- Well equipped, including IntelliLink
- Interior quiet and calm
- Roomy back seat, ample headroom
- Handsome two-tone interior trim
- Flexible interior for good cargo space
- Marginal performance, AWD especially
- Gas mileage not all that good
- Overstyled to some eyes
- Narrow cabin
The 2015 Buick Encore could use a little power, but it's otherwise a mostly solid entry into a very small segment.
Two years ago, the 2015 Buick Encore—now in its third model year—represented a segment of one. Now there are new entries both at the affordable end—the Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, and Jeep Renegade—and from luxury marques—Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The burgeoning competition makes the littlest Buick look like a trailblazer, albeit one with somewhat unusual lines and proportions. Still, it's not entirely clear where the 2015 Encore fits into the market. It offers decent fuel economy wrapped up in a smart, city-oriented size, but the Buick is set apart by its conventional approach to coddling, and its price can reach well beyond $30,000 as its options begin to pile up.
MINI's Countryman and upcoming Fiat 500X are quirkier and more youthful. Compared to traditional luxury nameplates, only BMW and Mercedes offer all-wheel-drive crossovers even close to the Encore's small size--and we're not so sure that BMW X1 or Mercedes GLA shoppers would be hard-pressed even to locate their local Buick showroom. That puts Buick in the middle: It's a brand that's more upmarket than mass but nowhere near competing with the Germans.
Overall, the Encore conveys a tougher style that hides its tall and boxy proportions. Its front fascia is raked steeply, it rides on oversized 18-inch wheels, and much of its body sculpting appears as if Buick's designers were trying a little too hard. But overall it has nearly enough presence to justify a price tag that typically undercuts competitors.
Inside, the Encore's available cocoa-hued leather and brown two-tone trim lends a stylish buzz. Other color combos are more conventional, but all make the most of a relatively silent cabin that only lets in limited roar from the road below. Active noise canceling technology mutes most underhood growl.
There's plenty of headroom, but overall the Encore's narrowness means that front seat passengers can brush elbows on occasion. Its real interior forte is in its flexibility; the rear seat folds down and even the passenger's seat up front can be folded for extra long cargo carrying ability.
Although you'd likely never guess it, the Encore shares some of its underpinnings with Chevy's humble Sonic subcompact. But the Buick's optional all-wheel drive system isn't offered on that Chevy--even if it's tuned more for wintry conditions than off-roading. All variants share the same the turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 plucked from the Sonic and a six-speed automatic gearbox.
But where the Sonic is a featherweight, the Encore tips the scales at 3,200 pounds; that's a lot of mass for 138 horsepower to move. Even with the lighter front-wheel drive model, the 0-60 mph sprint takes 9 seconds, meaning passing requires some planning.
For a short wheelbase and a higher center of gravity, the Encore handles well. All-wheel drive variants ride a bit more smoothly perhaps due to their extra mass.
Encores are well-equipped to start at around $25,000 with features like a backup camera, Bluetooth, and the expected power windows, mirrors, and locks. From there, options include Bose audio, leather seating surfaces, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and more. All in, a loaded Encore stickers for $33,000, which is well under a BMW X1.
For 2015, the Encore adds a 4G LTE antenna that can create a WiFi hotspot inside the vehicle.