Encore! Encore! Bravo! Bravo!
Nah, one is enough.
The Regal Sportback from 2 weeks ago had me curious about another popular Buick in our fleet, the Encore. It’s in the same class as the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee, and Jeep Compass, but it is noticeably smaller than all of them. And by noticeably, I mean it really shouldn’t be in the same class at all.
It drives very well and absorbs neglected road problems like a champ, but it’s a tight fit for more than 4 people and a big suitcase.
The cargo cover can be removed to stack more bags, but that is only practical if you own it. Most mid-sized hatchbacks I’ve come in contact within the past few years have about the same, if not more cargo space than this Encore.
Classifying this as a midsize car with a slight lift kit and bigger wheels of instead of a Crossover Utility Vehicle(CUV) would be appropriate.
I couldn’t help but laugh at the rear windshield wiper. It is 9 1/2″ long. I’d be curious to know if it is even necessary during inclimate weather since the rear defroster is standard. The wiper isn’t needed to clear ice or snow during a bad storm and water dissipated well after driving a few blocks post car wash.
The front end is well done with LED daytime running lamps and prominent rear view mirror mounted turn signals.
This tiny 1.4 liter turbocharged inline-4 would definitely fall into the category of “The Little Engine that could”. It makes the best of only 136 horsepower moving it’s 3200 lbs., but merging into traffic at highway speeds with 5 people and cargo could be challenging. Cruising at 65mph was very pleasant and it drove a lot better than it’s tiny size would lead you to believe. The 6-speed automatic never seemed to be happy shifting at low or high RPMs. Sometimes the shifts were smooth, but more often than not, it wasn’t a seamless transition from gear to gear. The gas mileage was as expected and right inline with the EPA estimates of 27mpg for my 60 mile mixed driving jaunt.
I’ve noticed with most, if not all cars I’ve driven, that the front and rear doors open to the same degree. This wasn’t the case for this baby Buick. The rear doors obviously don’t open as wide as the front doors. Thankfully, if you have wide cargo, the 60/40 rear split seats can be folded down and big items can enter through the rear cargo door.
Folding down the rear seat backs is a strange struggle the first time, but doable with minimal muscle. First, the seat has to be released and come up and towards the front seats, then the rear headrests must be lowered all the way down, then the 60/40 split can be a flat cargo area, but only if the front seats aren’t reclined too much. As seen in the picture above, the rear seats do not seem to be mounted very sturdily with the 2 very thin pieces of metal holding it down to the floorboards and were always very wobbly except in the up or down fixed positions.
I found it odd that in the driver’s seatback is a real closed pocket for storage, but the passenger side is just a cargo net. The seat back materials were complete different also. The driver side had the very comfortable leatherette while the passenger side was a hard plastic. For this photo, I had the seat all the way back with a normal degree of recline and my knees were touching the netting. This would be a very uncomfortable riding experience for 3 people over 6′ tall in the back.
The dashboard is very basic with only the bare minimum of a few trip computer choices to select. When I press the navigation button on the center stack expecting to see a map appear either on the dash or the console, the compass needle is all that appeared. This seems unnecessary on a vehicle that would retail for about $27,000. A fully optioned Encore for nearly $35,000 isn’t impossible.
The center touchscreen is unmistakably General Motors and just as functional and easy to use as the rest.
The 12V adaptor and auxiliary ports are well-marked, but only if you are 2 feet tall or sitting in the middle back seat. The writing is only visible if you bend over and look down into the storage space in front of the gear shifter. The HVAC controls lacked a simple power off button. I found the only way to power it down was to lower the fan speed until it was completely off.
Considering the broad price range of the Encore from basic to loaded, I was glad to see very few dead buttons on the Encore. While at the same time, I expected to see at least a few extras to set the Encore apart from the competition.
Things of note:
Sharp LED daytime running lamps, but old school incandescent headlights.
The nearly identical Chevrolet Trax can be had for much less.
no engine auto stop/start – a giant plus in my book.
8-way power drivers seat, but reclining is manual.
Buy it? Rent it? Avoid it?
This category is very crowded from nearly all the automakers having a credible competitor. The class best sellers and favorites Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV are competitively priced and bigger. I was most impressed by the road manners of the Encore as it was smooth on great roads and surprisingly accommodating on neglected roads. As I mentioned in the Regal review 2 weeks ago, the Buick fleet overall is a perennial reliability favorite.
Buick if you’re listening . . .
A $28,000 Encore needs a lot more to differentiate itself from a $21,000 Trax. Even an additional 30 horsepower would be a game changer.
On a scale from 1-100: (1-The Yugo GV was fine – 100- Bentayga is lame)
Buy it now – 35
Buy it later at half the current price – 40
F.E.D. (Fun, Efficiency & Desirability) – 40
Oooh and ahhh factor – 45
Recommended – (60 to buy / 75 to rent)
In the comments below, tell me the benefits of this CUV over a comparably priced SUV. I’d REALLY like to know!