2013 Buick Encore
A smaller utility
Date Posted: March 3, 2013
By Zack Spencer
Buick takes the Chevy Trax and adds Buick Quiet Tuning to make this a more sophisticated crossover
The terms crossover and SUV have been so muddied that even people who review cars for a living can get confused. A crossover is a vehicle built off a car-based platform for better handling, weight savings and improved fuel economy. These can range from very small vehicles to full-sized 7-passenger family haulers. The SUV term has been with us for the better part of 20 years and it still is used to classify even crossover vehicles. For example the Chevrolet Equinox is a crossover but classified as a small SUV. I hope I’ve muddied the water a little less. Well, now we have a new subcategory of small SUV’s to contend with, an even smaller SUV for city buyers who don’t need a lot of interior volume but like the idea of sitting high off the road and can utilize the hatchback configuration. General Motors has introduced two new vehicles in this smaller SUV category and they share the same platform and engine. The Trax is the Chevrolet model and the more luxurious version is sold as a Buick and called Encore.
Buick is pioneering this smaller SUV luxury market. There really is no direct competitor in North America and it will be interesting to see if the public wants luxury in a small package. The closest competitors based on size are the VW Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson but they are bigger than this Buick. Even though the packaging is small, Buick has done a good job of styling the Encore, it doesn’t look tiny, in fact the side doors are large for easy access inside and the height is comparable with the bigger competition. Buick believes that women in large cities will be attracted to the Encore due to its maneuverability and functionality. Even though GM makes this crossover in Korea, the styling is very American thanks to the waterfall grille finished in black chrome. The blue headlamps look like the bigger Buick Enclave and 18-inch alloy wheels come standard. In fact, all Encores’ will be fitted with one wheel size for suspension tuning and pricing advantages.
Buick has a hit on their hands with the Verano compact luxury sedan. That vehicle has a very comfortable interior with an easy to use layout and comes packed with features for less than the competition. Buick is trying to replicate that image with this product but the interior materials don’t look as upscale as the Verano. The content story is good though. Standard amenities include 10-airbags, leather steering wheel, Bluetooth, OnStar, 7-inch radio screen and USB connectivity for $26,895. The middle trim is called Leather, which is self-explanatory for $30,190 and adds heated leather seats and heated steering wheels, automatic climate control and backup camera. It should be pointed out that even the base and mid trim can be fitted with the optional Bose radio. The top Premium trim adds things like lane departure and collision alert plus front and rear park assist and the Bose stereo as standard equipment, for $32,505. The space inside the Encore is surprisingly good for front and rear passengers, it is the side-to-side dimensions that feel small, plus the cargo area is limited.
The Encore might be small for an SUV but it weighs roughly the same as the Buick Verano and that product is equipped with a larger 2.4L 4-cylinder compared to the 1.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder found in the Encore. The reason I bring this up is that my personal experience with smaller turbocharged engines is that real world fuel consumption can suffer if the driver is utilizing the turbo for spirited acceleration. The good news is that the gearing of the 6-speed automatic does a good job of moving the Encore away from a light with just 138hp. The power goes to the front wheels but AWD can be equipped on all trim levels for roughly $2000 and this system pre-loads power to the rear wheels on startup for better take off grip, then reverts to FWD until added traction is needed. In my time driving through the snow-covered streets of Toronto, at the launch of the Encore, the steering is light, the vehicle is small and nimble for city drivers and traction was not a problem.
The Good, The Bad
Cute and functional with just enough power.
The Chevrolet Trax offers the same engine and platform for less.
The only competition for this size of SUV is the Chevrolet Trax stalemate; it too uses the same 1.4L turbocharged engine and 6-speed automatic. This Buick version might not be different enough for some buyers. What makes the Buick unique are the 80 added parts that make up the “Quiet Tuning” process to eliminate engine, road and wind noise into the cabin. The added insulation, acoustic windshield, and even Bose developed noise cancelling technology help but this Encore is not nearly as quiet as the Buick Verano sedan. A fully loaded Chevy Trax with AWD comes in at roughly $30,000, right around the price of the middle Encore trim. Leather seats are not available on the Trax, neither is the Quiet Tuning, which does improve the cabin experience but some buyers might not be willing to spend the extra money for these features. This class of SUV is limited to the two GM products but look for more crossovers of this size. Honda is developing a crossover, smaller than the current CR-V, so in a way GM is a pioneer.
Power: 1.4L turbo 4-cylinder with 138hp
Fill-up: 8.2L/6.0L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $26,895-$34,455
Honda is developing a crossover, smaller than the current CR-V, so in a way GM is a pioneer.