2013 Buick Encore
Base price: $24,200
As tested: $29,980
MPG: 25 city/33 highway (FWD)
- Loaded with standard features
- Extremely quiet
- Visually pleasing
- Sluggish, needs more power
- Narrow interior
- Choppy ride
By Jim Prueter
Debuting in January 2013, the Buick Encore is GM’s spanking-new sub-compact crossover. Encore follows the very successful Buick Enclave, which was first introduced in 2007. Visually, the Encore passes for a “Mini-Me” version of the two-sizes-bigger Enclave, and its styling proportions give it enough credibility to pass as an upscale SUV. But this luxury vehicle is aimed at younger customers looking for smaller vehicles at a lower price.
Because consumers today want to reduce the size of their vehicles and get better fuel economy, the Encore competes with the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 in the growing sub-compact crossover segment. Just larger than a MINI Cooper Countryman SUV and almost a foot shorter than a Ford Escape, Encore is at the small end of the size spectrum in this class.
Some smaller vehicles manage to magically carve out a surprising amount of space. Unfortunately, the Encore doesn’t. Buick claims room for five, but the front seats are small and narrow. Both the center console and interior door panels crowd the legroom and bolstered seats render them too small and narrow — unless you happen to shop in the petite section.
Still, everything about the interior trim and lighting is upscale, with attractive two-tone premium leathers, brushed-nickel metals, and wood veneers. The premium feel is further accentuated by the use of Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology, which minimizes road and engine sounds; it’s the first time Buick has deployed this amenity.
Encore comes with a choice of front- or all-wheel drive, and is powered by a turbocharged 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. As a small vehicle built on a short wheelbase, it delivers a jittery, choppy ride on uneven road surfaces — something that shouldn’t happen on any vehicle billed as premium.
Overall, the new Encore isn’t as roomy, smooth, or powerful as some similarly priced, larger competitors in the sub-compact SUV class. However, it does deliver value, a more opulent interior, and more convenience features than other options.
Jim Prueter, an automotive writer based in Phoenix, has provided reviews and advice about cars, driving, safety, and transportation for more than 20 years.