2015 Buick Encore Review

Consumer Reviews
3 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
June 16, 2015

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.

Review continues below

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. 

6

2015 Buick Encore

Styling

The Buick Encore looks overdrawn on its short-wheelbase body; the interior's more simply styled.

The 2015 Buick Encore is the most recent entry to the Buick lineup, but it doesn't quite pull of the corporate look as well as some of the larger cars, like the Enclave crossover of LaCrosse sedan. There just isn't enough sheetmetal on the Encore to stretch those lines as gracefully as we've seen in other cars. However, the interior feel larger than it actually is, and it looks good in two-tone, too.

The Encore's interior does a better job of conveying small package luxury. It's a bit button-heavy (we've counted 33 switches), but at least Buick includes conventional rotary knobs to control the audio system. Nice blue ambient lighting works well with the wide range of available interior shades and fake wood trim.

Buyers have a choice between a wide varienty of interior color schemes, our favorite of which is a cocoa shade that would feel at home at your local coffee shop. It does a nice job of complementing the Encore's serene interior.

Outside, the Encore shares the brand's toothy grille and sits high on its 18-inch alloy wheels. It has a bulldog-like stance and lots of (perhaps too much) chrome trip.

From the side, the Encore appears more like a tall-riding five-door compact hatchback. An S-shaped curve cuts into the door panels and around the rear glass area, while there's nothing traditional Buick about the little crossover's tail end. 

6

2015 Buick Encore

Performance

The 138-hp four in the Buick Encore isn't enough, especially with the extra weight of all-wheel drive.

The 2015 Buick Encore has good steering and holds the road better than you'd expect for a squat crossover. However, it's lacking in power, so it's hard to really take advantage of the Encore's surprisingly good chassis.

Its sole underhood option is a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine seen in several other GM products, mated here exclusively to a 6-speed automatic. Here, it checks in with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, which isn't exactly breathtaking. The lightest version of the Encore (a base front-driver) can hit 60 mph in 9 seconds, but you'll add at least a second with a fully-laden all-wheel drive variant.

That all-wheel drive system is set to deliver power rearward during acceleration, to improve traction, but it can send power forward at speeds up to 37 mph. Above that, it's front-wheel drive only. Don't think of it as a mud-plugger, but the Encore will be sufficient for most winter driving.

To reduce fuel consumption, the Encore's 6-speed automatic has been programmed to upshift aggressively. To get the most out of this engine, you'll find yourself digging deep into the throttle to force the gearbox to downshift once, twice, and even three times to merge onto an expressway.

Large 18-inch alloy wheels aside, the Encore is econo-car underneath. Up front, its suspension features struts, while a torsion beam does duty at the rear. Don't let those basic specs fool you: the Encore rides decidedly well in almost any circumstance. Over highway expansion joints and urban pot holes, it exhibits merely light chopiness and impressive control overall.

The Encore's electric steering setup works well with just the right mixture of centering and feedback simulation on a curvy road.

7

2015 Buick Encore

Comfort & Quality

Flexible seating is one of the Buick Encore's best features; there's ample passenger headroom, but it's a rather narrow vehicle.

Despite the apparent size of the Encore, it's able to seat four adults inside with only nominal compromises.

The Encore's dashboard isn't especially refined, with its welter of convoluted colors, materials, lines, and shapes. Some of the materials Buick selected are hard, but the most egregious aspect is the way its switches, buttons, and knobs are arrayed. We counted more than 30 unique buttons, many of which are nearly identical with small markings. It's a perfect recipe for a distracted driver.

We'll give Buick credit for rotary knobs for audio volume, but the Encore's design doesn't convey the premium feel offered by its available leather upholstery.

With its pint-size footprint, the tall and narrow  Encore nonetheless provides room for four adults humans and their gear with only a little give and take.

Dimensionally, this Buick stretches 168.4 inches long and rides on a 100.6-inch wheelbase. That makes it about 10 inches shorter than the Ford Escape, but greater than 6 inches longer than the MINI Countryman--though the Buick looks much larger.

The Encore's driving position is high up, which gives it good visibility and a commandingly good view over its pint-sized hood. The sense of roominess surrounding the passengers is generally good, thanks to a low dash and a high roof--even with the optional sunroof, the Encore excels at providing headroom. The cramping dimension is width: the Encore is a narrow vehicle, and that cuts into shoulder and knee room. it doesn't help that the not-so-wide console also trims into passenger space. You'll touch elbows with your passenger--you can decide if that's good or bad.

In front, the seat cushions seem a little flat, but the backs offer good bolstering and are nicely shaped.

The back seat doesn't appear spacious, but it can accommodate two adults. A third isn't feasible, however. Knee space is adequate thanks to hollowed-out seat backs up front, while an arm rest with its own cupholders is a pleasant surprise.

We prefer to think of the Encore as a right-size vehicle for two people and all their stuff. With the second row folded, what starts as an 18.8 cubic foot load space grows to just under 50 cubes, making it an ideal urban errand runabout. If more room is needed for long objects, the front passenger seat folds flat for ladders or fishing gear.

All models are pleasantly quiet thanks to active noise canceling tech that blocks out underhood drone by generating white (or, technically, anti-) noise to eliminate certain frequencies. You'll still hear the tires and wind rushing by at highway speeds, but overall the Encore is nicely refined. 

9

2015 Buick Encore

Safety

Safety ratings are good, not great; the Encore comes with a standard rearview camera and Bluetooth.

The only real change for the 2015 Buick Encore is its addition of a 4G LTE data connection to its OnStar system, which now allows the vehicle to create a WiFi network, too.

Stand-alone options include navigation and a sunroof, neither of which can be had on a base Encore. There's also a Bose sound system, which can be had in a few of the available packages, too.

The Convenience Group package adds automatic climate control, remote start, and fog lamps. The Premium package includes the Bose audio system, parking sensors, and two camera-based safety features: lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. The Leather package wraps heated front seats and a heated steering wheel in hide, along with the rear seats as well.

Standard features on all Encores include power windows, locks, and heated mirrors; cruise control; 18-inch alloy wheels; a power driver's seat; cloth upholstery with mock-leather trim; ambient lighting; a rearview camera; the OnStar telematic system; active noise cancellation; and a cargo cover. The Buick IntelliLink system is also standard, letting the driver use voice commands or a controller knob and a 7.0-inch dash screen to manage audio from multiple sources--Bluetooth streaming, mobile apps, satellite radio, or USB-connected devices--along with mobile-phone functions and the optional navigation system

9

2015 Buick Encore

Features

Higher-end audio helps keep the Encore quiet; the IntelliLink app connectivity is streamlined and easy to use.

The only real change for the 2015 Buick Encore is its addition of a 4G LTE data connection to its OnStar system, which now allows the vehicle to create a WiFi network, too.

Stand-alone options include navigation and a sunroof, neither of which can be had on a base Encore. There's also a Bose sound system, which can be had in a few of the available packages, too.

The Convenience Group package adds automatic climate control, remote start, and fog lamps. The Premium package includes the Bose audio system, parking sensors, and two camera-based safety features: lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning. The Leather package wraps heated front seats and a heated steering wheel in hide, along with the rear seats as well.

Standard features on all Encores include power windows, locks, and heated mirrors; cruise control; 18-inch alloy wheels; a power driver's seat; cloth upholstery with mock-leather trim; ambient lighting; a rearview camera; the OnStar telematic system; active noise cancellation; and a cargo cover. The Buick IntelliLink system is also standard, letting the driver use voice commands or a controller knob and a 7.0-inch dash screen to manage audio from multiple sources--Bluetooth streaming, mobile apps, satellite radio, or USB-connected devices--along with mobile-phone functions and the optional navigation system.

7

2015 Buick Encore

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is average in the Encore, but a little disappointing for a small car, especially when it's outfitted with all-wheel drive.

The 2015 Buick Encore doesn't achieve fuel economy ratings that size up to its subcompact footprint.

Buick says the Encore earns the best gas mileage ratings for any crossover from a domestic carmaker. That may be true, but it leaves out the Subaru XV Crosstrek, which matches the Buick with a combined rating of 28 mpg. Buick points to the MINI Countryman, at 27 mpg combined, or the Volkswagen Tiguan, at 23 mpg.

We'd also suggest the Nissan Juke, rated at 29 mpg combined--or 27 mpg with all-wheel drive--although in our experience, the all-wheel-drive Juke returned significantly lower real-world mileage than its rating.

The Encore is rated at 28 miles per gallon combined (25 mpg city, 33 mpg highway) in its standard front-wheel-drive configuration. Add all-wheel drive, however, and that falls to 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway).

During a four-day test drive that comprised about two-thirds highway miles, we achieved 28.1 mpg in the AWD Encore. That's still significantly lower than the 31 mpg combined rating for the Chevy Sonic that uses the same engine, and it points out the penalty of the Buick's added weight, equipment, and available all-wheel drive.

The Encore's numbers just aren't that high, when a Ford Escape with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine gets 26 mpg (or 25 mpg with all-wheel drive) in a larger, more capable vehicle with an interior just as nice.

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

3 Reviews
5 star
33%
4 star
67%
3 star
2 star
1 star
Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
May 20, 2016
2015 Buick Encore AWD 4-Door

Not good enought compared to similar vehciles in its class

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
The manual open of the hatch is outdated and not up to par with the push button hatch opener on a key fob or the foot motion opener. the folding of the rear seats is cumbersome having to move the front driver... + More »
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
February 16, 2016
2015 Buick Encore AWD 4-Door Premium

Small but lots of luxury and safety features !

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
Small backseat but then you would expect that in a crossover SUV
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
April 22, 2015
For 2015 Buick Encore

Buick is Back!

  • Overall Rating
  • Interior/Exterior
  • Performance
  • Comfort and Quality
  • Safety
  • Features
  • Fuel Economy / MPG
  • Reliability
This vehicle has everything someone wants in a relatively small vehicle.
people found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you? Yes
USED PRICE RANGE
$10,472 - $27,599
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
Compare the 2015 Buick Encore against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Buick Encore?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used