Jetta, Acura CSX, or Volvo S40?
Or is the small Buick simply a way to keep all those former Pontiac dealers happy who don’t have a Sunfire to sell anymore?