Midsize car; Built in USA
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $5,700*

1997 Buick Century Limited

1998 Buick Century Limited

1997 Buick Century Limited

1997 Buick Century interior

1999 Buick Century Limited

  • Entry/exit
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Seat comfort
  • Steering/handling

Though Century performs admirably, it won’t satisfy an enthusiastic driver. Still, it’s quiet, comfortable, and economical for a 6-passenger automobile. Modern and well thought out, it retains the no-surprises theme that made the prior Century popular with older buyers.


After a 15-season run in its prior form, Buick’s staple sedan finally earned a total redesign. Introduced early in 1997, months after the model year began, the midsize sedan rode a wheelbase more than four inches longer than before. Overall length grew by more than five inches. Only a 4-door sedan went on sale; the former station wagon body style was now extinct. Structurally related to the latest Pontiac Grand Prix and similar to Buick’s Regal sedan, the Century contained dual airbags and antilock brakes. Buick offered two trim levels: Custom and more posh Limited. Both used a 160-horsepower, 3.1-liter V6 engine, driving a 4-speed automatic transmission. Both models came only with front and rear bench seats, giving Century full 6-passenger capacity–a rarity in the midsize sedan market.

Yearly Updates

1998 Century
Apart from reduced-power airbags, changes were few for 1998.
1999 Century
Traction control went into ’99 models, as did a standard tire-inflation monitor. The Century’s suspension was retuned, in an attempt to reduce body lean in turns.
2000 Century
Century’s engine got a boost to 175 horsepower (up 15). Dual-zone climate control became standard, and a side airbag for the driver (but not the passenger) went into the Century Limited. A new Century 2000 Special Edition options package included a blacked-out grille and door moldings, body-colored exterior trim, alloy wheels, steering-wheel audio controls, and “Century 2000” emblems. The Limited’s Special Edition group also included a split folding rear seatback.
2001 Century
New for 2001 was a Special Edition option package for Custom models. GM’s OnStar assistance system became standard rather than optional on Limiteds.
2002 Century
Bucket seats became available for 2002.
2003 Century
Appearance changes for ’03 include a graphite and chrome grille and body-colored exterior trim. Inside, there’s new door-pillar and roof-rail trim backed with energy-absorbing foam for head-impact protection. Antilock brakes and traction control were made optional on some models.
2004 Century
Four-wheel disc brakes became standard and a side-impact airbag for the driver was a new option.
2005 Century
Buick’s entry-level car makes a brief 2005 model-year run before ending production in late 2004. Buick replaced it with a midsize sedan called LaCrosse.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Only one powertrain went into Buick’s Century: a 3.1-liter overhead-valve V6 engine, rated at 160 horsepower, driving a 4-speed automatic transmission.

Road Test

Smooth and reasonably quiet, the V6 engine provides adequate acceleration, but it growls when asked to deliver sufficient action for passing. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly and promptly. Wind and road noise are low at highway speeds. A test Century averaged 28 mpg in mostly highway driving, and 18.5 mpg in urban conditions.

Only one suspension is used, and it’s too soft for many drivers. Most bumps are absorbed well, but the body continues to bounce long after the initial impact. This limp suspension also allows too much body lean in turns, and makes the Century feel queasy over rough pavement surfaces. Retuning for ’99 made the suspension deliver better control in turns, but body lean remains pronounced.

Century has a spacious interior that provides adult-size room, front and rear. Four occupants would be happier than five or six, however. Tall, wide doors ease entry and exit. As for luggage, the roomy trunk has a wide, flat floor, but you have to reach over a wide bumper-level shelf for loading and unloading.

Instruments are easy to read, but limited to a speedometer and fuel and coolant gauges. Most controls are clearly marked, easy for the driver to reach. Climate controls, however, are mounted low enough so they might interfere with a center passenger’s knees. In addition, standard cloth seats are so softly padded that they might not suit everyone.


Model Tested: 2002 Buick Century Custom/Limited

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.


Acceleration - 4
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 6
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 5


Value - 6

Total: 50


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
109.0 194.6 72.7 56.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
16.7 17.0 6
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.3 37.4 42.4 37.5
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Century 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 3

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 3


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

Collision 69
Injury 64
Theft 13

Trouble Spots

Engine noise
Description: A ticking sound in the engine is caused by excessive clearance between the piston bores and wrist pins. Although this should not cause a problem, GM will replace all pistons under normal warranty. (1997-98)
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. (1999-2000)
Keyless entry
Description: The remote keyless entry may not have much range, requiring a new receiver (with foil antenna) to be installed. (1997)
Suspension noise
Description: A popping or groaning from the rear of the car is caused by the stabilizer shaft links. Redesigned links are available. (1997-98)
Vehicle shake
Description: In warm weather the engine bounces in its mounts, causing a shaking sensation throughout the whole car. A new transmission mount should be installed under normal warranty. (1997-98)
Description: The wipers may not stop in the correct position due to a problem with the wiper motor bracket. (2002)
Check-engine light
Description: Chafed wiring harness near the A/C accumulator can cause check-engine light, no-start, ABS warning light, stalling, or poor drivability. (1997-2001)

Recall History

Description: Windshield wipers may stop working, due to separation between drive pin and crescent in crank-arm assembly.
Description: Vertical headlamp-adjusting device may not be calibrated properly.
Description: ABS motor in some cars “shorts” to its case and grounds through brake fluid pipe; can cause extreme heating of brake pipe, which could melt nearby plastic fuel hose.
Description: Lights on some cars may provide substandard illumination, reducing driver’s ability to read overhead signs at night.
2000 w/rear drum brakes
Description: Bolt heads on rear spindle rod can separate and affected wheel can shift, causing loss of control.
Description: Clamp that secures flexible fuel-fill hose to metal fill tube on a few cars may be loose and could separate, causing fuel leakage.
Description: Some seatbelt assemblies were not properly heat treated and do not pass the load-bearing requirement.
Description: Driver’s side airbag inflator separates from the airbag module during deployment, causing the airbag to deploy improperly.
Description: Airbag labels on sunvisors are not standard size.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.

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