Some may call it a cute ute because of its size and appearance. But Buick’s Encore compact AWD crossover offers a bit more.
With its short 168-inch overall length, its stubby size makes it extremely easy to park and maneuverable in city traffic.
For 2017, Buick gave Encore a facelift, an upgraded interior, LED taillights, new instrument panel and added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. Plus, as in all GM products, it comes with 4G LTE Wi-Fi Hotspot capability, satellite radio and Onstar subscriptions.
Encores’ interior is likened to that in more expensive crossovers with soft-touch materials and swatches of faux wood and metal trim throughout. An 8-inch touchscreen displays audio, rearview camera, IntelliLink infotainment system and apps that includes a nifty weather app with daily and five-day forecasts.
All instrumentation including HVAC controls are easy to use without having to consult the owners’ manual. And a 4.2-inch display nestled between the gauges gives driver information on a variety of operating conditions.
Seat inserts are done in long-wearing cloth with leatherette on the outer high-wear edges. The fronts offer sufficient lateral support, but are a trite on the firm side. Under the front passenger seat is a thoughtful drawer for stowing small items out of sight.
Rear seats are comfy with ample legroom provided the fronts aren’t racked too far rearward. Headroom is also good but the overall space for two adults is a cozy, snug fit.
A high seating stance gives expansive front road visibility with Encores’ short hood. The view is almost minivan-like. Rear visibility is good provided the rear seat headrests are retracted.
Back in the cargo area, which is on the small size, it’s rated at 18.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 48.4 with them folded. Perhaps more meaningful, the area measures 28 inches deep, 39.5 wide and 31 high with the seats upright. Flip the 60/40s and depth reaches to 56 inches.
Encore is offered in six trim levels of 1SV, Preferred, Sport Touring, Preferred II, Essence, Premium and in FWD and AWD. We tested the Sport Touring with AWD, which adds a few more features and options over the base units.
Encore is also offered with a choice of two engines and a single 6-speed automatic transmission. Standard is a 1.4-liter inline turbocharged 4-cylinder with 138-hp and 148 lb/ft of torque with EPA mileage estimates of 26/31 mpg. Optional is a 1.4-liter, inline turbocharged 4-cylinder with 153-hp and 177 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 26/31 mpg.
The optional ($895) 1.4L turbo is spirited and peppy around town with two adults aboard. It appears the optional engine would be the way to go judging from its performance in perceived comparison to the lower powered version.
Driving wise on 18-inch Continental tires produces a quiet ride at all speeds. This is evidently helped by Buick’s noise cancelling technology. Encores’ suspension is tuned for comfort not handling, making it a smooth rider that soaks road bumps and bruises with tenacity. On the other hand, handling is far from sporty. But it’s not suppose to be keeping with Buick’s penchant for comfortable cruising, a feature most people considering this car will likely want. With its short wheelbase, Encore has a tight turning radius enabling it to almost turn on a dime - so to speak.
With a host of safety features like Stabilitrak stability control, tire pressure monitoring and many standard features, the options list includes the 153-hp engine; Bose premium audio ($595); Intellilink radio/navigation ($495); Safety Package of blind side alert/rear cross traffic alert ($495); dual zone climate control ($275); graphite metallic paint ($395 and the most astonishing, Inside Rearview Mirror ($80). In my 30-plus years of reviewing cars, I don’t ever recall seeing a charge for a rearview mirror. C’mon Buick, really?
Well with all those, the base price of $27,065 rose to $31,220 with delivery. A modest and reasonable price for a close-to- luxury AWD crossover.
To its credit, Encore comes with the governments top five-star overall safety rating; five each for driver/passenger frontal crash; five each for driver/passenger side crash and four for rollover.
And you should know that Encore was assembled in South Korea with its engine/transmission made there as well. Its content is made up of 5 percent U.S./Canadian parts, 18 percent from China and 65 percent from Korea. An international crossover, especially since Buick’s are top sellers in China.