What's New for 1996
Styling changes inside and out this year. Dual airbags are new, as are three-point seatbelts mounted to the B-pillar. A new twin-cam engine replaces the 2.3-liter Quad 4, and automatic transmissions include traction control. Air conditioning, a rear window defroster and a tilt wheel are now standard. Long-life engine components round out the long list of improvements.
Give Buick's styling department credit for trying something new. Too bad it didn't work very well. The Skylark's funky curves, creases, bulges and sharp edges inside and out combined to create quite a jarring spectacle. The result? The car was found more often at your local Avis lot than in private driveways.
This year, Buick tones the Skylark down. Front styling is far more conservative, and stylists have done what they could with the rear end. Side moldings are subdued, and now sweep front to rear less dramatically. Inside, the interior has been redone, and looks far more contemporary than last year's bizarre arrangement. Dual airbags are available for the first time, and seatbelts are now anchored to the door pillar rather than the door itself. Combined with a new standard engine, a 2.4-liter twin-cam good for 150 horsepower, and a revised antilock brake system, the Skylark has made a quantum leap in marketability.
Complementing the styling and safety improvements are four new exterior colors and two new interior hues. Air conditioning, tilt steering column, and a rear window defogger are now standard equipment. Wheelcovers and alloy wheels have been restyled. Traction control comes standard this year, and a new four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission replaces last year's standard three-speed. As if all this wasn't enough, a Passlock theft-deterrent system comes on every Skylark.
Until 1996, we found the Skylark to be an aberration, offering little value in the compact class. This year, we've got to change our tune. The Skylark is likely the most improved model for 1996, not counting the radically redesigned Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. We're impressed with this effort from Buick, and think it deserves a look.