What's New for 1997
Side-impact standards are met, and standard equipment lists are enhanced. Series II Coupe gets new alloy wheels, and the lineup has been simplified.
When one of our staffers got married last May, old college buddies traveled together to Cape Cod for the ceremony. At Boston's Logan airport, Avis provided them with a 1996 Oldsmobile Achieva sedan, which they promptly nicknamed the "Acheesa." What do they drive back home in Michigan? One has a 1995 Honda Accord EX, another drives a 1992 Ford Explorer, and the third owns a ragged 1987 Ford Taurus LX. Complaints revolved around uncomfortable seats, a cramped interior, a loud engine, and dissatisfactory interior materials. Granted, none of these guys weighed less than 200 pounds, and all of them were at least six-feet tall, but they just couldn't stop making fun of Oldsmobile's smallest sedan.
Our assessment of the Achieva is not much different. Sitting in the Achieva you are faced with simple, large analog gauges and controls that are placed where they can easily be found and operated. A high beltline and restrictive greenhouse result in an unpleasant, enclosed feeling. Open and airy this car is not. The oversize steering wheel makes the inside of the Achieva feel even smaller, and overly grippy seat fabric seems to want to hold you in the Achieva whether you want to stay or not. The back seat is tiny and difficult to access.
This year, Oldsmobile strengthens side-impact protection to meet federal standards. The lineup is simplified to two trim levels, and the standard equipment roster is upgraded with the addition of an automatic transmission, larger touring tires, power exterior mirrors, and driver's side adjustable lumbar support. Series II coupes get new cross-lace alloy wheels.
Overall, the Achieva is a much better car than it has ever been. It provides excellent value in the compact segment. However, we think a Mercury Mystique, Volkswagen Jetta or Honda Civic would be far more satisfactory to own than this Oldsmobile.