The Buick Encore is essentially the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka which was launched in 2012 and brought to the US as the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Encore in 2013. It’s a crossover in the subcompact SUV sector and is indeed quite small being a shade over 14 feet long and only an inch longer than a VW Golf.
From most angles it’s cute, but the rear 3 quarter view makes it look a bit cartoonish, mainly because it’s tall to accommodate the higher seating position Millennials demand, some 7.5 inches taller than a VW Golf. I mention the Golf because it’s a hatchback of almost the same dimensions as this Buick except for being shorter and Americans used to avoid hatchbacks until crossovers came along. Go figure.
2 engines are offered both displacing 1.4 liters, and both driven through a six speed transmission. The first makes 138 hp, which is not really enough in a car that weighs 3,237 lbs and the optional engine in my tester, 153 hp @ 5,600 rpm, the key here being it makes 29 ft-lbs more than the base engine.
My tester was a FWD version with the top of the line Essence trim so as well as standard Leather Seats and Quiet Tuning it had a Power Moon-roof, Safety Package II, which includes Rain Sensing Wipers, Park Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert and a Bose Audio System.
With test equipment on, traction control off, the little Encore dashed from 0-60 in 8.2 seconds, not fast but certainly not the slowest among its competitors, which include the Mazda CX3, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA and the Mini Countryman, all more expensive save for the Mazda.
How Does It Go?
It’s pretty zippy around town and on the freeway it cruises comfortably but the enjoyment is in the way you drive it. Floor the throttle and the engine makes noise but there isn’t a lot of forward progress since this engine is tuned for torque. It’s best to stay below 4,000 rpm and the gas pedal at half push to get the very best out of it. Since I like to press hard on the gas pedal it took me a while but it paid off and for the week I averaged a respectable 24 mpg.
The suspension has been tuned for a firm but extremely compliant ride, in fact, you’d swear this was a bigger car than it really is. Short wheelbase cars usually pitch about on anything but perfectly smooth roads, but this little Buick handles them like a pro. It’s also quieter than a mouse peeing on cotton inside and unless you hit a particularly big pothole suspension noise are almost nonexistent.
The electric power steering is also unexpectedly good, it’s quick, has decent weight and you have a clue as to what the front wheels are doing. Of course hit some corners and there is some body roll but it’s all very well controlled and you can hustle along quite nicely when needed.
Is There Any Space Inside?
Yes there is, it’s not huge but you could fit a large dog in the back with the seats up and 2 big dogs with them laid flat. I did a quick trip to Home Depot to buy a 16 foot piece of wood it fitted perfectly by poking it through the sunroof. Who says you need a pickup truck.
The front seats are very comfortable and my tester had electric adjustment except for the backrest. The heated seats get nice and toasty fast, a boon on some of the colder days we’ve had here recently. The back seats will snuggly fit 3 adults but 2 would be better and they get a decent amount of legroom.
Fit and finish inside is good, soft feel materials on the dash and console feel nice to the touch and there is an overall sense of quality. I like that the infotainment screen is angled toward the driver, as they all should be, and all controls fall easily to hand. The 8 inch touch screen responds quickly to inputs and it’s easy to use and features include WI-FI hotspot, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
If you don’t check all the boxes as on my tester you can keep the price under $30 k, which is not bad at all. I really like the Encore, it’s a nice little car with a nice interior, the ride is comfortable, the handling is pretty good but here lies the rub, the acceleration is mediocre. There is a an easy solution though, keep the horsepower the same but up the torque to 200 lb-ft. Come on Buick you can do it.
2019 Buick Encore Numbers
BASE PRICE: $29,300
PRICE AS TESTED: $33,375
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, FWD, 5-passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4
POWER: 153 hp @ 5,600 rpm
TORQUE: 177 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
0-60 MPH: 8.2 sec
CURB WEIGHT: 3,237 lbs
CARGO SPACE: 18.8 ft³, 48.4 ft³ with seat area
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON: 26/28/31 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 24 mpg
PROS: Quiet and refined, smooth ride, well made cabin,
CONS: Could use a bit more power