The Car Connection Buick Encore Overview
The Buick Encore is the small end of the bookend in the Buick SUV trifecta. The five-seater Encore sits below the Envision and the large, seven-seat Enclave.
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. Mainstream competitors include the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Fiat 500X, and Jeep Renegade.
The Encore was new in 2013, and it gets a mid-cycle update for 2017. Chevrolet has its own lower-priced version it calls the Trax.
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 2017 Buick Encore review
The 2017 changes involve the styling and interior. The front end has a new grille that loses the waterfall look and adds a chrome strip with a wing shape. It is flanked by available LED headlights with a sharp lighting signature. The overall effect softens up the Encore’s steeply raked nose and blends it better with the rest of the body. At the back, the Encore’s taillights have gone LED, too.
The cabin is where the more important changes take place. The dash is less cluttered than before. The center stack has been cleaned up and pared free of dozens of buttons, as the Encore adopts a new infotainment system. The new setup has an 8.0-inch touchscreen and comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Encore also gets a 4.2-inch display screen between its gauges, as well as keyless ignition.
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 168.4 inches long, with a wheelbase that's 100.6 inches, the Encore has a footprint a little larger than those of subcompact cars like the Chevy 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 for traveling. Cloth/leatherette or leather 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 4-cylinder that's available in Chevy's Cruze and Sonic, as well as the Trax crossover. It puts out 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. An uprated version adds direct injection, 15 more horsepower, and 29 more lb-ft of torque. The extra power makes merging and passing easier, and it offers more pickup from a stop as well. It is the clear choice for everyday drivability,
A tall sixth gear for the standard 6-speed automatic helps the base engine return 26 mpg combined with all-wheel drive and 28 mpg with front drive, according to the EPA. The direct-injected engine gets 29 mpg combined with AWD and 30 mpg with front drive.
To make it more of a Buick, the Encore has a cushy suspension. This tall and small crossover is not terribly sporty, instead focusing on decent fuel economy. The Sport Touring model has firmer suspension settings for better handling.
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 warning, front and rear park assist, and lane-departure warning systems are available, along with a standard rearview camera.
The Encore netted top "Good" ratings in all of the IIHS tests, making it a Top Safety Pick. In federal testing, the small Buick earned a five-star overall rating for both front- and all-wheel drive versions.
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.
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 wi-fi network inside the car and also speeds up communication to OnStar's systems.
For 2016, a Buick added the Encore Sport Touring with the uprated engine. The Sport Touring also has a rear spoiler, its own 18-inch wheels, and engine stop/start.
If you're experiencing a strange sense of deja vu when you hear the name Encore, 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.