The 2014 Buick Encore is the newest and smallest vehicle for GM's premium brand, but it struggles to carry off the styling themes of the much larger Enclave crossover and LaCrosse sedan that define Buick's new look. The Encore simply doesn't have enough surface to make its styling sufficiently detailed while looking effortless--and it doesn't.
The front of the car has the big, toothy Buick grille, a tough look standing on large 18-inch wheels. There's some bulldog in the nose, along with chrome-trimmed portholes laying inconspicuously on the flat top of the hood sides (a good thing).
But from the middle of the car backwards, the rakish and broad-shouldered stance morphs into a more traditional five-door small hatchback. An S-curve runs through the door panels and up around the rear glass. The rear-quarter view doesn't say "Buick" at all, but then the large, molded rear bumper shield ladles on more toughness again--and a spoiler at the top of the tailgate extends the roofline to make the short Encore look slightly longer.
The interior is more successful in carrying off a premium feel in a small package. If you like the monochrome look, you can have an Encore with an all-black interior. The center stack is studded with black plastic switches, knobs, and buttons--we counted 33 of them--a bit of "wood" trim, and some metal-look accents to boot. At least Buick offers conventional rotary knobs for things like audio volume. Ambient cabin lighting is provided by blue LEDs, but Buick doesn't offer the Ford trick of changing your colors on the fly--the blue stays blue.
At the other end of the scale, there's a two-tone brown interior treatment with cocoa-colored leather that will have you listening for the Starbucks jazz soundtrack and wondering about this month's special free-trade coffee blend. It's definitely an eye-opener, but for our money, it complements the Encore's quiet interior better than the austere black.