There's no shortage of subcompact crossovers on the market. Between well-known options like the , and , not to mention newcomers like the and , there's a robust field of entry-level options.
But what if you want something premium? Sure, you could spend the money on a SUV you're looking for., or , but Buick offers a just-as-luxurious, less expensive option with its pint-size Encore. And considering it's Buick's best-selling model, it stands to reason the Encore might just be the premium compact
Older, but updated
Despite its having launched in 2013, small improvements throughout the Encore's life cycle have kept it from going stale. The most recent update came for the, bringing a fresh front end with a new waterfall grille and headlights. Overall, the Encore still strikes a mostly understated appearance that's clean and inoffensive, with the chrome wheels of my tester providing a little flash.
Up-level fixings are more apparent inside the cabin. Lots of soft-touch materials cover the majority of the dashboard and door panels, and comfortable leather seats coddle you. It's super quiet, too, thanks to laminated glass and Bose noise cancellation system. With winter sticking around the Midwest longer than anticipated this year, my test car's heated front seats and heated steering wheel are also simply wonderful.
For a car with such a small footprint, there's a ton of headroom and a generous 18.8 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. Folding the back seats down expands cargo capacity to 48.4 cubic feet, which comes in handy during a wallet-battering Costco shopping trip.
However, theisn't without interior faults. Disappointingly, an armrest for the front passenger seat isn't available and the back seat is snug if you need to shove three adults back there. Even more annoying is the poor quality of the driver's seat underpinnings, which creak when the vehicle is accelerating and stopping, though this might just be a fault of my specific test car.
Spearheading infotainment is Buick's IntelliLink system with an 8-inch touchscreen that's fairly responsive to commands and intuitive to use, largely thanks to its big, clearly marked icons. IntelliLink also includes a nice-sounding Bose audio system with seven speakers, an always-excellent , Bluetooth and smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and . Navigation is optional, offering quick route guidance calculations and real-time traffic information that will automatically offer alternative routes if a major delay is reported on your trip.
The safety equipment list is respectable with blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rearview camera with rear cross-traffic alert (great for parking lots) and forward collision warning. Oddly, adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are glaring omissions from the list of available safety equipment.
People shopping for anhave two powertrains to choose from, though, curiously, they're both 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder engines. The base 1.4 makes 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, while an optional direct-injected 1.4 churns out 153 ponies and 177 pound-feet -- an $895 option that I highly recommend. According to the EPA, the direct-injected engine with front-wheel drive is estimated to return 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
Even with the more potent engine, the Encore is far from quick, but it gets the job done with acceptable acceleration. The six-speed automatic transmission performs smooth but gingerly gear changes. If weighed down with a load of passengers, cargo and available all-wheel drive (which adds about 120 pounds), expect a relatively sluggish start from stop lights.
Where thesets itself apart the most from its more affordable competition is in the ride quality department. The suspension damps out impacts from small to medium bumps incredibly well, while steering response isn't bad and cornering capabilities are actually pretty respectable on the 18-inch Continental all-season tires. The Encore's driving behavior is by no means exciting, but comfort is king here, and in that regard, the Buick really delivers.
How I'd spec it
My Buick Encore Premium tester wears a steep $35,630 as-tested price, which prompts me to try to keep my ideal build priced slightly more reasonable. I would begin with a $30,095 Essence trim for the heated front seats and heated steering wheel. The direct-injected engine is a must for $895 and I will stick with front-wheel drive for the lower weight and $1,500 cost savings. A Graphite Grey Metallic paint job tacks on $395 and $2,390 Experience Buick Package adds IntelliLink with the 8-inch touchscreen, navigation and moonroof. That brings the price tag of my Encore to $33,775. Not bad.
As the graybeard of the subcompact crossover segment, the Buick Encore continues to thrive by occupying its own niche within the class. Much like how theand aim to be hip, urban dwellers, and the adopts a more rugged, off-road persona, the Encore is the plusher and more premium option. With clean sheetmetal, quality cabin surroundings, a healthy list of tech offerings and impressive ride quality, the Buick is a strong luxury alternative that undercuts the price of its premium rivals.