With the largest product offensive in its over 100 year history, Buick has been pretty successful in shaking off its old man image. From Enclave to LaCrosse to Regal and Verano, their modern luxury stable is bold without being brash. Still, I don’t think any Buick watchers saw this one coming down the pike: the Buick Encore. Compact luxury crossovers are supposed to be the next big thing. And this time, Buick is ahead of the game. Let’s see if that early lead pays off.
Buick was so eager to go after younger buyers with their next crossover that instead of going mid-size, they went small-size with the 2013 Buck Encore. Not that you have to be a Gen-Xer or Yer to enjoy the Korean-built Encore, as despite being based on Chevrolet’s subcompact Sonic, when you’re riding in the front seats of this luxury crossover it feels more mid-size, with plenty of room to get comfortable.
There’s also an unexpected fun to drive nature, though the Variable Effort Electric power steering feels overboosted most of the time; which combined with the short 100.6-inch wheelbase can lend a darty feel.
Interior material quality is an unexpected highlight in the design. Just like its larger Enclave sibling, there’s lots of luxury to go around, as well as cool features like the red tracers on the gauge needles, dual glove boxes, and a cargo cover that neatly stows behind the rear seats. But there are some built-to-a-budget reminders, like notable gaps around the center dash touch screen.
With so much room up front in such a small package, that leaves little for those in the back, and cargo space is limited to a car-like 18.8 cubic-feet, maxing out at 48.4 with the seats folded. But back up front there are lots of spaces to store electronics and other knick-knacks.
Buick’s voice activated IntelliLink gets updated, becoming easier to use. For safety on the plus side, both back-up camera and knee airbags are standard. Encore can also be equipped with lane-departure warning, forward collision alert, and park assist.
On the minus side, Encore did not score well in the new IIHS off-set barrier crash test.
Power comes from the Sonic’s 1.4-liter turbo I4 and clearly fuel economy is a priority over performance, as it puts out a meager 138-horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque.
But despite those numbers, there’s not a whole lot of Encore to move around and we actually found it plenty peppy whether zipping around town or road tripping. The engine isn’t as rough or noisy as in the Sonic, thanks to Buick’s first use of Bose Active Noise Cancellation. All-wheel-drive is available, but for the most part the Encore behaves like a front driver until there’s wheel slip; when power gets diverted to the rear to assist with traction.
At our test track, the Encore worked its way down the strip at a slow but steady pace to 60 in 10.1-seconds. The 6-speed automatic transmission went about its work very softly, helping the Encore clear the ¼ mile in 17.7-seconds at 79 miles per hour. Through the cones, the Encore feels very car-like with quick turn-ins and more grip than expected, thanks to the all-wheel-drive system lending assistance. Brakes were fairly impressive as well with strong and confident stops from 60 in 122-feet, just 3 feet longer than the Sonic.
And with the vehicle sitting still, it is easy to see that the Encore’s sculpted styling helps this mini-ute look just like a baby Enclave: a lot of class in a small package. Traditional Buick signature elements such as the waterfall grill and portholes are there, as well as hallmarks of modern Buicks like the blue headlight rings and 18-inch chrome wheels.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are very good, at 23–City, 30-Highway, and 26–Combined; and we did even better at 31.1 miles-per-gallon of Regular. Which of course makes for a commendable Energy Impact Score of just 12.7-barrels of oil burned annually while emitting 5.8-tons of CO2.
The luxury compact crossover is not only a new segment for Buick, but for the entire auto industry. And with a base price of $24,950, the Encore is so far selling well. Along with other early entries to the segment like the Mini Cooper Countryman and BMW X1, the Encore’s starting price is high compared to traditional small crossovers like Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 that offer more space but are also less well equipped.
Regardless, the 2013 Buick Encore is off to a good start and we understand why. It is a very appealing overall design with fine fuel economy. So, good job Buick on getting out to an early lead. And, we hope you can stay there.
Engine: 1.4-liter turbo I4
Torque: 148 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 10.1 seconds
1/4 mile: 17.7 seconds @ 79 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.8 tons/yr