Compact car; Built in USA
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $2,100*


1996 Buick Skylark GS 2-door coupe


1992 Buick Skylark 2-door coupe


1993 Buick Skylark Gran Sport 4-door sedan


1992 Buick Skylark interior


1992 Buick Skylark interior

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Automatic-transmission performance
Cons:
  • Instrument cluster (early models)
  • Noise
  • Rear-seat entry/exit
  • Steering/handling (base suspension)

Riding and handling better than prior Skylarks, this more modern Buick can still be a sensible choice, despite loud engines and poor insulation.

Overview

Buick redesigned its front-drive compact for 1992, with striking “new age” styling. Wheelbase was the same as before, but overall length grew by 9 inches. Oldsmobile’s Achieva and Pontiac’s Grand Am, on the same platform, look totally different. Base and Gran Sport (GS) editions came in 2- and 4-door sedan body styles. Base models got a Quad OHC 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine; Gran Sports, a 3.3-liter V6. All Skylarks had antilock brakes, power door locks, and a split folding rear seat. Instead of an airbag, Skylarks had GM’s door-mounted front seatbelts, which could be left buckled for automatic deployment.

Yearly Updates

1993 Skylark
Adjustable Ride Control dropped to an option, as Gran Sports adopted a Gran Touring suspension. A stripped entry-level model joined the line, along with a midlevel Limited–equivalent to the ’92 base model. Gran Sport coupes and sedans again topped the line. The base Quad OHC engine lost 5 horsepower. New features included a child-height anchor for the rear shoulder belt.
1994 Skylark
A 3.1-liter V6 replaced the 3.3-liter, as Skylarks added a driver-side airbag and optional 4-speed automatic transmission.
1995 Skylark
Skylarks got a new Quad 4 base engine with plenty of zest: 150 horsepower, to be precise. A new tubular rear axle put springs and shock absorbers on the same line as the back wheels. Automatic-transmission fluid now was supposed to last 100,000 miles.
1996 Skylark
A passenger-side airbag arrived for 1996, along with toned-down styling and a larger Twin Cam base engine. This latest version gained a new grille, hood, and headlamps, resulting in an appearance more closely related to other Buick models. The dashboard had a more traditional layout than the prior one, which had been criticized for oddly placed gauges and controls.
1997 Skylark
Given the extensive modifications made last year, the 1997 Skylark returns with few changes for its final season.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Skylarks have had five different engines over this 5-year period, starting with a 120-horsepower, 2.3-liter Quad OHC four and, in the Gran Sport, a 3.3-liter V6. Also optional in base models, the V6 whipped out 160 horsepower. The Quad OHC dropped to 115 horsepower in Skylark’s second season. Both engines were connected to a 3-speed automatic transmission. No 4-speed automatic was available until 1994. A 3.1-liter V6, making 155 horsepower, replaced the 3.3-liter that year and was available only with the new electronic 4-speed automatic, which could be installed in other models. The base engine zoomed to 150 horsepower for ’95, adopting a dual-overhead-cam configuration and Quad 4 designation. A counter-rotating balance shaft reduced vibration. Yet another base engine went into 1996 models, the Twin Cam, displacing 2.4 liters and developing the same 150 horsepower as the previous 2.3-liter four.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/138
Engine HP 115-120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 140
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
22/31
22/31
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/138
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 145
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
3-speed automatic
4-speed automatic
22/30
21/31
dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/146
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 150
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

22/32

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.1/191
Engine HP 155
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 185
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

21/29

ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/204
Engine HP 160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 185
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
3-speed automatic

19/29

20.4

Road Test

Performance from the initial base engine isn’t bad, but that 4-cylinder unit–though quiet enough at cruising speeds–grows noisy and coarse at higher rpm. Acceleration is adequate, but the snarling and growling can annoy. Either V6 is more responsive to the throttle at all speeds, yielding brisk passing power. Road noise gets to be a problem at highway speeds, and poor sound insulation just adds to the unpleasantness.

Unlike previous versions of GM’s Quad 4 engine, the 150-horsepower variant for 1994 is smooth and quiet. Same with the slightly larger Twin Cam that arrived a year later. For that reason, a V6 isn’t nearly as essential for comfortable cruising as it was in 1992-93 Skylarks.

Base suspensions do a poor job of absorbing rough pavement, and lose composure in tight turns. An optional firmer suspension and larger tires make a Skylark feel more agile and responsive, without a big penalty in ride quality. Standard antilock braking is a plus, activating quickly in panic stops; but lack of an airbag on early models is not.

Interior space isn’t bad for four, even in the back seat. Rear leg room is adequate for adults, but there’s not really enough space for stretching out. Access to the back seat isn’t so easy, even in 4-doors.

Clearly marked analog gauges are spread out so far on early models that those at the ends are hidden by the steering wheel. The ample trunk has a bumper-height liftover, but the opening is too small for easy loading of large items.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1996 Buick Skylark GS coupe

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 5
50%

Total: 45

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.4 189.1 68.7 53.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.3 15.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 36.5 43.3 32.5
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.4 189.1 68.7 53.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.3 15.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.8 37.0 43.3 33.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1997 Skylark 2-door coupe

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 80
Injury 88
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: 4T60E transmissions may drop out of drive while cruising, shift erratically, or have no second, third, or fourth gear, because of a bad ground connection for the shift solenoids. (1994)
Automatic transmission
Description: TH-125 automatic transmissions may shift late or not upshift at all. The problem is a stuck throttle valve inside the transmission. (1992-94)
Brake wear
Description: The front brakes wear out prematurely because of the friction compound. GM, and several aftermarket companies, have brakes with lining that will last longer. (1991-95)
Coolant leak
Description: Some cars mysteriously lose coolant because of a bad seal on the pressure cap of the surge tank. (1992-94)
Engine knock
Description: Bearing knock was common on many 3.3-liter engines due to too much clearance on the number one main bearing. (1992-93)
Engine noise
Description: An intermittent rattle at start up may be due to too much wrist-pin-to-piston clearance. (1994-95)
Engine noise
Description: An intermittent rattling noise at start up is often caused by automatic-transmission pump starvation or cavitation, or a sticking pressure-regulator valve. (1994-95)
Engine noise
Description: Ticking on cold startup may be due to excessive piston pin to bore clearance. (1994-97)
Engine temperature
Description: Overheating and coolant loss may be due to rough surface on radiator filler neck. Neck should be sanded smooth and cap replaced. (1997)
Ignition switch
Description: The ignition switch may not return from the start to the run position or the accessories may not work because the screws that hold the switch in place were overtightened. (1992-94)
Traction control indicator light
Description: The Enhanced Traction Control (ETC) warning light “ETC OFF” may glow and the cruise control stops working, but there is no problem with the system. If the computer failure memory is cleared, everything returns to normal. No current fix. (1996)
Transaxle leak
Description: The right front axle seal at the automatic transaxle is prone to leak and GM issued a revised seal to correct the problem. (1992-94)
Valve cover leaks
Description: The plastic valve covers on the 3.1-liter engine were prone to leaks and should be replaced with redesigned aluminum valve covers. (1994-95)

Recall History

1992
Description: A small number of cars were assembled with incorrect right rear spring mount; in the event of a rear impact, the right rear wheelhouse flange could sever the fuel-tank filler pipe and spill fuel.
1992 with column shift
Description: Misadjustment of “Park” lock cable on some cars makes it possible for steering column to lock while in motion and ignition switch is “off.”
1992 coupe
Description: Passenger’s side easy-entry seat adjuster on some cars may fail to fully lock after seatback has been tilted forward and seat slid forward, then returned to original position; seat could slide forward in sudden stop.
1993
Description: The neutral-start safety switch may have been fractured during installation which could cause the vehicle to move unexpectedly or not start at all.
1994
Description: On some cars, welds in rear assembly of fuel tank may be insufficient to prevent leakage in certain rear-impact collisions.
1995
Description: If the starter fails, and the key is held in the “start” position for an extended period, the high electrical current flowing through the ignition switch could cause a fire.
1996
Description: Steering-column lower pinch bolt was not properly tightened. This could cause loss of steering control.
1996
Description: During deployment of the passenger airbag, the airbag can snag on a reinforcement inside the instrument panel. This might cause the airbag to not deploy properly.
1996
Description: Interior lamps might come on unexpectedly while vehicle is being driven.
1996
Description: If the key is held in the “start” position for an extended period, high currents flowing through the ignition switch can melt internal switch parts.
1997
Description: In rear-end collision, sheetmetal in left rear quarter panel on some cars may damage fuel tank or lines.
1997
Description: Omitted protective cover for underhood fuse center could result in short circuit and possible fire.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.