Buick's pint-sized Encore is positioned in the nebulous space between the mainstream and luxury crossover segments. Down on power and space compared to most similarly-priced 'utes, it distinguishes itself with a well-furnished and whisper-quiet cabin along with good fuel efficiency and responsive handling.
For the latest model year, the Encore gets a mid-cycle facelift. Highlights include new styling, available Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and a new IntelliLink infotainment interface.
Measuring just over 168 inches in overall length, the Encore stretches nearly a foot shorter than a typical small sedan like the Honda Civic. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the little Buick is far from a penalty box inside, offering upscale plastics and plenty of soft-touch materials.
A standard Bose noise canceling system - similar to that found in some of the audio company's headphones - uses three interior microphones to eliminate undesirable interior noise, making the cabin a remarkably quiet and serene place.
Though it isn't nearly as spacious as most mainstream "compact" crossovers that play in the same price bracket, the Encore feels larger than it is thanks to clever packaging and oversized front windows. It offers plenty of head- and leg-room for four adults, though the middle rear seat is best left to children. A reasonably commodious 19 cubic feet of cargo space are available behind the rear seats, while a full 48 cubes can be had by folding the rear seats down.
The facelifted model features a more driver-focused "cockpit" design with additional premium materials (including chrome accents) and a standard 4.2-inch driver information display in the cluster.
All Encores come standard with Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system, which features a seven-inch display, Bluetooth connectivity, audio streaming capability, and voice command functionality that can be used to control the audio system and place phone calls. The setup now boasts an 8-inch screen and can be spec'd with a navigation system with speed limit, traffic and point of interest (restaurant, gas station, attractions, etc) info. Real-time weather updates, nearby fuel prices and movie theater listings can also be accessed via an available SiriusXM Travel Link system.
Under the Hood
The Encore's base engine is a turbocharged 1.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine that makes 138 horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 148 lb-ft. of torque at 1,850 rpm.
The Encore Sport Touring benefits from a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that's both turbocharged and direct-injected. It generates 153 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 177 lb-ft. of torque from 2,000 to 4,000 rpm.
The Encore comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive come standard, and all-wheel drive is offered at an extra cost.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Encore is available in five distinct trim levels called base, Convenience, Sport Touring, Leather, and Premium, respectively.
The entry-level Encore Group trim comes standard with a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, Buick's IntelliLink infotainment system with a seven-inch display, a power-adjustable driver's seat, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM stereo system with AUX and USB inputs, OnStar with a six-month free subscription, A/C, power windows and locks, cruise control, advanced keyless entry with push-button start, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Newly standard is OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, which comes with a 3GB/three-month data trial.
The Convenience Group adds dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start, fog lights, a 120-volt outlet and dimming mirrors.
The Sport Touring model adds the more powerful turbo four, a small roof-mounted spoiler, Y-spoke alloy wheels, a 120-volt power outlet, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, dual-zone A/C, a remote starter, Side Blind Zone Alert, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The Leather Group trim brings heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a power-adjustable passenger's seat, a memory function for the driver's seat and, logically enough, leather upholstery.
The range-topping Premium Group includes a seven-speaker Bose audio system, front and rear park assist and, new for the latest model year, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning (detailed below).
Highlights from the options list include a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.
The Encore is fitted as standard with an impressive 10 airbags - including dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side-curtain units. Traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system are also standard.
A Forward Collision warning system that alerts the driver to impending collisions with cars, bikes, pedestrians and other obstacles is included in the Premium Group trim level, as is a Lane Departure system that alerts the driver if the Encore begins to wander into an adjacent lane.
As a subcompact, semi-premium crossover, the Encore is the unique position of not having any true competitors. The MINI Countryman is similar in size but has a much sportier feel than the luxury-oriented Buick, and is also more expensive when optioned similarly.
Other alternatives to the Encore include compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which offer greater interior room and power at the expensive of somewhat less upscale interior furnishings.
For those willing to give up the Encore's elevated seating position and available all-wheel-drive, compact hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Mazda Mazda3 also make sense to cross-shop.