New & Used Buick Encore: In Depth
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The Encore now gives the Buick range both a very small crossover and a very large one--the big, seven-seat Enclave--with a gaping hole in the middle. We suspect that at some point soon Buick will add a compact or mid-size crossover to fill the gap.
The Encore was brand new in 2013, and has seen only small updates since then. Chevrolet has its own lower-priced version it calls the Chevy Trax.
As Buick's smallest vehicle, the Encore goes up against competitors such as the BMW X1, MINI Countryman, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. All of which are more expensive and fancier than the little Buick.
In European markets, the Encore is known as either the Opel Mokka or Vauxhall Mokka, and is a subcompact entry-level crossover.
MORE: Read our 2016 Buick Encore review
If you're experiencing a strange sense of deja vu when you hear the name Encore, by the way, that just means you're old enough to recall the Renault model sold through much of the 1980s. The French automaker, which then owned AMC, built the subcompact hatchback in Wisconsin and sold it for several years (along with the related Alliance sedan). With most of those long gone from U.S. roads, Buick seized the nameplate, so it has now returned for an...encore of sorts.
Buick aims the Encore at urban families who want a vehicle that scoots around town, is easily maneuverable, and fits into tight parking spots. At just 169 inches long, with a wheelbase that's just longer than 100 inches, the Encore has a footprint a little larger than those of subcompacts like the Chevrolet Sonic and Honda Fit, but it is considerably taller. Passengers sit at crossover height, giving good forward visibility and little of the sense of vulnerability that much lower-riding cars of that size can induce.
The Encore's hallmarks are luxury, comfort, and interior appointments. It seats four adults comfortably, while the back seat can accommodate three across if those folks are all smaller or willing to get cozy. The Buick Quiet Tuning measures--extra sound deadening including an acoustically treated headliner, as well as active noise cancellation--make it one of the more peaceful subcompacts you can travel in. Cloth or leatherette seats come in rich, warm colors, and interior trims look and feel luxury-grade for the most part.
The Encore is powered by the same turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder that's available in Chevy's Cruze and Sonic, as well as the Trax crossover. To make it more of a Buick, the Encore has a cushy suspension and the brand's Quiet Tuning, which includes a host of noise-reducing measures. This tall and small crossover is not terribly sporty, instead focusing on decent fuel economy; a tall sixth gear for the standard automatic helps it to return 26 mpg on the highway with all-wheel drive and 28 mpg for the front-drive model.
Available features include remote vehicle start, dual-zone climate control, and rain-sensing wipers. Just as in most hatchbacks or crossovers, the rear seats fold down, to make 48.4 cubic feet of cargo space available (or 18.8 cubic feet with them up in place). A few items remind passengers of the Encore's less luxurious origins, including "power seats" where only the bottom portion is powered--the backrest adjustment is done via a standard lever--and the same control stalks as found in a Chevy Sonic that costs little more than half as much.
Safety is up to the standards set by recent GM small vehicles like the Buick Verano, Chevrolet Cruze, and Chevy Sonic. The Encore has 10 standard airbags, while forward collision alert, front and rear park assist, and lane-departure warning systems are available, along with a rearview camera.
The Encore gets top 'Good' ratings in all of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests except for the new small-overlap frontal category, where it scores a 'Poor' result. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing, the small Buick gets five stars in AWD form and four for the front-drive version. All of the individual-test scores are the same otherwise.
The Encore was mostly unchanged for 2015, with the exception of OnStar's new 4G LTE data connection being made available; the system has the ability to create a WiFi network inside the car and also speeds up communication to OnStar's systems.
For 2016, a new Encore Sport Touring gets an uprated engine with 153 horsepower, and also adds a rear spoiler, its own 18-inch wheels, and stop/start.
GM has also begun selling a Chevrolet model closely related to the Encore in the U.S. The Trax, which has been offered elsewhere previously, uses the same underpinnings and even the same powertrain but does without the Buick's luxury touches.