Buick Regal is an attractively styled mid-sized coupe that is sporty enough for the - well - sport, yet large enough for a small family. And, perhaps more important, affordable to both.

One of Buick's more popular cars, the Regal hasn't really changed that much for the '89 model year, which is somewhat understandable since it was completely redesigned, resized and re-engineered from rear to front-wheel drive for the '88 model year.

But General Motors, not being a mega-corporation satisfied to go with status quo, has added a number of changes, including a new engine, refined suspension, several exterior and interior enhancements and some new options including ABS (anti-lock brake system), remote keyless entry system, 16-inch aluminum wheels, power sunroof, steering wheel with radio controls and compact disc player.

So, even though it may not look that much different from last year's model, the Regal (test car supplied by Kelly Buick, Emmaus) does have enough changes to warrant a look, which is no doubt what GM and Buick had in mind all the time.

A point of interest is that the car's clean and slightly rounded aerodynamic design is deceptive in that it makes the car look somewhat smaller than it actually is. But with a wheelbase of 107.5 inches, length of 192.2 inches, width of 72.5 inches, height of 53 inches and curb weight of 3,047 pounds, the Regal is, indeed, in this day and age, a fair-sized car.

The test car had the optional front bucket seats with console, so there was seating for five. A bench seat is standard and will provide a middle seatbelt for the sixth passenger, which preferably should be a non-squirming child or a small non-complaining adult. The back seat will hold three and provide some leg room even with the front seats (seat) extended fully aft. Back-seat leg room, of course, will increase as the front seat is moved forward. A nice surprise in this car is a trunk that measures a respectable 16 cubic feet.

Driving the Regal should not present a problem to anyone with a driver's license or even a permit. A four-speed automatic (a smooth shifter) is standard and everything else is power. The instrument panel shows only a speedometer and fuel gauge with all other functions monitored by warning lights. Controls are conveniently located and clearly marked.

Some restraint will have to be used on the accelerator pedal since the car is pretty quick off the line and it doesn't take much of a stab to get those front wheels spinning. The new engine, a 3.1-liter/191-cubic-inch V-6, is a mid-model year replacement for the 2.8-liter/173-cubic-inch V-6.

The 3.1 is basically a slightly larger version of the 2.8. Both share the same 3.5 inch bore but the stroke on the 3.1 is 3.31 inches compared to 2.99 inches for the 2.8. Both engines feature multi-port fuel injection.

Rated at 140 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 190 foot pounds torque at 3 ,600 rpm, the 3.1 has 10 horses and 20 foot pounds of torque over the 2.8. Performance though is good with both engines with the 3.1 obviously having a slight advantage. (Right now it is still possible to find Regals with either the 3.1 or 2.8 V-6, but it won't be this way for long; anyone interested in a 2.8 shouldn't wait too long.)

Besides supplying a good amount of juice for all Lehigh Valley driving conditions, the 3.1 also provides very decent fuel mileage. But then this is what should be expected out of small-displacement V-6 engines and four-speed overdrive automatic transmissions. The test car averaged 27 miles per gallon over the highways and 15 mpg in the city. All on unleaded regular.

The Regal for '89 has Dynaride suspension, a system that allows for some pretty neat handling without sacrificing ride. Dynaride was first introduced last year on the big luxury Buick models and this year becomes standard on all Buicks except station wagons and those equipped with Gran Touring systems.

In essence, Dynaride works by combining deflected-disc shock-absorber valving with other suspension components carefully tuned to compliment that valving. In other words, the system makes allowances for conditions. Dynaride is based on the Regal's four-wheel independent suspension system, which features MacPherson struts up front and a tri-link setup with transverse leaf spring in the rear.

All worked well on the test car and handling should satisfy most drivers. The driving enthusiast might check out Regal's Gran Touring Package, which includes sport suspension, 16-inch aluminum wheels with 215/60R16 Eagle GT+4 tires (compared to the standard 205/70R14 all-season tires), leather-wrapped steering wheel and fast ratio power steering. There is also a Four Seater Package for a real sporty interior and a Regal Gran Sport, which includes both the Gran Touring and Four Seater packages and adds even more. So, obviously, it is possible to have a conservative or wild looking Regal.

Although on the test car, ABS is also available this year. Even without it, though, the chassis has four-wheel disc brakes. But please look into ABS, which will provide controlled braking and allow steering under adverse road conditions.

The base price of the Regal, $14,614, includes a long list of standard equipment items such as air conditioning, power brakes and steering, dual outside mirrors, AM/FM stereo ETR with seek & scan, digital clock and dual front and rear speakers, tilt steering column, stainless steel exhaust, and a good level of trim and appointments.

Most of the options were tied together in a package - in this case, the Luxury Option Package, which lists at $1,430 but has a $600 savings. The package includes power windows, electric door locks, cruise control, delayed windshield wipers, rear window defogger, cassette tape player, automatic power antenna, bucket seats and console, locking wire wheel covers and white stripe tires. The other option was the Ribbon Package (red stripe in body side and bumper molding) at $55. Add to this a destination charge of $455 and the final price came to $15,954.

The Regal is protected by a basic vehicle warranty of 36 months/50,000 miles and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion protection warranty.