Used 1996 Oldsmobile Ciera Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

Best-seller prepares for retirement at the end of the year, receiving badge revisions, some additional standard equipment and an improved optional V6 engine.

Vehicle overview

First introduced in 1982, the Ciera is pretty much the same car as it was 14 years ago, inside and out. A mild freshening of the exterior several years ago didn't help the Ciera march into the '90s with any sense of contemporary style, and our opinion is that the Ciera is ready to be retired from the Oldsmobile lineup.

One glitch in that plan; the Ciera is Oldsmobile's hottest seller. More than 100,000 Cieras find their way out of GM's Oklahoma City assembly plant every year, and sales haven't tapered off in quite a while. And so it remains in the lineup, possibly to be replaced by a modern design in 1997. What is the current Ciera's secret recipe for success? It certainly isn't obvious.

Crash tests prove the Ciera to be a relatively safe car, but it only comes with a driver's side airbag; a passenger-side airbag is unavailable. Antilock brakes are standard, but the Ciera does not meet 1997 side impact standards. A dedication to safety features is not what sells the Ciera.

Uadventurous styling renders the car invisible on the excitement meter, and the interior is about as close to numbingly dull as it gets. The dash is reasonably functional, but many of the controls look like they were pilfered from the Chevette parts bin. The seats are mushy and unsupportive. Style and comfort are not what sell the Ciera.

Prices for the anemic four-cylinder sedan start around $14,500, and a top-of-the-line V6 station wagon goes for less than $19,000. The Ciera is reasonably roomy, decently reliable, and carries a fair-sized load of cargo, at prices that reek of value. Ahhh, so this is what sells the Ciera.

New reasons for those buyers to swoop into Oldsmobile showrooms in 1996 include groundbreaking improvements like simplified exterior badging and fresh colors. Storage armrests, better speakers and a cassette player are now standard items. Long-life spark plugs, and improvements to the optional V6 round out the changes to the Ciera this year.

We think buyers would be better off shopping Dodge Stratus, Ford Contour or Chevy Lumina in this price range. So the Olds is a good value; we think the more modern machinery will make you happier in the long run, unless you're one of the few who really needs a mid-sized wagon. The Ciera, and its corporate twin the Century, are the least expensive mid-size wagons on the market

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.